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lefT b 7- 01-- 6)

.,, .Drilling' String Corrosion


A Major Drilling Problem

By A. S. MURRAY' and W. E. HOLMAN"

(18th Annual Technical llIeeting, The Pet7'oleu1n, Society of CllIJ! Banff, Alta.} Jvlay, 1967)
, ,

ABSTRACT tigue accounts for the majority of drill-string failures

; , The sources of drilling stri~g corrosion are discussed, and is difficult to diagnose without a metallurgical
together with an economic estimate of the magnitude of examination. '.
this problem in our drilling industry_ Problems associate-d Recently developed technology has revealed that
with measuring the corrosion rate in drilling fluids under
field conditions are reviewed. A technique for making commonly employed practices and materials. may ac-
corrosion rate evaluations is described. It is based on celerate corrosive attack, Remedial techniques, also
field test data from over 100 wells drilled by Imperial Oil recently developed, have seen negligible application
Limited in 'Vestern Canada. Remedial chemicals and to date.
procedures to Ol"ercome drilling string corrosion are dis-
cussed_ This paper will discuss the environmental conditions
encountered in drilling that lead to corrosion and will
recommend procedures and materials vitally needed to
INTRODUCTION reduce the magnitude of this problem_
ORROSION is a major, but largely unrecognized, Imperial has been conducting laboratory research
C problem to the drilling industry in Western Can-
ada_ The annual corrosion cost in Western Canada is
and investigative studies and field tests to better un-
derstand corrosion in drilling over the past eight r::'.
,... .
years. ~~
conservatively estimated to exceed $5,000,000 per year. ,::.' .-
This cost is incurred through deterioration of the CAUSES OF CORROSION
drilling string, the slush pump and other surface
equipment. The resultant cost of fishing jobs, unre- As corrosion is a major cause of drill-pipe failure.
trievable subsurface equipment, lost hole and ad- it is important to be able to detect, assess and monitor
ditional rig time has also been included in computing the causes before failure occurs. The contaminants
the annual cost_ The underestimation of this problem that accelerate corrosion in drilling fluids are shown
results from the nature of corrosion-initiated fatigue in Table 1. The possible source of these agents and ;.: - .
failures ,vhich sometimes develop slowly", and are well some of the field methods of detection are also listed. l.::-V"
established before becoming apparent. Corrosion fa- Oxygen, the most common corrosion accelerator
found in drilling fluids, may be entrained in the drill- .. ~.

ing fluid while it passes through the mud surface pits

01' shaker screens, or it may be intentionaBy injected
into the fluid stream to improve penetration rates.
CORROSION CONTAMINANTS- l\feters have been developed that measure the amount
of oxygen in the solution. The meters are being used
THEIR POSSIBLE SOURCES AND :tVJETHODS OF DETECTION along with other tests to study the causes of corrosion
COlltamillaut Possible SouTce kfethods of Detection attack in active drilling sJrstems. Oxygen attack can
be controlled by using oxygen scavengers. and the
Oxygen Aeration Oxygen meter effect of these additives can be monitored by the
Hydrogen Fa rmation Lead acet.paper, titra.
SUlphide Sour Crude and Gas Acid arsenic solution HydTogen sulphide, like oxygen, is a serious cor-
Make-up 'Water Bacterial tests rosion contaminant in drilling fluids_ The source of
Degradation of Ivlud large amounts of hJ,drogen sulphide contamination
Bacterial Acth'ity can vary, but usually comes from a formation. Very
small concentrations of sulphide ions can promote
Soluble Salts Mud Additives Chemical analysis rapid failures; therefore. any concentration 'can be im-
Formation Chlorides. magnesium,
calcium, etc. portant and should be avoided. Drilling fluids can also
become contaminated from additives such as crude
Carbon Formation pH oil, gas or water containing hydrogen sulphide, de-
Dioxid Make-up Water Alkalinity gradation of mud additives, pipe dope and suJphate-
Aeration Bacterial tests
Sweet Crude and Gas reducing bacteria. Several methods of detecting sul-
Bacterial Activity phide ions in drilling fluids are in use. Lead acetate
paper, starch iodine analysis and methyl blue analysis
Organic Acids 1\1ud Additives pH are the most common methods. Accurate and precise
Bacterial Activity Bacterial tests
Stimulation Alkalinity titrations measurements can be made in the laborator:~r_
IVIineral Stimulation pH ':<:In~pe?"ial Oil EnteTpl"ises, EdmontDn. Alta.
Acids Additives
**Impe>'ial Oil Limited, Calgary, Alta.

Technology, April-June, 1967, Montreal 33

The convenient method used to determine iron sul- decrease in the resistivitj' of the solution. A maximum
phide scale is to spot check corrosion coupons or drill- in the rate occurs, due to the limited solubility of
ing equipment '''lith acid arsenic solution. If iron sul- oxygen, beyond which the corrosion rate drops as the
phide is present, a readily visible bright yellO\v pre- salt concentration increases. For this reason, satur-
cipitate of arsenic sulphide will forrn_ Magnetite de- ation should be maintained when possible. Chloride,
posits, found 011 drill pipe, can be the result of oxidized magnesium, calcium and other analyses are well known
sulphide scale. Magnetite will cling to a magnet, and in drilling fl'.Jid control and can be used to further
thus field detection is simple. define the environment.
Another important source of sulphide corrosion is Carbon dioJ..'ide gas reacts with water to form car-
the bacteria that are found in most of our muskeg bonic acid and can attack iron to form iron carbonate.
water, Three general classifications of biological Cal'bon dioxide can enter the drilling fluid from the
':;IJecies - Aerobes, Anaerobes and Sulphate Reducing formation, hom crude oil additions to the mud, from
Bacteria, originating in fresh water used in the for- bacteria activity. from make-up or from surface aera-
mation of drilling fluids, are found in most drilling tion.
fluid:; and may be detected by a bacteria culturing Oryanic acids are lIsed as drilling fluid thinners
method. and, when proiJerly neutralized, usually as the sodium
Soluble salts, such as sodium chloride, are frequent- salt, may be beneficial from a cOlTosion standpoint.
ly added to drilling fluids, but contamination from Some of the thinners, as well as improving the drilling
formations aI:d salt water flows are also primary fluid properties. act to reduce the oxygen concentra-
sources. Salt solutions are more corrosive than fresh tion. Paradoxically, additions of tannates, lignites and
water. The most serious corrosion attack, however, lignosulfonates, under certain circumstances, have
results from aerated sodium chloride solutions in the been shown to have detrimental effects in drill bit
7 - 1:3 per cent (by weight) range. The reason for the bearing tests. Thermal degradation of lignosulfonates
illcrea~e in the canas ion rate of salt solutions is the and other additives made from a sulphate process can
provide corrosive contaminants or, perhaps more cor-
rectly, nutrient for biological growth, Bacteria, using
starch or other organic compounds as nutrients, are
also source~ of hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide.
An abundant variety of drilling fluid chemicals are
available to control mud properties. These chemicals,
howevet, should be selected for corrosion control CL::!
well as for the economical control of drilling fluid
properties. \Ve are continually evaluating drilling
fluid arlditives, and this is standard practice now in
Figlfl'f' 1. - Illslllaled C01To.sion selecting drilling fluid chemicals.
COl/1JO/I. (designed for installation
in d1ill-pipc lool joint). FIELD EVALUATION

Drill-pipe corrosion is readily evaluated by exposing

corrosion rings inside the drill pipe under drilling
conditions. The weight of the coupon before and after
exposure is measlll'ed to determine the rate of corro-
sion_ The use of drill-string corrosion coupons as i1-
IU1itratE~d in Figures 1, 2 amd 3, has pl'o\ided control
data on the results of field drilling practices. The COI'-
rosion rings are mounted in a thermo plastic (Diallyl-
PLASTIC Phthalate) \vhich insulates them hom the drill pipe.

COATING This prevents the formation of a galvanic cell between

the more active coupon and the more passive steel of
the drill pipe. These insulated coupon.'! are superior
to the non-insulated coupons normally available.
Fig//l"f: :2. - Drill-Pipe COlTosion Coupon. Two coupons are located in the string - one at the
kelly saver sub and a second at the changeover sub.
,L The coupons are normallj' installed at the beginning of
operations and are changed on a weeldy basis until the
hole is completed. spot analysis of the corrosion film
and visual examination of the coupon's surface will
provide useful information in evaluating the type of
corrosion and estimating the severity of the attade
/ The type of con-os ion is of primary importance in
;' an e\'aluation of corrosion ring coupon tests, and i.'!
/ 5TEH~ often elassified into three major categories,
(1) Generalized - representing continuuus corro-
sion oveL' the entire surface, but not pitting.
r 2) Localized - representing discontinuous .'!u 1'-
''--CORROSION face corrosion, but not pitting.
(3) Pitting - representing highly concentrated
I corrosion cells.
b,==~ The pitting type of corrosion is the most serious
FigHrc .J, - Placl'm,ml of Rilig ill TrJol Joil/t, form of surface attack resulting from drilling fluids.

34 The Journal of ConCldjgn Petroleum

11,0 ~-----------------,

'" ... 1 - f--- 10.0

, I I
I 0
'00 , '" :a '

,, ""
~b COsQlllt"caoVII.5Ua I
I, h! 00

nl IItU_IUI.,"JAVUfVI 00
cCis I(SS I
",;:OKS'S I I

"' 1.0 I 2.0

',0 .. .,I I
'"' '"
I~O B000

7,0 L _ _-"-_ _-'-_ _- , ' - -_ _-"-_ _- ,

Figlt?"C 4.-Depth 'US C01"J'osion Rate and pH. 1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 ~o

Stresses concentrated at these pits increase the Figzwe 5.-Corrosion Rate 'U8 pH. ~.!
(average for approximately 100 wells)
fatigue susceptibility of the material and result in -; ..
rapid crack propagation. Therefore, corrosion control
techniques should emphasize the importance of the grade E drill pipe with a hardness of 22 to 23 Re, are ,..:.~.
:1 in common use within the industry. Investigations
:~ type of attack as 'well as the general corrosion rate
, have shown that when the hardness of carbon steel
" expressed as uniform metal loss.
material is above R e 22, then the material can be con-
Thus far, data have shown conclusively that pH con- sidered susceptible to hydrogen sulphide embrittle- .,.'
trol in the 9.5+ range reduces the corrosion rate and Mento Hydrogen sulphide embrittlement is a 'Possibil-
eliminates pitting. Typical results of this control are ity as a result of the use of high-hardness drill pipe,
shown in Figu1"eS 4. and 5, which indicate clearly the machined surfaces, welding, hard facing and cold ., J
results achieved. Figure 5 is a plot of pH vs corrosion working.
rate, and the data were taken from more than 100 i:
wells drilled in \Vestern Canada. As the strength of the drill pipe is iRcreased, with
steel of a higher yield strength, the downhole environ-
As Figure 5 indicates, it is necessary to maintain pH ments will require more corrosion control in order
at a level of 9.5 or higher to minimize corrosion at- to prevent this type of degradation.
tack In order to do this, drilling people will have to
revise their current procedures of drilling strictly Hydrogen Sulphide Embrittlement Test
with water. It should be apparent to everyone that it
may be uneconomical to maintain a high enough pH Hydrogen Sulphide
to control corrosion where large quantities of water Hydrogen sulphide, high hardness, stress and a cor:
are circulated in fast) top-hole drilling. We believe that rosive environment can result in embrittlement if
the drilling industrJr should carefully assess the eco- given enough time. These factors, H:!S, hardness,
nomics gained in fast penetration compared to the stress, corrosive environment and time, are present in
high metal loss and corrosion fatigue factors which varying degrees in every drilling mud system_
take place during this stage of each hole drilled. With In order to determine embrittlement tendencies, a
this factor in mind, we believe that a low-solids, water- sensitive test has been developed which involves the
base bentonite fluid having a funnel viscosity of 32 use of the pre-stressed steel roller bearings shown in
to 35 seconds/quart offers a reduced corrosion poten- Figure 6.
tial at an economical cost level, and is a logical al-
t~rnative to the less desirable water fluid. The roller bearings are small. economical and are
manufactured under strict quality controL They are
Clear water and top-hole drilling have been found subjected to a deforming load which causes the loc-
to he corrosive and troublesome from both a total alized deformation shown and results in a high re- ! ..
metal loss and pitting standpoint. As solids such as sidual stress concentration. The residual stress is high
bentonite, clays and drilled solids enter or are introdu- enough so that rapid failure is almost certain in H:!S
ced into the system) the drill-pipe degradation is low- environments unless embrittlement is inhibited. The
, ered as a result of reduced free oxygen in solution_
Reducing agents such as lignosulfonates perform a sim-
ilar service, but, as pointed out earlier, also appear to
foster bacterial activity. Cold weather influences cor-
rosion due to the increased solubility of oxygen at
lower temperatures. Our data have clear!}" pointed out ,
that corrosion rates are always higher in the winter
than in the summer or warmer months.
H 2 S, from a formation source, can he controlled by
immediately raising the mud weight to a level where
the gas will be confined to the formation_ Continued
t: i'

proper pH control during this time will guarantee

minimum deleterious effects.
HydTogen sulphide embrittlement is difficult to
detect prior to failure of the drill pipe or bit bearings.
High-strength hard steels, such as rock bit bearings

with a hardness of 55 to 57 Re, and, to a lesser degree, Figzue 6.-P1'e-stressed steel rolle1 bearing.

Technology, April.June, 1967, MontreCiI

test is extremehr sensitive and will indicate the pre- Aluminum has also found use in the drilling opeL'-
sence of a trace of H2S -- this will serve as a warn- ation. Its resistance to oxygen concentration cell at-
ing. If, hO\vever, the bearings do not fail under test, it tack has provided resistance to the principal cause of
is good assurance that embrittlement is not a factor pitting and fatigue failure. Aluminum's high-strength
ill the s)'stem. weight ratio offers added advantages in transporta-
Corrosion Inhi.bitor Treatments tion. It is, however, sensitive to chlorides and basic
environments, and thus pH control to below 10 is of
Indiscriminate use of cQrrosion inhibitor treatments extreme importance and its use is limited to non-salt
in any fluid can result in accelerated corrosion attack. water mud systems.
This is particularly true of the drilling fluid environ- Briefl:r, the following practices are necessary to
menL eliminate both COITosion and mechanical initiation of
The common polar organic type of inhibitors pro"'ide fatigue failures.
protection by adsorption to the solid metal surface.
ill echanical Cont1o1 Technique,')
If conditions of velocity, temperature and inhibitor
concentration are correct, the surface is completely (l"i Reduce pipe stresses by carrying sufficient
covered and thus insulated from the corrosive media. drill collars for the bit weight needed.
These inhibitors are surface active and can also be (2) Heavy wall or coated pipe should be used in
adsorbed on the solids within the drilling fJuid as ,veil known severe service locations.
as on the steel surfaces. They are largely cationic in (3 -, All sharp-bottomed, h-ansverse notches should
their electrochemical nat ure and rely on interaction be recognized as a serious condition.
between the hydrocarbon chains to allow wide sur- (4) Pipe should be kept clean on the racks and
face coverage and "bridging" of the irregular sur- coated internally and externally with an inhi-
faces. bited oil-wipe when stored for long periods.
If the concentration of inhibitor is inadequate, the (5) Periodic inspection pl'ocedures should be em-
anodic areas are not completely covered; localized at- ployed to eliminate bent or partially fatigued
tack will thus continue, and will likely lead to the com- joints and to remove joints ,,,.ith worn wall or
tool joint sections.
mon fatigue crack failure.
Use of anionic-type inhibitors can produce protec- Chemical and DTilling Fluid Control Technique
tion, but quite often results in pitting attack if an in-
(1) There are some drilling fluid additives which
Rufficient concentration is used_ This can lead to ac-
seriously promote conosion.
celerated attack at isolated points because of the pro-
(2) The temperature and composition of make-up
tection of some anodic areas and subsequent total cur-
water can be a serious SOL\lce of corrosion.
rent passage through the unprotected anode sites.
(3.1 The use of clear ' ....ater in drilling may not be
Anionic inhibitors are thus considered to be dange-
economical if corrosion is severe.
rous. (4 I Carefully evaluate corrosion inhibitors and the
The final factor influencing inhibitor success is procedure for their application. The indiscrim-
the condition of the interior surfaces. They are nOL'- inate use of corrosion inhibitors can accelelate
mally heavily coated with mud and debris and pro"'ide the corrosion problem.
a diffusion barrier through which the inhibitor must (5) The pH of the drilling fluid should be carried
travel. at 9.5 or higher.
Some success has been achieved through the Lise of
organic inhibitors, as illustrated in Table II.
Plastic-coated drill pipe has recei\'ed good accept- In summanr, we believe that the influence of corro-
ance, and this has proved to be an excellent means of sion on drilling equipment is a severely underestim-
pLotection. However, thE" plastic coating is :mbject to ated operating expense which must be reduced. The
damage when tools are rLin down the drill pipe. solution of thi.5 problem requires both the application
and improvement of existing technology by both the
operator and drilling contractor.
The authors wish to thank the management of Im-
CorrosiOll Rale. Lbs per Sq Fl- per perial Oil Limited for their permission to present this
paper. 'We express special appreciation to'. Colin
Depth.!', ([n{emal COUP01l Untreated Treated Per Ceni Duncan of Imperial's Production Re~earch and Tech-
Run) Well lVell Proteciion nical Services Department for his contribution.
CASE [ 3.200 - 4.000 10.9 0.06 99.4
4.000 - 4.600 12.5 0.03 99.7
w. E. (Bill) Holman received his B.Sc.
degree in chemistry from North TeKos
5,600 - 6.400 6.9 0.12 98.3 State University in 1950. From 1950 to
1962, he worked with Wm. Cameron &
CASE II 2,000 - 4,BOO 39 0.32 89.8 Compony, Atlas Chemicals and Greot
'l,BOO - 50400 3.1 0.08 97.4 Western Drilling Company, specializing
5,400 - 6,000 2.4 0.08 95.7 in drilling fluids and product develop-
6,000 - 6,500 0.28 0,04 92.8 ment engineering. He joineld Jersey Pro-
duction Research Company in 1962 as
C research engineer ond loter maved ta
Per Cent Protection =. - x 100 Essa Production Research Company. In
A August, '965, he transferred to lmpe,
A = Weight Loss of Blank riol Oil Limited, where he is now west-
B = Weight Loss of Treated S~rstem ern regionol drilling engineer.
C = Difference between A and B

36 The Journal of Canadian Petroleum