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School of Boumerdes
UFR: Drilling and Production

Under Balance Drilling

Why Underbalanced drilling
Under balance types
UBD Design consideration
UBD Equipment
Advantages & disadvantages of UBD
Poor candidates of UBD
Good candidates of UBD

Underbalanced drilling is an activity employing appropriate equipment

and controls where the pressure exerted in the wellbore is intentionally

less than the pore pressure in any part of the exposed formations with
the intention of bringing the formation fluid to surface.
Overbalanced Drilling (OBD)

Underbalanced Drilling (UBD)

P (f) < P (bhp) = P (hyd) + P (afp)

P (f) > P (bhp) = P (hyd) + P (afp)

Why Underbalanced drilling

Reservoir Benefits
Prevent formation damage
Early production
Reduced stimulation
Enhanced recovery
Drilling Performance
High ROP
Fractured/Loss formation
Reduced ECD for extended reach wells
Differential sticking prone formation

Under balance types

Hydrostatic head may be induced or may be naturally less than the
formation pressure
Natural under-balance

- Applications for normal to above normal pressured reservoirs

utilizing fluid systems in a controlled flow drilling technique.
Induced under-balance

- Depleted Reservoirs: adding natural gas, nitrogen or air to liquid

phase of drilling fluid

UBD Design consideration

BHP requirement

- Hydraulics how much under balance?

Drilling fluid option

- Gaseous / Compressible fluids (air, mist or foam drilling)

- Single phase fluid (clear liquid, WBM, OBM)
- Gas lift systems (Natural gas, N2 , CO2 and O2)
Reservoir consideration

- Damage reservoir
- Formation/fluid or fluid/fluid sensitivity
- Well with low borehole stability (Poor consolidated formations)
- Well with multiple zone pressure differential

UBD Equipment
Rotary control device (RCD)

- with primary flow line and ESD

BOP Stack

- Annular BOP, pipe, shear / blind ram

UBD choke manifold
Snubbing Unit

- If tripping in is underbalanced
Separation system

- 4 phase separator (gas, solid, oil, water and drilling fluid),

- settling tank (water and drilling fluid)
Flare stack

UBD Equipment

Advantages of UBD
Reduce or eliminate formation damage
Reduce or eliminate lost circulation
Increase rate of penetration
Permits real time reservoir investigation
No differential sticking
Increased well productivity

Disadvantages of UBD

Wellbore stability problem

Positive well pressure (safety)
Increase corrosion
More equipment and personnel = More initial cost

Good candidates of UBD

Pressure depleted formations.
Areas prone to differential pressure sticking.
Hard rock.
Lost-returns zones.
Re-entries and workovers (especially pressure depleted zones).
Zones prone to formation damage.
Fractured formations.
High permeability formations with average pressure.
Highly variable formations.

Poor candidates of UBD

High permeability coupled with high pore pressure.
Unknown reservoir pressure.
Discontinuous UBO likely (numerous trips, connections, surveys).
High production rates possible at low drawdown.
Weak rock formations prone to wellbore collapse at high

Steeply dipping/fractured formation in tectonically active areas.
H2S bearing formations.
Multiple reservoirs open with different pressures.
Isolated locations with poor supplies.
Formation with a high likelihood of corrosion.

The end