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IADC/SPE-189615-MS

Modeling of Cuttings Lag Distribution in Directional Drilling to Evaluate


Depth Resolution of Mud Logging

Shigemi Naganawa, The University of Tokyo; Manabu Suzuki, Kenji Ikeda, Norihito Inada, and Ryosuke Sato,
Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation

Copyright 2018, IADC/SPE Drilling Conference and Exhibition

This paper was prepared for presentation at the IADC/SPE Drilling Conference and Exhibition held in Fort Worth, Texas, 6–8 March 2018.

This paper was selected for presentation by an IADC/SPE program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s).
Contents of the paper have not been reviewed by the International Association of Drilling Contractors or the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction
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its officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper without the written consent of the International Association of Drilling
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Abstract
Dispersion of cuttings transport velocity limits the depth resolution in mud logging. An attempt to model the
cuttings lag depth distribution caused by the dispersion of cuttings transport velocity in directional drilling
is presented. The depth resolution of mud logging in directional and horizontal wells is evaluated based on
the cuttings lag experiments and lag depth simulations using the developed model. The approach of cuttings
lag calculation is based on the previously developed complete physical model of transient cuttings transport
behavior in directional drilling. The lag distribution is modeled using the lognormal distribution probability
density function. The parameters of the distribution function are determined by lag time measurement
experiments for various hole inclination angles using a large-scale cuttings transport flow loop apparatus.
The implementation of lag depth calculation can be generally achieved by convolving the lag distribution
functions determined for each hole section with different inclination angles. In this study, however, the
linear combination of distribution functions is mathematically considered for simplicity.
Lag depth simulation studies are presented for a realistic model directional well based on a field data
with consideration of variation in rate of penetration. The significant finding is that cuttings sampled at
the surface can be contaminated by cuttings originated from other unintended depths to the extent being
not negligible compared to the typical sampling interval of 30 ft or 10 m. This tendency of smearing in
the formations and depths from which the sampled cuttings are originated would be significant if the high
inclination or horizontal hole section exceeds a certain length depending on the rate of penetration. The
presented approach has the ability to quantitatively evaluate the uncertainty in the depth resolution of mud
logging that is crucial for improving the lateral quality of reservoir characterization which can be beneficial
such as in shale oil and gas projects.

Introduction
Drill cuttings analysis in mud logging service provides actual information in real-time about the formation
being drilled. Recently, cuttings analysis has been used for improvement of reservoir characterization and
design of hydraulic-fracturing jobs in shale oil and gas projects (Ortega and Aguilera 2012, 2014; Carugo
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et al. 2013). Other application of drill-cuttings analysis is for real-time problem diagnosis and drilling
performance optimization (Karimi 2013).
However, cuttings moving up the wellbore annulus are generally dispersed because of the dependence
of cuttings transport velocity on particle size (e.g. small particles are easily transported and large particles
may be transported at a small fraction of the drilling fluid velocity) and the existence of radial distribution
in drilling fluid velocity (Georgi et al. 1993). This dispersion of cuttings transport velocity limits the
depth resolution in mud logging. To minimize the dispersion of cuttings lag time or lag depth, it has been
acknowledged to be best to collect and analyze small cuttings. The quality of mud logging data has been
dependent on the wellsite personnel and their experience since the mud logging service was commercialized.
At the same time, the dispersion of cuttings transport velocity due to the radial distribution of drilling fluid
velocity is independent of particle size and cannot be eliminated from the collected cuttings.
An effort to estimate the difference in the lag time between drilling fluid and drill cuttings by modeling
the cuttings transport behaviors in directional wells was presented by Garcia-Hernandez et al. (2007). They
tried to experimentally determine the cuttings lag or slip velocity in horizontal and high-angle borehole
configurations. They also provided a lag diagram concept which correlates the location of cuttings source
and current bit position during drilling.
In this paper, an attempt to model the cuttings lag depth distribution caused by the dispersion of cuttings
transport velocity in directional drilling is presented. The depth resolution of mud logging in directional
and horizontal wells is evaluated based on the cuttings lag experiments and cuttings lag depth simulations
using the developed model. The approach of cuttings lag calculation is based on the previously developed
complete physical model of transient cuttings transport behavior in directional drilling. The lag distribution
is modeled using the lognormal distribution probability density function. The parameters of the distribution
function are determined by lag time measurement experiments for various hole inclination angles using
a large-scale cuttings transport flow loop apparatus. The implementation of lag depth calculation can be
generally achieved by convolving the lag distribution functions determined for each hole section with
different inclination angles. In this study, however, the linear combination of distribution functions is
mathematically considered for simplicity.

Derivation of Average Cuttings Lag Depth Equation


Definition of Lag Depth and Basic Equations
Lag time is defined as the time required for drilling fluid, gas or cuttings traveling from the bottomhole
up to the surface through the wellbore annulus. Here we assume that the time when the cuttings was being
drilled at a certain depth is t1, and that the time when the cuttings was transported and reached to the surface
is t2, then the lag time is generally expressed by use of the total annular volume Va and drilling fluid flow
rate qm as follows (Dunn 1993; Dria 2007).

(1)

Lag depth is defined as the formation depth in which the cuttings sampled or collected at the surface
originally existed. The drilling depth increases depending on the rate of penetration during the cuttings
drilled at the lag depth are transported to the surface as shown in Fig. 1. Thus, the relationship between
current bit depth and lag depth is expressed as follows.
(2)
IADC/SPE-189615-MS 3

Figure 1—Schematic description of relationship between lag time and lag depth.

Because cuttings transport velocity is different from drilling fluid velocity, instead of Eq. 1, the cuttings
lag time is more accurately expressed by use of cuttings transport velocity as

(3)

By substituting the above relationship into Eq. 2, the following equation is obtained.

(4)

This is the same equation that Gracia-Hernandez et al. (2007) derived previously.

Consideration of Cuttings Transport Velocity Variation


The cross sectional areas of wellbore annulus varies with depth in an actual well. If we assume that the total
well length can be divided in sections with uniform cross sectional area and that the length and the cuttings
transport velocity of each section are ΔDlag,i and vt,i respectively, then the average cuttings transport velocity
for the entire well depth is expressed as

(5)

This equation can be rewritten as

(6)

where the harmonic average of cuttings transport velocity is defined as


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(7)

The lag depth equation in consideration of cuttings transport velocity variation is expressed by use of
harmonic average of cuttings transport velocities which is the same form as Eq. 4.

(8)

Cuttings Lag Experiments using Cuttings Transport Flow Loop System


Experimental Method and Apparatus
Cuttings lag experiments using the Cuttings Transport Flow Loop System (CTFLS) apparatus (Naganawa
et al. 2017) were performed. A modification was made to the original apparatus so that cuttings colored in
red can be separately fed into the flow line from a newly equipped small cuttings hopper as shown in Fig.
2. The experimental procedures were as follows.
1. Sufficient amount of standard white ceramic balls (white cuttings) and consequently 4 L of red colored
ceramic balls (red cuttings, corresponds to about 31 cm thickness of formation) are fed into the flow
line.

◦ White cuttings: Large injection hopper

◦ Red cuttings: Newly equipped small injection hopper


2. White cuttings are fed at the rate corresponding to penetration rate of 20 m/h.
3. After flow in the test section reaches steady state, cuttings feed is changed to red ones from white ones.
4. After all the 4 L of red cuttings are fed (confirm by visual observation through transparent pipe
installed at the upstream of the feeder), cuttings are changed to white ones again.
5. Sampling of cuttings starts when red cuttings are observed to return to the shale shaker.

◦ Sampling intervals are 15 to 30 sec depending on the experimental condition


6. Sampling finishes if almost all red cuttings returned.
Experimental conditions were determined based on a typical shale development projects so as to simulate
actual drilling situations. Rate of penetration was set to 20 m/h, drill pipe ration was set to 45 rpm, and
pump rates were set to 40, 50 and 60 m3/h. Two types of drilling fluids, water and PHPA mud (0.15% PHPA
solution), were used and annulus inclination angles were set to four cases, 0, 30, 60 and 90°. In total, 24
cases of experiments were performed.
IADC/SPE-189615-MS 5

Figure 2—Schematics of cuttings transport flow loop system and modification for cuttings lag experiments.

Figure 3—Modification of the apparatus (left) and observed cuttings flow behavior in the test section (right).

Representation of Cuttings Lag Distribution based on the Experimental Results


It is not easy to model the time distribution of cuttings amount returned at the surface or the distribution
of lag depth in purely physical manner. In this study, we assumed that the distribution of cuttings can
be approximately expressed by some kind of distribution function. Although the most typical distribution
function may be the normal distribution function, it is said that there are few natural phenomena that exactly
follow the normal distribution.
As an example result for PHPA mud case shown in Fig. 4, it can be estimated that the time distribution
of collected cuttings has a shape that a peak is located at an early time and cuttings return continues, then
gradually decreases for a long period after the peak. To describe this kind of distribution, the lognormal
distribution function in which the variable x in a normal distribution function is converted to its logarithm,y
= In x is the representative. The lognormal distribution probability density function (pdf) is expressed as

(9)
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Figure 4—Typical behavior of time distribution of collected cuttings obtained from lag experiments.

The two parameters μ and σ for the lognormal distribution probability density function were obtained by
curve fitting. The relationships between the obtained parameters and hole inclination angle are summarized
in Fig. 5. In these curve fittings, elapsed time was normalized by dividing by the annular velocity of drilling
fluid where all the experimental results are summarized in Appendix A.

Figure 5—Experimentally obtained parameters μ and σ for the lognormal distribution probability density function.
IADC/SPE-189615-MS 7

Modeling of Lag Depth Distribution for the entire well depth


The experimentally obtained distribution function is for the flow through a 10 m long constant geometry
annulus. To obtain cuttings lag distribution for an entire well depth, distribution functions need to be
convoluted as shown in Fig. 6.

Figure 6—Conceptual explanation of cuttings lag multiplication operation to produce cuttings lag for an entire well depth.

The most convenient method for convolution operation is to use the Fourier transform. However,
here we take the characteristic lognormal distribution probability density function into account that the
multiplication of the functions also forms the lognormal probability density function. The cuttings lag time
distribution probability density function for the entire well depth is expressed as

(10)

where the distribution function parameters are


(11)
and
(12)
It can be easily shown that the distribution of lag depth is also expressed by lognormal distribution
probability density function through transformation of variable. By substituting Eq. 2 into Eq. 10, the lag
depth distribution function is obtained as follows.
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(13)

The relationship of parameters for distribution functions between lag depth and lag time are derived as
follows. Because the mean value should be equal to the average lag depth,

(14)

Then,

(15)

and
(16)
Thus, the final form of the lag depth distribution probability density function can be expressed as

(17)

Evaluation of Lag Depth Distribution


Experimental Results
The 68.2% and 95% confidential intervals of the lognormal distribution probability density function are
graphically expressed as shown in Fig. 7. These confidential intervals for the cuttings lag time distribution
obtained from cuttings lag experiments are plotted in Figs. 8 and 9. As shown in these figures, cuttings lag
time is not significantly distributed at hole inclination angles less than 30°. However, the cuttings lag time
is widely distributed at high hole inclination angles and low drilling fluid flow rates. It is interesting that
the tendency of degree of cuttings lag time distribution is similar to that of difficulty of cuttings transport
or minimum fluid flow rate.
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Figure 7—68.2% and 95% confidential intervals of the lognormal distribution probability density function.

Figure 8—Estimated lag time distribution with 68.2% confidential interval from cuttings lag experiments.

Figure 9—Estimated lag time distribution with 95% confidential interval from cuttings lag experiments.

From Eqs. 10 and 17, it can be also explained that the lag depth could be much widely distributed for the
well containing long high inclination angle hole sections.
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Example Simulation Study


A model directional was set up based on an actual field data (Naganawa et al. 2017) as shown in Fig. 10 to
perform further evaluation of lag depth distribution for an entire well depth. The model well has two kick
off points at depths of approximately 1200 m and 3000 m and reaches TD of 4500 m. The well is a highly
inclined well with maximum hole inclination angle of approximately 70° below second build-up section.
The simulation conditions are summarized in Table 1 and drilling rate histories were reproduced based on
the field operation condition as shown in Fig. 11.

Figure 10—Profile of model well 8 1/2-in. hole section (Naganawa et al. 2017).

Figure 11—Assumed drilling rate history for simulation study.


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Table 1—Condition for cuttings lag distribution simulation.

Average Rate of Penetration 5.39 m/h


Drilling Fluid Flow Rate 1918 L/min
Annular Velocity 1.37 m/s
Drilling Fluid Density 1.43 SG
Drilling Fluid Rheology PV/YP/Gel 43 / 24 / 8
Drill Pipe Rotation 120 rpm

Fig. 12 shows an example result of lag depth simulation which is plotted in a similar manner to the
Garcia-Hernandez et al. (2007) lag diagram. The behavior that the lag depth remains constant after making
connection in which drilling is stopped is well simulated. Although the parameters of lognormal distribution
probability density function are not yet exactly determined at this moment, the result shows almost worst
case. In this case, lag depth is distributed in a range of approximately 50 m.

Figure 12—Example result of cuttings lag depth simulation.

Conclusions
The lag depth distribution is modeled using the lognormal distribution probability density function. Lag
depth simulation studies are also presented for a realistic model directional well based on a field data with
consideration of variation in rate of penetration.
The significant finding is that cuttings sampled at the surface can be contaminated by cuttings originated
from other unintended depths to the extent being not negligible compared to the typical sampling interval
of 30 ft or 10 m. This tendency of smearing in the formations and depths from which the sampled cuttings
are originated would be significant if the high inclination or horizontal hole section exceeds a certain length
depending on the rate of penetration.
The presented approach has the ability to quantitatively evaluate the uncertainty in the depth resolution
of mud logging that is crucial for improving the lateral quality of reservoir characterization which can be
beneficial such as in shale oil and gas projects.
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Acknowledgments
The simulator used in this study has been developed as a part of the collaborative research project between
the University of Tokyo and Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC). The model well
setup was based on the field data provided by INPEX Corporation. The authors gratefully acknowledge
JOGMEC and INPEX for their technical and financial support.

References
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Dunn, C. 1993. Wellsite Methods: Wellsite Math. In Development Geology Reference Manual, ed. Morton-ThompsonD.
and Woods,A. M. Part 3, 93–97. American Association of Petroleum Geologists.
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Appendix A
Summary of Cuttings Lag Experiment Results

Figure A-1—Summary of experimental results.