Drilling Technology

Once again, we find ourselves in a time of extreme challenges on many fronts in the arena of well construction, with corresponding needs for technological advancements. Anyone who has been around the drilling-and-completion world during the past several years can attest to the unique environment in which we operate today. Ever-increasing drilling depths and formation temperatures and pressures are combined with depletion of mature basins and unprecedented geopolitical uncertainty. The good news is that human innovation and problem solving continue to accelerate commensurate with these challenges.

In this feature, we specifically highlight the persistent need for high-performance drilling fluids. Back in the early 1980s, when I started in the business, in-house “Drilling Engineering 101” courses with a major operator defined three primary objectives for a drilling fluid: (1) hydrostatic pressure for well control, (2) delivery of hydraulic horsepower to the bit, and (3) adequate rheology for hole cleaning. Of course, these criteria must still be satisfied or the ability to deliver a given well to total depth is jeopardized. However, today there is much more to consider: wellbore strengthening in low-fracture-gradient environments, special fluid systems for narrow pore-pressure/fracture-gradient windows, low toxicity for safety and environmental consideration, nondamaging water-based drill-in fluids, and wide-ranging formulations for nonaqueous systems. The wealth of available SPE publications provides a fantastic resource for the vast array of drilling-fluids strategies today.

With the ongoing evolution of managed-pressure drilling, companies are expanding the envelope of technical feasibility and successfully constructing wells thought to be undrillable a few years ago. Onshore US and in many other areas of the world, another revolution is taking place in the realm of directional drilling, with new tools and techniques for rotary-steerable applications, measurement/logging while drilling, and bits. These technological advancements are profoundly altering the energy outlook through horizontal and complex-directional-well design, with corresponding delivery of reserves and value.

And, of course, unprecedented advancements have been made in zonal isolation, cement-slurry design, and cement-placement techniques. Starting with clearer definition of permeable zones in the planning phase, operating companies, working in partnership with third-party service providers, are demonstrating the ability to hydraulically isolate water- and hydrocarbon-bearing formations, greatly enhancing well integrity and reliability and reducing risk for the life of the well. Good news indeed for all of us.

This Month's Technical Papers

ECD-Management Strategy Solves Lost Circulation Issues

Annular-Pressure Losses While Casing Drilling

Managed-Pressure Drilling—A Solution for Challenging Wells in Vietnam

Re-Engineering and Upgrade of a Semiautomated 3,000-hp Drilling Rig

Recommended Additional Reading

SPE 163957 Practical Directional-Drilling Techniques and MWD Technology in Bakken and Upper Three Forks Formation in Williston Basin North Dakota To Improve Efficiency of Drilling and Well Productivity by Guangzhi Han, Baker Hughes, et al.

SPE 166456 Newtonian Fluid in Cementing Operations in Deepwater Wells: Friend or Foe? by Polina Khalilova, Schlumberger, et al.

SPE/IADC 163410 Large-Bore Expandable Liner Hangers for Offshore and Deepwater Applications Reduce Cost and Increase Reliability: GOM Case History by John McCormick, Halliburton, et al.

SPE/IADC 163451 A Collaborative Approach for Planning a Drilling-With-Liner Operation by Steven M. Rosenberg, Weatherford, et al.

Mike Weatherl, SPE, is a drilling adviser in the global services organization of Hess. He holds a degree in petroleum engineering from The University of Tulsa. Weatherl started his career as a production engineer with Chevron in New Orleans. Over the next 25 years, his career with Chevron included a variety of positions in production and drilling. Since 2004, Weatherl has worked primarily on deepwater projects, first as a drilling advisor at Chevron before moving over to Hess Corporation in November 2007. He is a board certified professional engineer in Texas and a 25-year SPE member. Weatherl has authored several papers and has served as Technical Editor for SPE Drilling & Completion. He is a member of the JPT Editorial Committee.

Drilling Technology

Mike Weatherl, SPE, Drilling Adviser, Hess

01 February 2014

Volume: 66 | Issue: 2