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Managed Pressure Drilling—Niche Technology
or the Future of Drilling?

20 – 25 October 2013:: Vilamoura, Portugal


Technical Agenda

Session 1: Grounding MPD Drivers/State of the Industry Today

Session Chairs: Martin Culen and Dave Elliott

Since its inception approximately 10 years ago MPD has grown with some applications in areas that were not envisioned by the lead implementing companies. Currently it is not consistently used for the same functional value across the industry, with many companies only comfortable with applying specific aspects of the technology. Part of this forum will focus on future use of more consistent technology functions in the industry.  Taking stock of the differences in today’s applications will prepare us for this discussion. This session will cover the different MPD practices in current use which will enable us to explore a full range of current applications. We will explore the following:

  • Is MPD best used as a kick detection and response tool?
  • Is MPD best used as a constant bottomhole pressure tool?
  • Should MPD operations be conducted with a planned statically underbalanced mud?
  • Should kick detection and response be fully automated or do we still need human kick verification before applying more pressure?
  • Should we plan on staying within a calculated drilling window or actively fingerprint to determine what your real-time drilling window is?
  • Should MPD be used  in combination with other constant bottomhole pressure maintenance techniques such as continuous circulation?
  • Is it acceptable (without constraints of the current API definitions) to conduct MPD operations in combination with limited underbalanced flow?
  • When a kick is detected should we automatically transfer to the rig choke and Blowout Preventer (BOP) or circulate it out with the MPD choke and Rotating Control Device (RCD)?
  • Can MPD compensate for offshore wave action?
  • How to choose between MPD and UBD for optimal drilling enhancement?

Session 2: Offshore Ideal MPD Specifications

Session Chairs: Gavin Humphreys and John Kozicz

As the benefits of managed pressure drilling are becoming better understood, the use of these methods for drilling offshore wells will continue to rise. This session will discuss the ideal specification to integrate these methods into rigs for everyday use offshore. The high cost of offshore drilling, impact of wave action, and generally smaller offshore drilling windows, all impact decisions around optimum deployment of the technology. Discussion will include:

  • What challenges are associated with industry acceptance of MPD offshore?
  • With longer-term contracting and difficulty of transportation, what aspects of the technology are best integrated into rig design and what, if any, should be supplied on an ad hoc basis?
  • Is MPD desirable on all applications, or should the methods be reserved for challenging wells only?
  • Do space restrictions and/or evacuation limitations impact decisions around optimal use of alternative or complementary technologies and practices such as UBD, continuous circulation, or fingerprinting?
  • Does access to kill water impact the decisions to use alternative technologies or combinations of technologies such as pressurised mud-cap operations or dual-gradient drilling?
  • How can we make MPD work in a high-wave environment?
  • Given all of the above, is there one single MPD specification that would be considered ideal for future operations?

Session 3: Onshore Ideal MPD Specifications

Session Chairs: David Pavel and David Yu

As the benefits of managed pressure drilling are becoming well understood, the use of these methods for drilling onshore wells will continue to rise. This session will discuss the ideal specification to integrate these methods into rigs for everyday use onshore. The enigma that the industry faces is how to integrate MPD cost effectively across a variety of onshore applications such as unconventional shale plays and brownfield developments. Discussion will include:

  • What challenges are associated with industry acceptance of MPD as “best practice” or “the way we drill wells?”
  • What leaps in technology are required to integrate MPD into onshore rigs?
  • Is MPD desirable on all applications, or should the methods be reserved for challenging wells only?
  • Does increased space and ease of egress impact decisions around optimal use of alternative or complementary technologies and practices such as UBD, continuous circulation, or fingerprinting?
  • Does ease of transportation influence the decisions around what equipment should be permanently built into the rig and what can be temporarily supplied?
  • Does the reality of “cheap” onshore well costs influence MPD design?
  • Given all of the above, is there one single MPD specification that would be considered ideal for future operations?

Session 4: Well Control

Session Chairs: Steve Nas and Robert Ziegler

In a closed MPD system the well should be constantly under controlled pressure, not just when well control operations are performed in a normally open system. MPD is getting more established and operators are slowly becoming more comfortable with its abilities and benefits. This session will discuss future practices for well control including:

  • What needs to be improved in sensors? Should we only use Coriolis flow meters or will other equipment, practices, and methods become more commonly used?
  • How should back pressure be dynamically applied to limit inflow sizes?
  • What can be done after a kick has been detected and controlled?
  • Can the industry gain sufficient confidence in MPD systems to use them to circulate out an influx?
  • How are the regulatory bodies approaching these issues in different parts of the world?
  • Will we see new rigs built with MPD and well control systems integrated?
  • Is it possible to integrate the RCD into the BOP (e.g. only use an RCD instead of in combination with an annular BOP)?
  • With the first deepwater MPD system being used, is the backpressure MPD equipment suitable for riser gas handling and well control operations in deepwater wells?
  • Is the industry ready for drilling deepwater wells with underbalanced fluids holding surface back pressures, or does deepwater drilling need dual-gradient systems to better handle well control events and provide riser margins?

Session 5: Harsh Environment MPD

Session Chairs: Jan Atle Anderson and Ben Gedge

MPD is being used more and more to address the challenges faced in drilling harsh environment wells. These wells include high pressures, high temperatures, CO2, and H2S. They can include highly overpressured clastic and high loss-rate carbonate formations. This session will focus discussion around what MPD issues, practices, and equipment are unique to harsh environments including:

  • Does the harsh environment require changes in equipment or practices considered optimal?
  • Is the optimal harsh environment equipment different on land rigs, jack ups, and semi-subs/drill-ships?
  • The use of oil-based mud on HP/HT wells is common. This comes with associated high mud return line temperatures at surface. Given this issue, do we need changes to RCD element compounds or designs?
  • In H2S environments, the industry has standardised the use of coil tubing to safely conduct UBD operations. Is it safe to drill MPD with jointed pipe in high H2S environments? What impact will this have on fingerprinting and kick circulation plans?
  • In a high-loss environment, can we expect more integration between mud cap drilling and MPD?

Session 6: Training, Competency, and People

Session Chairs: Martin Culen and Jim Bisset

Closed-loop drilling techniques require a substantive shift in mindset from well-established conventional drilling practices.

While many will argue that closed-loop drilling equipment and processes may in fact enhance safety, considerable specialist operator involvement is required, ultimately relying on an individual’s competence to ensure that focus on safety is maintained.

Although UBD has an industry-recognised and accredited training curriculum for operations and well control, no recognised curriculum exists for any of the variations of MPD. In this session, we will explore MPD operations and well control training and how they may integrate with conventional well control practices in the future. Topics addressed will include:

  • Should there be a differentiation between training for drilling rig personnel and MPD specialists?
  • What minimum concepts and product disciplines should be covered in the curriculum?
  • Are current dynamic MPD simulators robust enough to add value to training? What enhancements could or should be made to them, if any?
  • Should an MPD Well Control certificate be established to complement conventional well control training? If so, how can the industry fast track its uptake to ensure compliance?
  • What role should industry organisations play in the implementation of MPD well control and specific product training?
  • Where do process automation and equipment reliability fit into the MPD well control equation? Is there too much already, or not enough?

Session 7: Well Designs Optimised for MPD

Session Chairs: Jim Bisset and Gavin Humphreys

MPD systems have been continually developing and have been successfully deployed globally, and with further development, have been adapted to increase drilling performance, well safety, and reduction of Non-Productive Time. MPD systems have been further developed from basic land rig operations to sophisticated deepwater exploration operations, leading to the future direction required by the market.

Should we question whether well design has kept pace with the technology development to allow the benefits of MPD drilling techniques to be fully realised? This section will evaluate possible future changes to well design to enable full value from MPD, especially as it continues to evolve:

  • Within regulator limitations, will allowable fluids in the riser change?
  • Do the software tools available to allow advanced well design and analysis techniques need to change with MPD?
  • Will the ability of MPD to establish real-time drilling windows with fingerprinting change the number of contingency casings in well designs? If yes, how will we decide when to set casing?
  • How much should we depend on MPD to prevent stuck-pipe scenarios?
  • How do we optimise mud weight changes when using MPD? How possible is it to save time and cost by optimising with pressure what we use to optimise with mud weight and drilling fluid properties?
  • MPD can minimise wellbore instability. How much should we depend on this when planning contingency casing strings?
  • Do we need standardised well planning tools between the service company and operating companies to align plans for MPD?

Session 8: Techniques—How to Determine Which MPD Techniques to Use

Session Chairs: Paul Francis and Robert Ziegler

This session examines how we determine which drilling techniques we should apply on our future wells. Discussion will include:

  • MPD vs. conventional drilling
  • Is it a matter of choosing between MPD and UBD or can equipment designs and operational practices give the best of both technologies (adaptive drilling process)?
  • Is the value of applied back pressure to reduce the volume (and thus severity) of kicks fully understood? For this reason, is applied back pressure commonly applied in MPD operations?
  • Constant bottomhole pressure MPD vs. dual-gradient systems
  • Does MPD add value in low permeability (unconventional) reservoir drilling or is it just a high permeability tool?
  • Have we been overselling automated kick response? How many operators fully automate?
  • How does MPD fit with the current drive towards automated drilling systems?
  • What are the weaknesses with the current systems? What are the areas for improvement?
  • Moving forward, what can MPD allow us to do that we have never done before?

Session 9: Parking Lot and Wrap-Up

Session Chairs: Dave Elliott and David Pavel

Though we have planned the forum agenda to try to avoid repetition, there may be some items we want to revisit. For example, some of our thoughts on optimum MPD design may change after we have discussed well control in greater depth. This session will facilitate time to address these “parking lot” issues and will also be used to discuss the areas and methods for companies to work together and shape the future in a more coordinated way.