The Essence of Horizontal Drilling Challenges in Depleted Reservoirs

Elgaddafi, Rida Mohamed (University of Oklahoma) | Soriano, Victor (Graña and Montero Petrolera) | Ahmed, Ramadan (University of Oklahoma) | Osisanya, Samuel (Khalifa University of Science and Technology)


Abstract Horizontal well technology is one of the major improvements in reservoir stimulation. Planning and execution are the key elements to drill horizontal wells successfully, especially through depleted formations. As the reservoir has been producing for a long time, pore pressure declines, resulting in weakening hydrocarbon-bearing rocks. Drilling issues such as wellbore stability, loss circulation, differential sticking, formation damage remarkably influenced by the pore pressure decline, increasing the risk of losing part or even all the horizontal interval. This paper presents an extensive review of the potential issues and solutions associated with drilling horizontal wells in depleted reservoirs. After giving an overview of the depleted reservoir characteristics, the paper systematically addresses the major challenges that influence drilling operations in depleted reservoirs and suggests solutions to avoid uncontrolled risks. Then, the paper evaluates several real infill drilling operations through depleted reservoirs, which were drilled in different oilfields. The economic aspect associated with potential risks for drilling a horizontal well in depleted reservoirs is also discussed. The most updated research and development findings for infill drilling are summarized in the article. It is recommended to use wellbore strengthening techniques while drilling a horizontal well through highly depleted formations. This will allow using higher mud weight to control unstable shales while drilling through the production zone. Managed Pressure Drilling should be considered as the last option for highly depleted formations because it will require a greater level of investment which is not going to have a superior rate of return due to the lack of high deliverability of the reservoir. Using rotary steerable systems is favored to reduce risks related to drilling through depleted formations. Precise analysis of different drilling programs allows the drilling team to introduce new technology to reduce cost, improve drilling efficiency and maximize profit. It is the responsibility of the drilling engineer to evaluate different scenarios with all the precautions needed during the planning stage to avoid unexpected issues. The present market conditions and the advancement in technologies for drilling horizontal wells increase the feasibility of producing the depleted reservoirs economically. This paper highlights the challenges in drilling horizontal wells in highly depleted reservoirs and provides means for successfully drilling those wells to reduce risks while drilling

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