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Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999


Land rigs 3
Offshore drilling vessels 3
Barges 3
Jack-Up Rigs 3
Semi-Submersible Rigs 4
Drillships 4
Platforms 4


Providing Rotation to the Drillstring and Bit 9
• Kelly and Swivel 9
• Top Drive Units 10
Lifting Equipment 11
• Bails and Elevators 11
• Slips 11
• Tongs 12
• Power Tongs and Pipe Spinners 12
• Chain Wrench 12

Solids Control Equipment 14

Drag Bits 17
Roller Bits 17
Bit Terminology 18
IADC Bit Classification 18
Cone Action 19
Bearing Types 19
Teeth 19
Diamond and Polycrystalline Diamond Compact (PDC) bits 20
Grading Of Bits 21
The IADC bit grading system 22
Drillpipe 23
Drill Collars 24
The Bottom Hole Assembly (BHA) 25
• Stabilizers 25
• Reamers 25
• Hole Opener 25
• Cross Over Sub 25
• Jars 26
• Shock Sub 27

Closing the well 29
• Annular Preventor 29

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Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

• Ram Type Preventors 29
Closing the preventors 30
• Accumulators 30
• Control Panel 31
• Positioning of the rams 31
• Kill Lines 31
• The Diverter 32
Inside Blowout Preventers 32
• Surface Shut Off Valves 33
• Downhole Check Valves 33
Rotating BOPs 33

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Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999



In the early days of petroleum exploration and production, wells were drilled with cable tool rigs. The technique
used was percussive drilling where a hardened bit, suspended on a cable, was repeatedly dropped onto the bottom
of the hole. The constant pounding would break up the formation, deepening the hole in the process. The drawbacks
to the cable tool rig were limited depth capabilities, very slow drilling rates and no way to control subsurface
formation pressures.

Modern drilling uses a rotary drilling method providing faster drilling rates, much greater depth capabilities, offshore
drilling, and the safe control of subsurface pressures.

Land rigs

Land rigs are typically designed around a cantilever mast principle, providing easy transportation and quick
assembly. The mast, or derrick, is transported to the drill site in sections, assembled on the ground, then raised to a
vertical position by using the rigs hoisting system (drawworks). Blow out preventors are positioned directly beneath
the rig floor, connecting the floor to the well head. This allows drilling fluid to be circulated and pipe to be lifted in
and out of the well.

Offshore drilling vessels

Drilling offshore obviously requires a completely self-contained vessel, not only in terms of drilling requirements but
also in terms of accommodation for personnel. Situated in remote, hostile locations, they are much more costly to
operate and require more sophisticated safety measures since water separates the wellhead from the actual rig. There
are different types of offshore rigs and their use principally depends on the depth of water that they are required to
operate in. Temporary installations (that can move from location to location), used for exploratory drilling, can either
be supported by the seabed or they can be floating and anchored in positioned. Permanent installations, or platforms,
are required for production wells.


These are small, flat-bottomed vessels that can only be used in very shallow waters such as deltas, swamps, lagoons
and shallow lakes.

Jack-Up Rigs

These are mobile vessel suitable for drilling in shallow sea water depths. They consist of a fixed hull or platform
which is supported on by a number of legs, typically 3, that stand on the seafloor. To move a jack-up rig, the legs can
be raised so that the rig floats on its hull enabling it to be towed into position by barges. This makes the vessel very
top heavy and unstable during towing, so that calm waters and slow towing speeds are essential to avoid capsize.
Once in the required position, the legs can be lowered to the seabed creating a very stable structure unaffected by
wave motion. The blow out preventors are mounted underneath the rig floor, so that a large conductor pipe, driven
into the seafloor, is required to connect the well to the rig and allow drilling fluid to be circulated.

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Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

Semi-Submersible Rigs

“Semi-subs” are floating rigs that are suitable for drilling in deeper waters than jack-ups. The deck is supported by a
number of legs or columns. Subsea, these columns are supported by pontoons which can be solitary or connected.
Both pontoons and columns are utilized to ballast and stabilize the rig. This substructure sits below the sea surface,
avoiding the worst, surface turbulence of the water. This makes them more stable than drillships and therefore more
suited to drilling in rough seas. The pontoons are fitted with thrusters for position adjustment or self- propulsion, but
they are generally moved into position by sea going tugs, with the thrusters being used to assist in the final
positioning of the rig. Once correctly positioned, the semi-submersible is anchored in place, although in deeper
waters the thrusters may be used to maintain position by way of an automated location monitor. Unlike the jack-up,
blowout preventors are located on the seabed, mounted on conductor pipe that has been set into the seafloor.
Positioning of the BOP’s is very tricky and achieved with the assistance of underwater cameras or remotely operated
vehicles (ROV’s). This allows the well to be left secure should the rig be forced to abandon the location. A large
flexible, telescopic steel pipe, called the marine riser, connects the BOP’s to the rig, enabling drilling fluid to be
circulated and the drillstring to be guided into the well.


Drillships are capable of drilling in deeper water. They are generally self propelled and therefore easily transported
to the drilling location. They are extremely mobile, but generally less stable than semi-submersibles and therefore not
able to drill in rougher seas. A drillship can be anchored, or position maintained by automated thruster systems. The
drillship has exactly the same subsea equipment as a semi-submersible, with the BOP’s mounted on the seabed. To
compensate for movement of the drillship (also semi-submersibles), the marine riser includes a telescopic joint to
allow for vertical movement. A ball joint at the seafloor allows for horizontal motion. The length of the riser is often
the limiting factor in deep water drilling, before it becomes subjected to too much bending and stress.


Platforms are permanently fixed structures installed where mobility is not required. This is typically when multiple
wells are going to be drilled to develop and produce a field. Platforms can be of two designs, piled or gravity
structures. A piled platform consists of a steel jacket which is pinned to the seabed and supports the deck structure.
This type of platform is stable in very bad weather conditions, but is not very mobile. They are usually constructed in
separate sections that can be individually towed to position and constructed in place. Gravity type platforms are
constructed from concrete, steel or a combination of both. They have a cellular base, providing both ballast and
storage, with vertical columns supporting the deck structure. They are normally constructed in their entirety, then
towed to the location and ballasted into position.

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Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999


…..before the mast has
been raised into position

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Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

3 legs are most typical.
Note here that drilling has not been
started since there is no conductor
pipe in place.


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Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999


The modern rotary drilling rig, whatever the type, consists of 5 principle components:-

(1) Drill Bit and Drillstring
(2) Fluid Circulating System
(3) Hoisting System
(4) Power System
(5) Blowout Prevention System

The term rotary comes from the physical movement of the drillstring and bit, applying a rotary cutting action to the
rock at the bottom of the hole. Rotation can be provided at surface or by motors positioned in the drillstring
downhole. The drillstring (1) consists of hollow steel pipe allowing drilling fluid to be transported into the hole. The
pipe will typically be a combination of ‘standard’ drillpipe, thicker, heavier drillpipe and larger diameter, heavy drill
collars immediately above the bit.

This is all supported from the derrick with vertical movement (in and out of the hole) provided by the drawworks,
crown block and travelling block (3). Rotation of the drillstring, at surface, is applied in one of two ways, either by a
rotary table, bushings and kelly or by a top drive unit.

The drilling fluid, commonly referred to as drilling mud, is stored in mud tanks or pits. From here, the mud can be
pumped, via the standpipe, to the kelly swivel where it can enter the kelly and subsequently the drillpipe. The mud
can then pass all the way to the bit, before returning to surface through the annulus (the space between the wall of the
borehole and the drillstring). On return to surface, the mud is passed through several pieces of equipment to remove
the drilled rock chips or cuttings, before completing the cycle and returning to the mud tanks (2).

Formations in the shallower part of the wellbore are usually protected by large diameter steel tubing, or casing,
which is cemented into place. The annulus that the mud now passes through on it’s way back to surface is now the
space between the inside of the casing and the outside of the drillstring. Attached to the top of the casing is the
blowout preventor stack (5), a series of valves and seals that can be used to close off the annulus or wellbore in order
to control large subsurface pressures.

All of the equipment described above is operated by a central power system (4), which will also supply the general
power required for electrical lighting, service company equipment etc. Typically, this power source is by way of a
central diesel-electric power plant.

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Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

The complete hoisting system has several basic
functions: -
Fast shiv
• Supporting the weight of the drillstring,
Crown block possibly up to several hundred tonnes.

• Lifting the drillstring in and out of the hole.

• Maintaining the force, or weight, applied to
the bit during drilling.
Drill line or
Fast line Dead line
The derrick supports the weight of the drillstring at
all times, whether the drillstring is suspended from
Travelling block
the crown block or supported temporarily in the
rotary table. The size and strength of the derrick is
the limiting factor to the weight of drillpipe that
Hook can be supported and therefore the depth that the
rig is capable of drilling to. The height of the
derrick will determine the length of the pipe
sections that can housed when the drillstring has to
Drawworks be pulled from the hole. During this operation, the
drum Dead line anchor pipe will normally be broken down into double or
triple stands (2 or 3 individual lengths, or joints, of
The hoisting system supported by the derrick During the drilling operation, the kelly and

drillstring are supported from the travelling block by way of the travelling hook. This is connected to the drawworks
by way of a simple pulley system.

A steel cable, the drilling line, is spooled on a large reel at the drawworks where it can be drawn in, or let out,
depending on whether an upward or downward motion of the travelling block is required. From the drawworks, the
drilling line passes up to a stationary set of pulleys, called the crown block, situated at the top of the derrick. Here,
the cable is repeatedly passed between a series of wheels, or shivs, and the travelling block suspended in the derrick,
so that the travelling block will be suspended by a number of lines, typically 8 to 12. The drilling line is then passed
from the crown block to an anchor
where the cable is securely clamped.
This length of drilling line is referred
to as the dead line, and the deadline
anchor is typically located to one Fast line up
to crown
side of rig floor. From the deadline
anchor, the drilling line passes to a
storage reel, to one side of the rig,
where extra drilling line is stored.
The drilling line is commonly
referred to as the fast line for the
length running from the drawworks to
the crown block. This is because the Drawworks
first shiv that it is spooled around is Drum
generally larger than the others and
known as the fast shiv.

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Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

The usage of the drilling line, or wear, is recorded in terms of the load moved over a given distance. For example, 1
ton-mile means that the line has moved a 1 ton weight a distance of 1 mile. Similarly, a measurement of 1kN-km
means that the line has moved 1000 newtons a distance of 1 kilometre. This record allows the drilling crew to
determine when the drilling line needs to be replaced by a new length of cable. The ‘slip and cut’ procedure requires
the travelling block to be lowered to the drill floor so that there is no load on the drilling line. The line is released at
the dead line anchor so that new line can
be fed, or slipped, through. The line is
tensioned by feeding the it through the
pulley system and feeding the old line
Drill line ‘pulley’ out from the drawworks. This old line
Travelling block can be removed, or cut, and the new
length of cable tensioned and anchored
once more at the dead line anchor. This
procedure allows for even wear on the
Hook drilling line as it is used.

The drawworks have a heavy duty
braking system allowing for the speed to
be controlled, or resisted, when moving
Kelly hose
the pipe into the hole. During the
drilling operation, the drawworks also
allows for control, or adjustment, of the
Elevators proportion of the string weight that is
Bushings supported by the derrick and that which
is supported by the bottom of the hole.
Kelly This equates to the weight, or force, that
is applied to the bit and thus can be
adjusted according to the hardness of the
formation and the weight required in
order to produce failure of the formation
and allow penetration, or deepening of
the hole to proceed.

Providing Rotation to the Drillstring and Bit

Kelly and Swivel

The kelly is a hollow length of steel, normally around 12 or 13m
in length, either square or hexagonal, through which drilling
fluid can enter the drillpipe. The top of the drillstring is
connected to the kelly by a kelly sub (or saver sub). This sub, kelly
being cheaper to replace than the kelly, saves wear on the
connecting threads of the kelly, which passes through a ‘rotary
kelly bushing’ mounted and locked into master bushings that are
set into the rotary table. Free vertical movement of the kelly is kelly bushings
possible through the bushing, allowing upward and downward
movement of the drillstring. Rollers within the bushing facilitate
this movement and, again, minimize the wear on the kelly. The
shape of the kelly (commonly 4 or 6 sided) fits exactly into the
bushing so that, if the bushing rotates, the kelly rotates. Since
the bushing is locked into the rotary table, rotation of the table
(either electrically or mechanically) will rotate the bushing and rotary table
therefore the kelly and drillpipe. Vertical movement is still drillpipe joint in mousehole
possible even if the kelly is rotating. When the kelly is lifted

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Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

from the ‘hole’ to expose the drillpipe, the kelly bushings are lifted along with the kelly.

Between the kelly and the hook is an assembly known as the swivel. This supports the kelly but does not rotate as the
kelly rotates. This prevents the hook and travelling block from rotating and twisting the drilling line as the string is
rotated. The swivel is also the point at which the drilling fluid enters the drillstring, through an attachment known as
a gooseneck connected to the kelly hose carrying the drilling fluid.

A safety valve is located at the top of the kelly. This ‘kelly cock’ can be manually closed in the event of the well
flowing due to high, subsurface, formation pressure. This prevents back pressure from entering, and perhaps
damaging, the kelly swivel.

Top Drive Units

On more recent rigs, the rotary drive and swivel are combined into a single top drive unit, which may be electrically
or hydraulically operated. The drillstring now connects directly into the top drive unit where rotation is applied and
where drilling fluid enters the string through a similar swivel and gooseneck assembly. Since rotation is now applied
directly to the top of the drillstring, there is no requirement for a kelly and rotary bushing.

The advantage of a top drive unit over the
conventional kelly system is primarily one of
time and cost. With the kelly, as drilling
progresses, only single lengths, or joints, can
be added to the drillstring. This ‘connection’
Travelling Block process requires the kelly being ‘broken off’
from the drillstring, picking up and attaching
the new joint of pipe to the kelly, then re-
attaching the new pipe and kelly back to the
drillstring. With a top drive unit, this
operation is not only made much simpler by
the fact that pipe is connected directly to the
unit, but it also enables a stand of drillpipe
(equivalent to 3 single joints of pipe) to be
picked up and added to the drillstring at any
one time. A complete stand of drillpipe can
Top Drive therefore be drilled continuously, so that only
one connection is required for every three
that would be required with a kelly.

Overall time required to make ‘connections’
is therefore much less for rigs possessing top
drive units. This means a big saving in cost,
especially for large land rigs or offshore rigs
where the daily cost of hiring the rig is much
more expensive.

Another important advantage of the top drive
unit is during tripping operations, when the
drillstring is being lifted in or out of the hole.
The conventional kelly is not used when
Elevators tripping pipe. It is set aside on the rig floor in
what is called the ‘rat-hole’. Bails and
elevators are then used to lift the drillstring.
Drillpipe ‘ingress”
If the pipe was to become stuck during the
trip, circulation of drilling fluid may be

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Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

required to free the pipe. In order to achieve this, the kelly would have to be picked up from the rat-hole and attached
to the drillstring, a process that may take as long as 5 or 10 minutes during which time, the ‘sticking’ of the pipe may
become worse. With a top drive unit, elevators are again used to lift the pipe, but these are suspended beneath the
top drive unit. It is therefore a very quick procedure to ‘attach’ the top drive unit to the drillstring so that circulation
of drilling fluid and rotation of the pipe is possible almost immediately. In most circumstances, this minimizes the
potential problem and reduces the time that may be required to resolve it.

Lifting Equipment

The procedures of tripping, lifting the pipe in and out of the hole, and making connections, adding new lengths of
drillpipe to the drillstring in order to drill deeper, have already been introduced. Handling of the pipe during these
operations requires the use of specialized pieces of equipment.

To pull a stand of drillpipe from the hole, the elevators are clamped
around the pipe. When the blocks are raised, the elevators rest
beneath the larger diameter tool joint so that the pipe can be lifted.
bails When the stand is completely above the rotary table, slips will be
held around the pipe as it is slowly lowered. The slips will wedge
firmly in the rotary table, clasping the pipe. The total weight of the
elevators string is now supported by the rotary table. The stand above the
table can now be removed from the string and set aside. Firstly, the
tool joint connection is broken with two sets of tongs, one
positioned beneath the tool joint holding the pipe steady, the second
positioned above the tool joint. This is connected by a chain which
is pulled in at the cathead, breaking the connection. The stand is
quickly unscrewed by using a pipe spinner, so that it is free and
hanging from the elevators. The stand is racked to one side of the
derrick and held in position by placing the top of the stand in a rack
known as ‘fingers’. This operation is performed by the derrickman
who works up in the derrick on a platform known as the monkey

monkey board
and fingers

and Elevators racked drillpipe

These are used to lift the pipe into position or remove it
when the connection has been broken. The elevators are
simply clamps that are placed and closed around the
‘stem’ of the pipe. As the elevators are lifted, they will
move up the pipe until they come against the wider tool
joint so that the pipe can be lifted. The elevators are
suspended from the travelling block by links or bails, so
that vertical movement is applied from the drawworks.
Elevators are of specific sizes and designs to
accommodate pipe of different diameter, casing joints and
drill collars.

While connections are being made or broken, the
drillstring has to be suspended and supported in the rotary

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Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

table to prevent it from fallen down the hole. This is achieved by using Slips
slips, tapered or wedged shaped dies held together in a frame with
handles. These are placed around the ‘stem’ of the pipe and lowered,
along with the pipe, into the master bushings where they become ‘set’,
fully supporting the weight of the drillstring in the rotary table.

These are used to tighten or loosen the connections between sections of
pipe. These ‘wrenches’ are suspended on cables from the derrick and
attached to the cathead, on the drawworks, by a chain through which
tension can be applied. Two tongs are used, being placed on either
side of the connection or joint. The lower tong will hold the drillstring
in place below the joint and the upper tong, by pulling on the chain,
will loosen or break the connection or in the opposite direction, tighten
or make the connection. When making the connection, a gauge on the chain allows the correct amount of torque to
be applied.

Power Tongs and Pipe Spinners
These are pneumatically powered ‘wrenches’ enabling rapid spinning of the pipe during the making or breaking of
connections. Tongs will be used to apply
final torque when making the connection
and to initially loosen the joint when
pipe spinner breaking the connection.

Chain Wrench
If pneumatic wrenches are not available,
spinning of the pipe has to be done
manually by way of a chain wrench.
Chain is wrapped around the pipe,
chain to cathead tongs clasped and gripped by the wrench.
Spinning of the pipe is done by physically
walking around the pipe while it is
gripped and held by the wrench.

When pipe has to be added in order to
drill further, it is picked up from the pipe
Breaking tool joint to make a connection
deck to one side of the rig. A winch is

used to pull the pipe up so that is resting
vertically against the “v-door”, a ramp
that joins the pipe deck to the rig floor. rig floor
The blocks can then be lowered and the
joint of pipe picked up in the elevators “v-doors”
(different elevators are used to pick up
collars or casing tubular). Once picked pipe deck
up, the joint of pipe is lowered into the
mousehole (a hole drilled into the
surface sediments and lined with tubular)
where it is ready for use when the next casing joints
connection is to be made.

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Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999


We have already seen how the drilling fluid, commonly called mud, enters the drillstring through the kelly or top
drive unit. There are many ways in which the mud aids the drilling process and, in fact, is a vital component to the
successful drilling of a well. The most important functions are: -

• To cool and lubricate the drill bit and drillstring in order to minimize wear, prolong their life and reduce

• To remove the drilled rock fragments, or cuttings from the hole. This not only keeps the annulus clear but
also allows examination at surface for formation evaluation.

• To balance high fluid pressures that may be present in some formations and minimizing the potential of
kicks or blowouts. The safety of the rigs personnel and of the rig itself is of paramount importance in any
drilling operation.

• To stabilize the wellbore and formations that have already been drilled.

Types of drilling mud and it’s function will be discussed in more detail in section 4.

Creating a drilling mud is almost like cooking, with many ingredients or additives going into the system, each having
a particular function to perform. The mud is ‘built’ and stored in mud tanks or pits. Different names are given to
individual pits depending on their specific function. Typically, they may be called: -

Premix Pit Where additional chemicals are added and mixed into the mud system.

Suction Pit The pit where mud is taken by the rig pumps to begin it’s journey to the
drillstring. This is the ‘live’ or ‘active’ pit, lined up to the actual wellbore.

Reserve/Settling Additional mud volume, generally not part of the ‘active’ system.

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Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

Shaker Pit This is the tank situated directly beneath the shale shakers. A sand trap is
normally an integral part of the shaker pit. It’s purpose is to allow as much fine
material, sand and silt, to settle out from the mud system and be removed.

Trip Tank A smaller tank, used to monitor small mud displacements. Situations that require
this include tripping the drillstring out of the hole and monitoring a well kick.

Slug Pit A tank used to make up small volumes of ‘special’ mud that may be required for
specific operations during the drilling of a well.

The number of the pits required will depend on the
size and the depth of the well being drilled, and thus
on the volume of mud required to fill that hole.
Typically, 4 to 6 tanks may be used, but for larger
wells and platforms, this number may increase to 16
or more.

From it’s storage in the mud tanks, the mud is
pumped through an upright standpipe fixed to the
side of the derrick, through a gooseneck into the
connected kelly hose. From the kelly hose, the mud
Mud agitator passes through another gooseneck, through the
swivel into the kelly from where it is forced down the
inside of the drillstring. Exiting the drillstring
Pit level sensor through the bit, the mud then returns to surface by
way of the annulus (the space between the wellbore
wall/casing and the outside of the drillstring).

In the case of offshore wells, a further conduit has to
be positioned to allow mud to be circulated from the
Grating covering pits seabed to the rig. This is done by way of a large
conductor pipe or marine riser.

Conductor A pipe driven into the seafloor, providing a conduit to the BOP stack situated beneath the rig floor
on jackups and platforms.

Marine Riser A pipe connected to the top of the BOP stack which is located on the seabed on semi-submersibles
and drillships, providing a conduit to the rig. The riser incorporates a telescopic or ‘slip’ joint that
allows for rig heave adjusting the vertical position of the rig.

Solids Control Equipment

Solids control is vital in maintaining efficient drilling operations. High mud solids increase the mud density and
viscosity, leading to higher chemical-treating costs, poor hydraulics and increased pumping pressures. With
increased solids, the mud becomes increasingly abrasive and increases wear on the drill string, wellbore and surface
equipment. It becomes more difficult to remove solids from the mud as the solids content increases.

Drilling mud surfacing from the wellbore contains cuttings, sand and other solids, and probably gas, all of which
must be removed before the mud is suitable for recirculating in the well. Mud treatment clays and chemicals must
also be added from time to time to maintain the required properties. All of these functions require special equipment.

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Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

Once exiting the wellbore at surface, the mud is ‘drawn off’ at the bell nipple and directed along a flowline to a
shaker box (also called a header box or possum belly). This is where the mud logger will position a gas trap and mud
monitoring sensors to analyze the mud returning from the hole.

Gates in the shaker box regulate the flow of mud onto the shale shaker. Here, sloped, vibrating mesh screens
(normally two) separate the drilled cuttings from the drilling mud, which is allowed to pass through the screens into
the sand trap or shaker pit. The mud can then be returned to the main pit system where the circulating cycle can start
over again. The screens can be changed so that the size of the mesh is appropriate to the size of the cuttings needing
to be removed. Normally, a coarser screen is positioned above a finer screen. The vibration motion of the screens
improves the separation of the mud from the cuttings. Samples for geological analysis will be collected at this point.

mixing hopper



degasser suction line
to rig pump

suction or
active pit

shaker box reserve & settling pits

shale shaker

sand trap shaker pit

With environmental concerns an important consideration, the cuttings separated at the shale shaker are collected in
tanks so that they can be easily transported to sites where they can be thoroughly cleaned of any residual mud or
chemicals and deposited.

Additional equipment is often put into the circulating system before the mud reaches the mud tanks. If the mud is
particularly gaseous, it may be passed through a degasser, a large tank with an agitator to force the release of gas
from the mud.
After passing through the shale shakers, there may still be very fine solid material such as silt or sand grains that
have to be removed from the mud. The mud first drops into a sand trap after passing through the shakers. This is a
conical or tapered chamber incorporated within the shaker pit, where the muds flowrate is reduced allowing solids to
separate and settle. The bottom of the trap is sloped so that the settling particles fall to the base where they collect

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Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

and can discarded. If these particles do not settle out when the mud passes through the sand trap, it will be necessary,
before returning it to the mud tanks, to pass the mud through additional solids control equipment.

A desander, when used in addition to the shale shaker, removes most of the abrasive solids, thereby reducing wear
on the mud pumps, surface equipment, drill string and bit. Also used in conjunction with the shale shaker and
desander is a desilter, which removes even finer material from the mud. Desanders and desilters separate solids in a
hydroclone, a cone-shaped separator in which the fluid rotates and causes the solids to separate by centrifugal force.
The drilling fluid flows upward, in a helical motion, through conical chambers, where solid particles are thrown
outward from the drilling fluid. At the same time, water passes downward through the chamber, carrying away the
solid particles removed from the mud.

Additional centrifuges may also be used in order to remove large amounts of clay solids
SHALE suspended
SHAKER in the mud. Once
clean mud A hydroclone
the mud is cleaned, it can be returned to the mud tanks for re-circulating. A centrifuge consists of a high-speed
rotating, cone-shaped drum, and a screw conveyor that moves the coarse particles in the drum to the discharge port
and back to the mud system. It is often used when the mud weight has to be significantly reduced, rather than adding
liquid and increasing the volume. The centrifuge may also be used to remove glass or plastic
Shaker beads that have been
box with
used to improve lubrication or to reduce density in underbalanced applications. This andcontrol’
gas trap mud performed by
the surface equipment is a very important aspect of maintaining the mud. Fineparameter
grains would obviously be very
abrasive and damaging to equipment such as pumps, drillstring and bit etc. It is also important in controlling the
density of the mud. If solids were allowed to remain and build up in the mud, it’s density would increase as a result.
Mud return
mud inlet One further step that may flowline
be required to prepare the drilling
mud for recirculation is performed by a degasser, which
separates and vents large volumes of entrained gas to a flare
line. Recirculating gas-cut mud can be hazardous and will
reduce pumping efficiency and lower the hydrostatic
pressure required to balance the formation pressure. A mud-
gas separator safely handles high-pressure gas and flow
from a well when a kick occurs. A vacuum degasser is more
appropriate for separating entrained gas, which may
resemble foaming on the surface of the mud (gas cut mud).
water and solid discharge Most rigs have two rig pumps to circulate the mud under
pressure around the entire system. Smaller rigs drilling
shallower holes may only require one. Rig pumps can be of
two types: -

Duplex Pumps These possess 2 cylinders, or chambers, each of which discharges drilling fluid on both forward
and backward motion of the pump stroke. As the mud is being discharged on one side of the
piston, the cylinder is being filled up from the other side of the piston. As the piston returns, this
mud will now be discharged, with the previously discharged side now being refilled behind the
Triplex Pumps These possess 3 cylinders. Only the duplex pump, mud is only discharged on the forward stroke. In
each cylinder, mud is discharged by the pushing motion of the piston on the forward part of the
stroke, leaving the cylinder behind the piston empty. As the piston & PISTON
returns on the backward part of
the stroke, mud re-fills the chamber. This mud will again be discharged on the forward part of the
pump stroke.

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 16
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999


Drill Bit Types

Drag Bits

These have hard faced blades, rather than distributed cutters, that are an integral part of the bit and rotate as one with
the drillstring. They have a tendency to produce high drilling torque and are also prone to drilling crooked holes.
Penetration is achieved with a scraping action using low force (weight on bit or WOB) and high rotation speed
(RPM). They are only really suitable for drilling soft, unconsolidated formations, lacking the hardness and wear
resistance required for consolidated formations.

Roller Bits

Early bits possessed 2 cones that had no interaction, or meshing, and were therefore prone to balling (where drilled
cuttings collect and consolidate, or ball, around the bit) in soft formations. These were superceded by the Tri-Cone
bit, the most common bit type used in modern drilling. These
possess 3 cones, which are intermeshing and therefore self-
cleaning, with rows of cutters on each cone. The cutters are of
two principle types, either milled teeth or tungsten carbide
inserts (TCI), and can be of varying size and hardness
according to the lithologies expected. A lot of heat is
generated by friction during drilling and this heat has to be
dissipated. Cooling, together with lubrication, is an important
function of the drilling fluid. This exits the drillstring through
“ports” in the bit that are called jets or nozzles. One jet is
positioned above each cone. They are replaceable and can be
of varying size, the smaller the jet the greater the velocity and
force of the mud exiting the bit. Jet sizes are either expressed
in millimetres or in 32nds of an inch. If no jet is set into the
“port”, it is known as an open jet (the size is one inch, i.e.
thirty two 32nds).

Roller bits are classified by a system developed by the
International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC):
Tri-cone tooth bit
Most roller bits would therefore have a 3 digit IADC Code.

For example:

Hughes ATM22 IADC code 517 Soft chisel type TCI bit, softest in the range, with friction
sealed journal bearings and gauge protected.

Reed MHP13G IADC code 137 Soft milled tooth bit, moderately hard in the range, friction
sealed journal bearings and gauge protected.

Certain bits may also have a 4th category to describe additional features about the bit. Examples include air
application (A) bits, centre jets (C), deviation control (D), extra gauge (E), horizontal steering (H), standard steel
tooth bit (S), chisel shaped inserts (X), conical shaped inserts (Y).

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 17
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

Bit Terminology
sculptured inserts
middle row
inner heel row
cone nose
heel row

Shirt tail

bit leg

nozzle boss

jet or nozzle


Tri-cone button bit (tungsten carbide inserts)

IADC Bit Classification

Series 1 Soft Milled Tooth
Type of cutting structure 2 Medium
3 Hard

4 Very soft Chisel Tungsten Carbide Insert
5 Soft
6 Medium Conical
7 Hard
8 Very hard

Type 1-4 1 – softest
Degree of hardness of 4 – hardest
cutting structure

Design Option 1 Standard product
Bearing design and gauge 2 Air drilling
protection 3 Gauge protected
4 Sealed bearing
5 Gauge protected and sealed bearing
6 Friction, sealed journal bearing
7 Friction, sealed journal bearing, gauge protected
8 Directional
9 Other

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 18
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

Cone Action

As cones roll on the bottom of the hole, a sliding action is produced that gouges and scrapes the formation. Cones
have more than one rolling centre due to number and alignment of cutter rows, but this is restrained by the weight of
the drill collars acting on the bit. Rotation will therefore be around the bit centre-line so that the teeth must slide and
scrape as they roll. This action is minimized in the design of hard bits (by having no cone offset) to reduce wear, but
action is still not pure rolling.

The sliding action produces a
heel row controlled tearing, gouging and
scraping action on the formation
inner heel row nose row leading to fast and efficient chip
removal. For soft formations, the
middle row scraping action is enhanced by
offsetting the cones. This leads to
faster drilling and the amount of
scraping action depends on the
degree of offset. Soft formation bits
may have an offset of 1/4”, 1/8” in
medium bits, none for hard bits.

jet or nozzle

Bearing Types

Unsealed These are grease filled and exposed. Their life is therefore short since they are
exposed to both metal fatigue and to abrasion from solids.

Sealed and self lubricating Metal fatigue still exists, but abrasion from solids is eliminated as long as there
is a seal.

Sealed journal bearings These have a much longer life, but wear may come from seizure of the sliding
metal to metal surfaces on the bottom side of bearings. If the seal fails, drilling
mud will leak into the bearing, displacing the grease. Overheating will cause
rapid failure of the bearing. The bearing has a pressure compensation system that
minimizes the pressure differential between the bearing and the mud column

The size, shape and separation of the teeth affect the efficiency, or performance, of the bit in formations of varying
hardness. The tooth design will also determine the size and form of the drilled cuttings produced and subsequently
used for formation evaluation.

For soft formations, the teeth are typically long, slender and widely spaced. The longer teeth allow for deeper
penetration into the soft formation. This deeper penetration is maintained as the teeth become worn, by making the
teeth as slender as possible. The wide spacing prevents the soft formation from balling, or packing, between the
teeth. The cutting action is one of gouging and scraping and the cuttings typically produced will be large and freshly

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 19
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

Bearing size and strength is necessarily restricted in soft formation bits owing to the size of the teeth. This normally
does not produce a problem since only low weights or force need to be applied to the bit to achieve formation failure
and penetration.

For formations of medium hardness, shorter, broader teeth are used. Deep penetration is limited by the formation
hardness so that longer teeth are unnecessary. The length is such that as much penetration as possible is achieved
while, at the same time, wear caused by the firmer formation is kept to a minimum. Wide spacing allows for efficient
cleaning even though balling is not such an important consideration as in the soft formation.

For drilling in hard formations, short, broad teeth produce a crushing and chipping action rather than scraping and
gouging. The drilled cuttings will be smaller, more rounded, crushed and ground. Tooth spacing is not required for
cleaning since cuttings are smaller, with a lower concentration, or volume, resulting from lower penetration rates.

Increased life in hard, abrasive formations can be produced by hard facing the milled steel teeth or by using tungsten
carbide inserts (TCI).

For harder formations, fewer and smaller teeth facilitate larger, stronger bearings that can withstand the higher forces
that may cause failure.

Operating requirements

Hard, abrasive formations require a higher force (weight on bit or WOB) being applied to the bit. The greater weight
would obviously impact on the bearings, so that a corresponding lower RPM is applied, in order to minimize bearing
wear. The WOB required is slightly lower for an equivalent TCI bit to prevent impact failure or cracking of the insert

Softer formations require lower weight on bit in order to achieve penetration, therefore higher RPM can be applied.
Similar parameters are required for both tooth and TCI bits. Too much weight being applied could actually break the
longer teeth or inserts.

Generally, penetration rate (ROP) is faster with more weight applied to the bit and /or higher RPM, but too much
weight can have detrimental affects such as bit balling in softer formations, failure of roller bearings, seizure of
journal bearings, and breakage of teeth or inserts.

Diamond and Polycrystalline
Diamond Compact (PDC) bits

These bits have a long life since the
cutters are obviously very hard and
there are no bearings or moveable
parts. Natural industrial diamonds are
hand set into geometric designs that
cover the bottom of the bit, allowing
for breakage and redundancy. They
also channel the mud flow from the
bit, allowing for cooling and cuttings
With PDC bits, polycrystalline
diamonds are mounted into tungsten
carbide. The diamond actually does
the drilling, or cutting, with the
tungsten carbide providing strength
and rigidity.

Diamond Bit PDC Bit

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 20
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

Diamond cutters start out sharp and they wear sharp, whereas most cutters become dull with wear. This and their
longer life makes them extremely cost effective for deep drilling in hard, abrasive formations.

Since they have no moving parts, they are economic when high rotary speeds (perhaps above the limits of roller
bearings) are produced when drilling with mud motors or turbines.

They do have a long life, although ROP’s are generally slower. The overall footage, or meters achieved by the bit
has to justify the much higher cost of diamond bits.

The cutting action of diamond bits is more of a shearing or grinding type action. This produces cuttings that are
much finer than those produced by tri-cone bits, often appearing as a very fine rock flour, and sometimes, even being
thermally changed (metamorphosed) by the high frictional heat generated. This does not make the bit conducive to
formation evaluation, since the structure and form of the lithology has been destroyed to a large degree. At the same
time, they are unresponsive to lithological changes (changes in ROP is normally the first indication of a lithology
change) therefore, again, they are not so well suited to geological interpretation.

Diamond bits have different operational requirements to tri-cone bits. They typically have a slightly smaller gauge
(diameter) than the hole size in order to reduce wear on trips in and out of the hole. Optimum performance is
achieved with lower WOB’s and the highest RPM possible, together with high mud velocities across the face of the
bit. Before drilling ahead with a new bit, it should be ‘patterned’. In other words, the profile of the bottom of the hole
must match that of the bit. This is done by very slowly increasing the WOB before the start of drilling, so that the
profile of the bit is cut into the bottom of the hole.

Grading Of Bits

Roller bits can be simply graded by the condition of the teeth (or inserts) and bearings, and also by the gauge or
diameter of the bit. This is known as the TBG grading, with teeth and bearings graded on a scale of 1 to 8.

(T)eeth 1 - virtually as new
8 - completely worn

(B)earings 1 - as new
8 - complete failure

(G)auge IG - in gauge
or the measurement of the degree of undergauge i.e. 1/8 inch or 2mm

This is a very basic grading system that gives little additional or qualifying information about the bits condition. For
example, the inner and outer rows of cutters may have different degrees of wear, but this system can only facilitate
one recording.

A more sophisticated and informative grading is provided by the IADC system.

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 21
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

The IADC bit grading system

Cutting Structure Bearing Gauge Remarks
Inner Outer Major dulling Location of Other dulling Reason pulled
rows rows characteristics major dulling characteristics

0 – 8 linear BC – broken cone Rollers: No – Sealed I – in gauge Same codes as BHA – change BHA
scale BT – broken teeth Bearings: major dulling DMF – downhole motor
CC – cracked cone N – nose Undergaug characteristics failure
0 – no wear CR – cored M – middle row 0–8 e measured DSF – drill string failure
2 - 25% CT – chipped teeth H – heel row 0 – as new to the DST – drill stem test
4 - 50% ER – erosion A – all rows 8 – life gone nearest LOG – run logs
6 - 75% JD – junk damage 1/16 inch CD – condition mud
8 - 100% LC – lost cone Cone 1, 2, 3 Sealed CP – core point
LT – lost teeth Bearings: DP – drill plug
PB – pinched bit Fixed Cutters: FM – formation change
PN – plugged nozzle E – effective HP – hole problems
RG – rounded gauge C – cone F – failed HR – hours on bit
RO – ring out N – nose PP – pump pressure
SD – shirttail damage T – taper PR – penetration rate
WO – washed out S – shoulder TD – total depth (or casing
WT – worn teeth G – gauge point)
A – all areas TQ – torque
TW – twist off
WC – weather conditions

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 22
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

The Drillstring

Very simply, the drillstring is made up of drill pipe and drill collars, with a number of smaller, additional
components, connecting the surface systems to the drill bit.

The main purposes of the drillstring are: -

• Provide a conduit from the surface to the bit so that drilling fluid can be conducted under pressure.
• Transmit rotation, that is applied at surface, to the bit.
• Transmit force, or weight, to the bit so that failure of the formation is more easily achieved.
• Provide the means to lower and raise the drill bit in the wellbore.

All connections from the swivel to the upper kelly are made with left-hand threads whereas all connections from the
lower kelly to the drill bit are made with a right hand thread. With rotation of the drillstring to the right during
drilling, connections will tend to tighten rather than loosen or back off.

All tubular sizes, whether drillpipe, drill collars or casing, are standardized by the American Petroleum Institute
(API) by way of the outside diameter (OD) of the tube.


This comprises the main component, in terms of length, of the drillstring. Each length (referred to as a single or a
joint) of drillpipe, constructed of steel, is commonly either 10 or 15m in length. Each end of the pipe has a tapered
tool joint, either male or female, that is welded or shrunk on so that lengths of pipe can be easily screwed together.
The ‘shoulder’ around the tool joint is enlarged or upset to provide extra strength to the connections.

The drillpipe is available in various diameters (OD) although the most commonly used is 5 inches or 127mm. The
inside diameter (ID) of the drillpipe will vary depending on the weight per unit length of the pipe. The larger the
weight, the smaller the ID.

Commonly, the drillpipe (for OD 127mm) used is 19.5 lb/ft or 29.1 kg/m:

This gives OD 5” or 127mm
ID 4.28” or 108.7mm

Drillpipe is also available in different grades of steel giving different degrees of strength, where ‘D’ is the weakest
and ‘S’ the strongest.

Heavy or thicker walled drillpipe is normally called ‘heavy-weight’ drillpipe. This heavier pipe is situated above
the drill collars in the drillstring to provide extra weight and stability. As with ‘standard’ drillpipe, heavy-weight is
available in different OD’s and varying ID’s depending on the weight of the steel. Heavy-weight drillpipe will differ
in appearance from standard drillpipe in that they have longer tool joints.

Commonly, the weight (for OD 127mm) used is 49.3 lb/ft or 73.5 kg/m

This gives OD 5” or 127mm
ID 3” or 76.2mm

Notice that the heavy-weight drillpipe has the same OD as the standard drillpipe, and as we shall see, the same ID as
the drill collars.

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 23
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

Drill Collars

Drill collars are rigid, thick walled, heavy lengths of pipe that go to make up the main part of the Bottom Hole
Assembly, positioned between the drillpipe and the bit. Collars have several important functions: -

• Provide weight for the bit.
• Provide the strength required so that the collars are always in compression.
• Provide weight to ensure that the drillpipe is always held in tension to avoid buckling.
• Provide rigidity or stiffness so that hole direction is maintained.
• Produce a pendulum effect, allowing near vertical holes to be drilled.

As with drillpipe, drill collars are available in several diameters (OD) with the ID diameter variable due to varying
weights of steel. Typically, the ID is similar to that of the heavy-weight drillpipe, close to 3” or 76mm.

Square drill collar

Spiral drill collar

Smooth drill collar

The weight applied to the bit must come from the drill collars only. If the weight applied to the bit was to exceed the
total weight of the drill collars, the extra weight would be coming from the drillpipe which would be subject to
buckling and twist-off (breaking) at the tool joints.

The weight of the collars acting directly on the bit has two main consequences: -

• The tendency for the string to hang vertically due to the weight and gravity. The heavier the
drill collars, the more likely it is that the bit will not deviate from a vertical position.

• The weight acting upon the bit will stabilize it, making it more likely that the hole being
drilled will follow the path of the section just drilled i.e. maintaining hole direction. This bit
stabilization also allows for even distribution of the load across the cutting structure of the bit.
This prevents the bit from wandering or migrating from a central position, ensuring a straight,
properly sized or gauged hole, even bit wear and faster penetration rates.

The maintaining of the hole direction is assisted not only by the weight and stiffness of the drill collars at the base of
the drillstring, but will also be greatly assisted if the OD of the collars is only slightly smaller than the bit diameter or
actual hole size. This is known as a ‘packed-hole assembly’.

A problem with this type of arrangement is that the collar part of the drillstring will be very prone to differential
sticking, where the pipe becomes stuck in the filter cake covering the borehole wall. The risk of this is minimized by
utilizing a number of different designs in the sectioning, or grooving, of the collars to reduce the surface area of the
drill collar that is in contact with the wellbore. Thus, collars may be round, square or eliptically sectioned, spirally
grooved etc.

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 24
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

The Bottom Hole Assembly (BHA)

This is the name applied to the drill collars and any other tools incorporated with them, including the bit. The
drillstring is therefore made up of the drillpipe (heavy-weight drillpipe is normally distinguished as well) and the

These are a short length of pipe, or sub,
positioned between the drill collars in
order to centralize them and maintain a
straight hole and, by way of a scraping
action, they maintain a full sized, or
gauged, hole. The full gauge is
provided by ‘ribs’ or blades mounted
on a mandrel. These may be made
from solid rubber or aluminium, or
more typically, they are made from steel with tungsten carbide inserts on the facing edges. Stabilizers can be
categorized into rotating or non-rotating blades, with the ribs or blades being generally spiral or straight.

Roller Reamers will ream the hole just behind the bit and perform a similar function to the stabilizers in that they
stabilize the assembly and help maintain a full gauge hole. They are more typically used when problems are being
experienced in maintaining a full gauged hole, particularly in abrasive formations, when the bit is worn undergauge.
Similarly, they may be used if key seats or ledges are known to exist in the borehole. The number and position of
reaming ‘blades’ will categorize the type of reamer. For example, with three blades, it is termed a 3-point reamer. If
they are positioned towards the base of the sub (as shown), it will be termed a 3-point near-bit reamer. A stabilizer
reamer will have the blades positioned centrally in the sub.

3-point near-bit reamer

Under Reamers are also placed directly behind the bit to ream the hole and maintain full gauge or enlarge the hole.
The reaming or cutting action is by way of rotating cones located on collapsible arms. These are opened and held out
during drilling by the pressure of the mud passing through the tool. This enables the tool to pass through a narrow
diameter hole section, then open up and drill a wider hole.

Hole Opener
This is a similar tool to the under reamer, in that a cutting action is provided by rotating cones in order to enlarge a
hole. Unlike the under reamer however, the cones are in a fixed position so that the hole opener has to be able to
pass through the ‘previous’ hole diameter. They are therefore generally used on surface hole sections to widen the
hole where large hole diameters are required.

Cross Over Sub
A small length of pipe enabling drillpipe and/or collars of different diameters and threads to be connected together.

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 25
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

A mechanically or hydraulically operated device to provide a high impact ‘hammer’ blow to the drillstring
downhole, in the event that it becomes stuck. Jars are designed specifically for drilling or fishing (retrieval of part of
the drillstring left downhole) operations.

Should the drill string become stuck and incapable of being freed with normal working (i.e., upward and downward
movement) of the pipe or by pulling on the pipe without exceeding drill string and surface equipment limitations,
then rotary drilling jars will be used.

Rotary drilling jars are tools designed to strike heavy-impact hammer blows, in an upward or downward direction, to
the drill string. The direction in which the jar is activated depends upon the pipe movement when it became stuck. A
downward blow is struck if the pipe was stationary or moving upwards. An upward blow will be struck if the drill
string was moving downwards. The majority of stuck pipe situations result from an upward moving, or stationary,
pipe so that, typically, downward jarring is required.

To free the pipe, the jar needs to be situated above the stuck point so, typically, jars will be situated in the upper
apart of the bottomhole assembly, certainly above stabilizers and other tools most prone to sticking.

Jars can be hydraulically or mechanically triggered, but both work on the same principle. That is, the jar consists of
an outer barrel which is attached to the drill string below (the stuck pipe) and an inner mandrel which, attached to the
free string above, can slide, delivering rapid upward or downward acceleration and force.

• Hydraulic jars operate on a time delay produced by the release of hydraulic fluid. As the mandrel is
extended, the hydraulic fluid is released slowly through a small opening. Over several minutes, opening
continues but is restricted by the hydraulic metering. The fluid channel then increases in diameter allowing
rapid flow and unrestricted, rapid opening of the jar, known as its stroke. At the end of the stroke, typically 8
inches, a tremendous blow is delivered by the rapid deceleration of the drill string above the jars which were
accelerating through the stroke.

Drill Drill
String is String is
Raised Slacked

8” BHA Mass

Jar Cocks Jar Latch Trips

Stuck Pipe Impact is Delivered

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3

• Mechanical jars deliver the hammer blow by the same acceleration/deceleration of the jars, but the
triggering mechanism is by a pre-set tension with no time delay once the jar has been cocked.

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 26
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

• A jar accelerator may be set above the rotary jars, typically within the heavy-weight drill pipe, to intensify
the blow delivered by the jars. Upward strain compresses a charge of fluid or gas (commonly nitrogen) and,
when the rotary jar trips, the expansion of fluid or gas in the accelerator amplifies the jarring effect. A jar
accelerator offers the advantages of confining movement to the drill collar—or close to the stuck point—and
minimizing shock on the drill string and surface equipment by cushioning rebounds through the compression
of fluid or gas.

If jarring is unable to free the stuck pipe, the only recourse is to back off the pipe that is still free. This may be
achieved by simply twisting off, or unscrewing, the free pipe; or by determining the free point with a wireline
tool, then running an explosive charge, on wireline, to blow the string apart. The remaining stuck pipe now has to
be either retrieved, removed or avoided before drilling can continue.

Shock Sub
This will be positioned close behind the bit where hard formations cause the bit to bounce on the bottom of the hole.
They are designed to absorb the impact from this bouncing in order to prevent damaging the remaining part of the
drillstring. This may be done by way of springs or rubber packing.

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 27
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999


During normal drilling operations, the hydrostatic pressure, at any depth, exerted by the column of drilling fluid
inside the well exceeds the pressure exerted by the formation fluids. Thus, the flow of formation fluids (influx or
kick) into the wellbore is prevented.

Should, however, the pressure due to the formation fluid exceed the hydrostatic pressure of the mud column, the
formation fluid, be it water, gas or oil, will be able to feed into the wellbore. This is known as a kick.

A kick is defined as an influx of formation fluid into the wellbore that can be controlled at surface. When this flow of
formation fluid becomes uncontrollable at surface, the kick becomes a blowout.

To prevent the occurrence of a blowout, there needs to be a way of ‘closing’ or shutting off the wellbore so that the
flow of formation fluids remain under control. This is possible with a blowout prevention system (BOP), an
arrangement of preventors, valves and spools that sit atop the wellhead. This arrangement is commonly referred to
as the stack.

The BOP stack must be able to: -

• Close the top of the wellbore to prevent fluid from escaping to surface and risking an explosion.
• Release fluids from the wellbore under safely controlled conditions.
• Enable drilling fluid to be pumped into the well, under controlled conditions, to balance wellbore
pressures and prevent further influx (kill the well).
• Allow movement of the drillstring.

The size and arrangement of the BOP stack will be determined by the hazards expected and the protection required,
together with the size and type of pipe being used. The basic requirements of the BOP stack means: -

• There must be sufficient casing in the hole to provide a firm anchor for the stack.
• It must be possible to close off the well completely, whether there is pipe in the hole or not.
• Closing the well must be a simple and rapid procedure easily understood and performed by the
drilling personnel.
• There must be controllable lines through which pressure can be bled off safely.
• There must be a means to circulate fluid through the drillstring or annulus so that formation fluid
can be removed from the wellbore, and so that higher density mud can be circulated to balance the
formation pressure and control the well.

There are additional requirements in the case of floating rigs, where the BOP stack will be situated on the seabed.
Should the rig have to temporarily abandon the well, there must be means to shut the well in completely, by hanging
off or shearing any pipe in the hole. The marine riser can then be detached from the wellhead, allowing the rig to
move away to a safe location but able to return and re-enter the well at a later time.

During normal operations, the marine riser will be subjected to lateral movement due to the water current. The
attachment of the riser to the stack must therefore be by way of a ‘ball joint’ to prevent movement of the stack.

BOPs have various pressure ratings established by the American Petroleum Institute (API). This will be based upon
the lowest pressure rating of a particular item in the stack such as a preventor, casing head or other fitting. A
suitably rated BOP can therefore be installed depending on the rating of the casing and expected formation pressures
below the casing seat. BOPs commonly used have ratings of 5, 10 or 20000 psi.

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 28
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

Closing the well

This is achieved with preventors or rams, enabling the annulus to be closed off or the complete wellbore to be closed
off, with or without pipe in the hole.

Annular Preventor

This is a reinforced rubber seal, or packer, that surrounds
the wellbore. When pressure is applied it will close
around the pipe, sealing off the annulus. The annular
preventor has the advantage that with pressure
progressively applied, it will close in on any size of pipe
or any shape. The wellbore can therefore be closed in
regardless of whether the kelly, drillpipe or drill collars
are passing through the stack. This adaptability does not,
however, extend to spiral drill collars or tools such as
stabilizers where the shape is irregular. The annular
preventor also allows for slow rotation or vertical
movement of the drillstring while the annulus remains
closed off. This allows for pipe to be tripped in
(“snubbing) or out (stripping) of the hole while the well is
still under a controlled condition. Most annular preventors
are also able to seal across an open wellbore, but this will
shorten the life of the packer and should be avoided.

Ram Type Preventors

These differ from the annular preventor in that the rubber sealing element is comparitively rigid and will seal around
pre-designated shapes. They are made to seal around specific objects (pipe and casing rams) or over an open hole
(blind rams). They can be equipped with shearing blades that can cut through drillpipe or casing and still have the
ability to seal an open hole (shear/blind rams).

Pipe or Casing Rams
Annular preventor
Here, the rubber faces of the ram are moulded to match
the outside diameter of specifically sized pipe. The rams
can therefore close around that specific drillpipe exactly,
closing off the annulus. If more than one size of drillpipe
is being used, the BOP stack must include pipe rams for
each size of pipe in the hole.

Blind or Shear Rams

These rams, closing from opposite sides, will close off
the complete borehole when there is no drillpipe in the
hole. If there is pipe in the hole, the rams will crush it or
cut through it if equipped with shear blades (shear rams).
Ram preventors
Shear rams are more typically used in subsea stacks so
that, if pipe is in the hole, the well can be completely
closed off should the well have to be temporarily
abandoned. Blind rams are more typically used in stacks
situated under the drillfloor.

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 29
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

Closing the preventors

The preventors are closed hydraulically with hydraulic fluid supplied under pressure. If the stacks are accessible, i.e.
on land rigs and jack-ups, the rams can also be closed manually.

The basic components to a preventor closing system are:

• Pumps providing a source of pressure.
• A source of power to drive the pumps.
• Suitable hydraulic fluid to open and close the preventors.
• A control system to direct and control the fluid.
• A source of pressure when normal sources fail.
• Backup sources of power.

There has to be means to store the hydraulic fluid under pressure and a means of the delivering it to the preventors.
To be taken into account is the fact that different preventors require different operating pressures and preventors of
different sizes will require varying amounts of fluid for opening and closing.

Accumulator bottles provide the means to store,
under pressure, the full amount of hydraulic fluid
required to operate all of the BOP components and
effect rapid preventor closure. Several accumulator
bottles can be linked together to provide the
necessary volume. The accumulator bottles are pre-
charged with compressed nitrogen (typically 750 to
1000 psi). When hydraulic fluid is forced into the
bottle, by way of air or electrically powered pumps,
the nitrogen is compressed thereby increasing the
pressure. Typically, to ensure BOP operation, a
closing unit will have more than one pressure source
in case of failure. Similarly, if air or electrical
A B C pumps are being used in the closing unit, there will
be more than one source of air, more than one
Accumulator bottles
source of electricity etc. There should always be a

The operating pressure of the accumulator is typically 1500 to 3000 psi. A minimum operating pressure of 1200 psi
is normally assumed. These pressures will determine the amount of hydraulic fluid that can be supplied from each
bottle and from this, the number of bottles needed to supply the full amount of fluid to operate the BOP can be

e.g. A. Precharge volume of bottle = 40 litres, precharge pressure = 1000 psi

B. Max Fluid Charge pressure = 3000 psi volume of N2 = 1000 x 40 / 3000 =13.33 litres

C. Minimum Operating Pressure = 1200 psi volume of N2 = 1000 x 40 / 1200 =33.33 litres

Therefore, the amount of usable hydraulic fluid in each accumulator bottle = 33.33 - 13.33 = 20 litres

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 30
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

A hydraulic control manifold, consisting of regulators and valves, controls the direction of flow of the high pressure
hydraulic fluid. The fluid will be directed to the correct ram or preventor and the regulators will reduce the pressure
of the hydraulic fluid from the accumulator operating pressure to the operating pressure of the preventor (typically in
the region of 500 to 1500 psi).

All components to the closing system; pressure source, accumulators, control manifold, master control panel, should
be located a safe distance from the wellbore.

Control Panel
Typically, there will be more than one control panel. The master panel will be located on the drill floor convenient
to the driller (typically in the doghouse). An auxiliary panel will be placed in a safe area so that, should the driller’s
panel fail and the accumulator panel not be reachable, the well can still be safely controlled.

The control panel is air operated and will typically provide gauges
to show air pressure to the control panel and pressures throughout
the system such as accumulator, air supply manifold and annular
preventor. The panel will also typically include preventor control
valves to open or close preventors, valves to open or close the
choke and kill lines and a pressure control valve to adjust the
pressure of the annular pressure.

Positioning of the rams
Typically, one annular preventor will be placed at the top of the
stack. The best arrangement for the remaining rams depend on the
operations that may need to be carried out.

The possibilities are that blind rams are sited above all pipe rams,
below all pipe rams or between pipe rams. The operations possible
are then governed by the fact that blind rams cannot shut off the
well if pipe is in the hole.

With blind rams in the lower position, the well can be closed if no pipe is in the hole and all other rams can be
repaired or replaced if required. In case of blowout with pipe out of the hole, the well can be closed and pressure
reduction achieved by lubricating mud into the well below the rams. With an annular preventor above, drillpipe can
be stripped into the well by holding pressure when the blind ram is opened. A disadvantage is that drillpipe cannot
be hung off on pipe rams and the well killed by circulation through the drillstring.

With blind rams in the upper position, lower pipe rams can be closed with pipe in the hole, allowing the blind rams
to be replaced with pipe rams. This will minimize wear on the lower pipe rams with the upper rams taking the
additional wear as a result of working the drillstring with rams closed. Drillpipe can also be hung from the any of the
pipe rams, backed off and the well completely closed by the blind rams. The main disadvantage is that the blind
rams cannot be used as a ‘master’ valve allowing for changing or repair of rams above.

Kill Lines
The placement or configuration of the rams will affect the positioning of the kill lines. These will be located directly
beneath one or more of the rams, so that when the rams are closed, fluid and pressure can be bled off under control
(choke line). The choke line is routed to the choke manifold where pressures can be monitored. An adjustable
choke allows for the ‘back pressure’ being applied to the well to be adjusted in order to maintain control.

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 31
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

They also allow for an alternative way of pumping
drilling mud or cement into the wellbore should it not
FLOWLINE be possible to circulate through the kelly and drillstring
(kill line). The kill line will normally be lined up to the
rig pumps, but a ‘remote’ kill line may often be
employed in order to use an auxiliary high pressure
Although preventors may have side outlets for the
attachment of choke and kill lines, separate drilling
CHOKE + KILL spools are often used. This is a drill-through fitting that
LINES fits between the preventors creating extra space (which
may be required in order to hang off pipe and have
BLIND/SHEAR RAMS enough room for tool joints between the rams) and
allowing for the attachment of the kill lines.

On floating rigs, when the BOP stack is on the seabed,
the choke and kill lines are attached to opposite sides of
the marine riser. The lines have to flexible at the top
and the bottom of the riser to allow for movement and
PIPE RAMS heave.

The Diverter
A diverter is typically employed before the installation
PIPE RAMS of a BOP stack. The diverter, installed directly beneath
the normal bell nipple and flowline assembly, is a low
pressure system. It’s purpose is to direct any well flow
or kick away from the rig and personnel, providing a
degree of protection prior to setting the casing string
CASING HEAD that the BOP stack will be mounted on.

The diverter system is only designed to handle low
pressures. It is designed to pack off or close around the
kelly or drillpipe and direct the flow away. If it were
Simple BOP stack schematic attempted to control high pressures, or completely shut
in the well, the likely result would be uncontrolled flow
and breakdown of formations around the shallow casing
or conductor pipe. The use of a diverter is essential in offshore drilling.

Inside Blowout Preventers

Complete blowout prevention is only achieved when both the annulus and the inside of the drillpipe are closed off.
The preventors and rams so far described primarily close off the annulus. Blind rams only close off open holes
without drillpipe and shear rams cut the drillpipe rather than closing off.

Inside BOPs are pieces of equipment that can close off the inside of the drillpipe. There are two main types:

1. Manual shut off valves employed at the surface.

2. Automatic check valves situated in the drillstring downhole

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 32
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

Choke Manifold

Surface Shut Off Valves

Kelly Safety Valve This is installed on the lower end of the kelly, with different sizes available for all sizes of

Kelly Cock This is installed between the swivel and the kelly

Drillpipe Safety Valve This is manually screwed, or stabbed, into open drillpipe held in slips. This allows for
quick shut off should backflow occur during tripping when the kelly is racked.

Downhole Check Valves

Drop-in Check Valve This can be sited at any position in the drillstring, requiring a landing sub. If there is
danger of a blowout, the valve is pumped down the string, lands in the sub and provides
continuous protection. This should be employed before shearing drillpipe so that the
drillpipe is protected against flow up the pipe.

Drillpipe Float Valve This can be positioned directly above the bit to prevent backflow into the drillstring,
providing instantaneous shut off against pressures and fluid flow. Some floats have
vented flappers allowing shut-in pressures to be accurately monitored.

Rotating BOPs

Otherwise known as a rotating control head, the function of the rotating BOP is specifically as a rotating flow
diverter, which is mounted on the top of a normal BOP stack. Simply, the RBOP allows vertical movement and
rotation of the drillstring while a rubber ‘stripper’ seals around and rotates with the string, allowing flow to be
contained and diverted. This type of unit has obvious advantages for underbalanced drilling, when drilling with high
pressures or, increasingly, for enhanced safety, RBOPs are being used in normal drilling applications.

While well pressures are contained by the rubber seal around the drillstring or kelly, flow is diverted by way of a
steel bowl and bearing assembly. The bearing assembly enables the inner part to rotate with the drillstring while the
outer part is stationary with the bowl.
Seals are typically of two types: -

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 33
Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999

1. A cone shaped rubber that seals around the drillstring. The ID of the seal is slightly smaller than the OD of the
pipe so that the seal stretches to provide an exact seal around the pipe. No hydraulic pressure is required to
complete the seal since the pressure is provided by wellbore pressures acting on the cone rubber. The rubber is
therefore self-sealing, the higher the wellbore pressure the greater the seal.

2. A packer type seal requiring an external hydraulic pressure source to inflate the rubber and provide a seal. A
seal will be given as long as the hydraulic pressure is greater than the wellbore pressure.

The huge advantage of the rotating BOP is that, since rotation and vertical movement are possible while an annular
seal is present, drilling can commence while a flowing well is being safely controlled. The assembly is easily
installed, and the rubbers easily inspected and replaced with minimum loss of time.

If the wellbore pressure approaches the maximum capability of the RBOP (typically 1500 to 2500psi), the well
should be controlled conventionally using the BOP preventors.

Datalog Wellsite Procedures Manual 1999 34