Critically Stressed Fracture Analysis to Evaluate Mud Losses Mechanism in Castilla Field, Colombia

Tarazona, Jefferson Mateus (Ecopetrol) | Arias, Henry (Ecopetrol) | Sanchez Salazar, Edwin Daniel (Ecopetrol)


SUMMARY: This work presents a methodology for mud losses mechanism evaluation based on geomechanics of fractures. Several and catastrophic mud losses events are continuously experienced during drilling the 8½¨section in Castilla Field in Llanos basin, Colombia. Technologies like Manage Pressure Drilling (MPD), thixotropic fluids, LCM (Lost Control Materials), ECD (equivalent circulating density) management were applied to avoid/manage mud losses but the issues associated to mud losses continue being a major problem causing among others wellbore instability in K1 superior formation due to fluid static column variations. According to the events, wellbore instability becomes the new problem causing hole cleaning issues, tight hole and restrictions tripping drill pipe and 7¨ liner. In image logs were detected several natural fractures both open and partially open. Fracture´s hydraulic conductivity hypothesis was proposed. To better understand the problem an evaluation of critically stressed fracture analysis was conducted by estimation of normal and shear stresses in each fracture plane assuming pressure transmission from the wellbore to the fractures. Geomechanical parameters estimated for each interval in which fractures were identified, entered the analysis as an input. Then, the fracture´s stresses were compared to the rock´s failure envelope assuming no cohesion in the planes. As a result, was figure out a reactivation gradient, which is compared to the pressure losses estimated based on the static column height in wells that experienced mud losses. The main observation is that there exists a fracture reactivation pressure lower than the minimum horizontal stress gradient and close to reservoir´s pressure that if is overcome, mud losses take place.


Fractures are discontinuities that create escape paths for drilling fluids and thereby constitute an important mechanism of lost circulation. Most rocks contain fractures of various sizes from micro cracks at grain level to fractures extending for hundreds of feet in the reservoir. In some reservoirs, fractures provide important pathways for the reservoir fluids. Connectivity of the fracture network is its essential property. In the lost circulation context, it affects how much drilling fluid can be lost. In natural fractured reservoirs, the availability of a connected fracture system is essential for production, but is detrimental for drilling (Lavrov A, 2016).