Drillpipe for Shale Plays - Requirements, Considerations and Lessons Learned

Jellison, Michael J. (NOV Grant Prideco) | Brock, James N. (NOV Grant Prideco) | Muradov, Andrei (NOV Grant Prideco) | Morgan, Dan (NOV Grant Prideco) | Rowell, Jim (Thomas Tools)


Shale drilling for both natural gas and hydrocarbon liquids has increased dramatically in North America over the last several years. Shale oil and gas deposits are known to exist all over the globe including Australia and the rest of the Asia Pacific. This paper discusses the requirements for drillpipe in shale drilling applications along with a review of some of the challenges and problems associated with the drillstring in these critical applications. Most wells are horizontal with long departures. Typical wells in the Balkan Shale are 17,000 ft MD, 11,000 ft TVD with a 6,000 ft horizontal reach. Drilling these wells puts huge demands on the drillpipe and rotary shoulder connections and pushes the drilling equipment and rig crews beyond the requirements of typical onshore well construction projects. Many, if not most, of the shale wells require advanced design, double shoulder connections (DSC) on the drillstring to provide the enhanced torsional strength and streamlined connection dimensions required to effectively drill these prospects. The paper presents connection design solutions along with considerations for safe and efficient running procedures. Although, the advanced DSCs are designed to be transparent to normal drilling operations, compared to standard API connections, some problems have been encountered. The paper addresses these running and handling issues and provides guidelines to mitigate these problems. Excessive tool joint and drillpipe body wear have also been encountered in several shale plays. This is discussed, along with recommendations to limit wear. Stick-slip has created drillstring problems on several wells. Stick-slip can cause damage to the drillpipe and, in the extreme, downhole connection back-offs have occurred. The paper looks at aspects of case histories to illustrate these issues and provides lessons learned to improve shale drilling operations in North America, the Asia Pacific and other regions of the world.

Background Information

Horizontal directional drilling combined with multi-stage hydraulic fracturing have created a robust drilling environment for exploiting shale natural gas and hydrocarbon liquids throughout the U.S.A., see Figure 1. It is also well known that shale oil and gas deposits are also present throughout the rest of the world including Australia, New Zealand and various regions of the Asia Pacific, see Figure 2. Expectations are strong that more shale and other unconventional sources will be explored outside of the U.S. as new sources of hydrocarbon energy resources are required to meet increasing worldwide demand. Shale drilling activity in the U.S. has increased dramatically over the last several years. Shale drilling applications can be very demanding for the drilling rig, equipment, crews and technical professionals involved in the endeavor. The learning curve has been steep and there are clearly more technical challenges to be addressed and overcome as more areas are explored. Of course, there is a great deal of variation between the characteristics of different shale fields and not all fields create the same intensive challenges or technical hurdles. Nevertheless, a great number of the fields currently being explored and produced offer significant challenges. In many of the fields the gas and/or liquids are located at relatively deep TVD's; with TVD's from 10,000 ft to 14,000 ft not being uncommon. As mentioned above, the wells generally include a horizontal section that can extend up to 6,000 ft and beyond. A typical shale well schematic is depicted in Figure 3. The wells can also have high bottom hole formation temperatures that in some cases approach 375 °F. In many areas the formations are highly abrasive creating friction and wear related issues.