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The term "ballooning" generally refers to the flow back of fluids

previously lost into a formation. The pressure associated with ballooning
is typically a function of the fracture initiation and fracture closure
pressures of the rock. There is also generally a finite volume of fluids for
the ballooning system. As a volume of fluids are taken back into the well
from the formation, the associated pressure is reduced.
Ballooning generally occurs while circulating when the Equivalent
Circulating Density (ECD) is higher than the pressure required to open a
fracture in the ballooning formation. When circulation is stopped and the
Equivalent Static Density (ESD) at the formation is less than the fracture
closure pressure, lost fluids will re-enter the wellbore, giving the
perception of a kick.
Fingerprinting can be used to assist with the determination of a well that
is kicking as opposed to ballooning. The flowback of fluids upon each
connection should show a decreasing flow rate trend and should match
those of previous connections.

Pressure build fingerprinting can also be completed to show a reduction

in the pressure related to time when compared to a consistent volume of
fluid bled back. The following chart shows an example of a ballooning
well. Three bleed cycles were complete and the pressure build was
plotted over time for comparison. The decreasing trend can be noted
which was instrumental in the conclusion that ballooning was the source
of flow realized from the well.
This event can be mistaken for a kick, or a kick can be misinterpreted as
ballooning. The investigation of ballooning should occur in a control
Always treat any well flow as a kick until it can be proven otherwise.
Never assume that the well is ballooning.

Some general concepts to remember about ballooning:

 Fluid lost to the ballooning formation is required to induce
 The shut-in pressure should not increase after a volume of fluid is
bled off. A pressure increase is the sign of a kick and NOT
 Fluid return rate should not increase. A decreasing trend is
expected as the volume in the ballooning formation is reduced.
 Shut-in pressure will not increase due to fluid/gas migration in the
well in a pure ballooning scenario.
 Ballooning is normally associated with shales, or other low
permeability zones.
 Ballooning formations are generally close to the last casing shoe
depth as fracture pressures typically increase with increasing

It is important to remember that with any diagnostic work, consistency is

the key. In order to compare data points for a bleed off of fluids, the
process must be consistent. This should be considered when attempting
to verify if ballooning has occurred or if the resulting pressure and
volume are the result of a kick.

The following is a simple generalized procedure to assist with the

identification of ballooning:

 Record the initial stabilized SICP.

 Bleed off a small, measured volume into the trip tank (or another
calibrated tank for reading small volumes).
o A suggestion would be 5 bbl or less.
 With the choke left at the same opening size, time the flow back for
each barrel.
o A trend that shows a flow rate reduction is a sign of
 Shut-in the well and record and plot the resulting casing pressure
until it has stabilized.
 If the pressure is lower than the original SICP, continue to bleed off
small volume increments.
o Once it can be established that the source of flow is
ballooning, continue operations as required.