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High-Pressure/High-Temperature Challenges

Topics: HP/HT

The industry is slowly recovering from the worst downturn we have seen in many decades. Significant brainpower has been lost for good, especially from technical organizations that have been weakened beyond recognition, and many technology developments that were relevant for high pressure/high temperature (HP/HT) have been either cancelled or slowed down significantly, with project teams disbanded. In such times, SPE becomes even more important as a custodian of knowledge and a forum for engineers still employed or searching for their next employment.

What is also different from previous downturns is that technology is now held by service companies much more than before and contracts and rates have declined faster than the worst shale well, so funding for development and maintenance of technology has practically dried up.

Another difference is that, in spite of what the oil price implies, the technically “easy oil” is very much over and new reserves need dramatically elevated levels of technology deployment to be developed successfully. The loss of technical prowess hurts the industry even more for future activities.

The combination of higher technical requirements and lower availability means that, when activity picks up, we certainly will be living in “interesting times,” to use the Chinese saying.

However, it is not all bleak. Some technologies important for HP/HT—such as closed-system drilling allowing for the accurate monitoring and pressurization of the primary barrier and continuous circulation to eliminate the ramp up and ramp down of the circulation system for connections causing wellbore-stability, hole-cleaning, and well-control issues—have developed steadily and have seen increased uptake even throughout the downturn. These technologies have the potential to revolutionize the performance and safety of HP/HT drilling operations, where connection time often ­makes up a significant portion of the time/depth curve. Similarly, the ability to circulate cooling mud around the bottomhole assembly at all times will allow us to extend significantly the temperature window where logging-while-drilling data acquisition is still possible.

At the end, it will be up to the operators to adopt such technologies into the mainstream of their operations so that service companies continue to be incentivized to follow through with further technology developments. This will be possible only if there is an atmosphere of partnering and cooperation from early in the concept phase of wells and the well-construction leadership of the operators reverses the justification needs of notoriously overworked drilling teams so that it is more of a hassle to prepare a justification to refuse the use of technology on a well than to adopt it.

I invite all to understand and embrace that technology is the key enabler for future success in our stressed industry and work together to bring the HP/HT projects currently deemed “too expensive to develop” within the realm of the current oil-price environment and construct more HP/HT wells.

This Month's Technical Papers

Integrating Managed-Pressure Drilling Into HP/HT-Well Planning

Ultradeep-Field Study: Extreme-Underbalanced HP/HT Coiled-Tubing-Conveyed Perforating

Successful Recovery and Stimulation in a Long HP/HT Horizontal Well in One Intervention

Recommended Additional Reading

OTC 27891 Cost-Effective HP/HT Design Methods Using External and Seawater Depth Pressures by Parth D.Pathak, OneSubsea, a Schlumberger Company, et al.

OTC 27533 Strengths and Weaknesses in the HP/HT Design-Verification Process Within the Gulf of Mexico by Harish Patel, ABS, et al.

OTC 27738 Next-Generation HP/HT Wellhead-Seal-System Validation by Lucas Brown, Dril-Quip, et al.

Robert Ziegler, SPE, is global director for well-control technology at Weatherford International. His career spans 30 years in the industry, mainly with Shell, Chevron, Petronas, and Cairn India. Ziegler’s achievements include involvement in the first deepwater application of preblowout-preventer riserless mudline pumping and the first application of a commercial deep­water dual-gradient system in the form of post-blowout-preventer controlled mud level. He also has overseen dozens of successful offshore managed-pressure-drilling jobs using rotating control devices for several operators on both jackup rigs and semisubmersible rigs as well as the commercial use of directional casing drilling offshore, with more than 100 sections drilled. Ziegler is a member of the JPT Editorial Committee.

High-Pressure/High-Temperature Challenges

Robert Ziegler, SPE, Global Director, Well-Control Technology, Weatherford

01 April 2018

Volume: 70 | Issue: 4

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