Challenging the Industry's Understanding of Hole Cleaning During the Drillouts of Frac Plugs with a New Holistic Approach

Ryan, M. (Baker Hughes, a GE Company) | Gohari, K. (Baker Hughes, a GE Company) | Bilic, J. (Baker Hughes, a GE Company) | Livescu, S. (Baker Hughes, a GE Company) | Lindsey, B. J. (Baker Hughes, a GE Company) | Johnson, A. (Murphy Oil Company) | Baird, J. (Murphy Oil Company)



Development of unconventional reservoirs in North America has increased significantly over the past decade. The increased activity in this space has provided significant data with respect to through-tubing drillouts which had previously not been attainable. This paper is focused on using the field data from the Montney and Duvernay formations along with laboratory data and numerical modeling to understand the hole cleanout associated with through-tubing drillouts of frac plugs.

Initially, an extensive full-scale flow loop laboratory testing program was conducted to obtain data on debris transportation for hole cleanout during through-tubing applications. The testing was conducted on various coiled tubing (CT)-production tubing configurations using various solid particles. The laboratory data was used to develop empirical correlations needed for a transient debris transport model. This model was then used for frac plug drillouts to ensure successful hole cleaning in actual field applications. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modelling was also used to further understand and quantify the differences between the laboratory data, field data and transient debris transport model results.

The objective of the work conducted was to gain a better understanding of debris transport and validate the empirical modelling approach developed for hole cleaning. The validation process was conducted in several stages. The first stage was to validate the laboratory data against the Montney and Duvernay field data. The second stage was to verify the results obtained from the empirical model against the results obtained from a computational fluid dynamic model. The results from both modelling approaches were lastly compared to the field data. All these results challenge the current industry's understanding and best practices for through-tubing drillouts in the Montney and Duvernay formations. With the contentious increase of lateral lengths and higher stage counts, the process of drilling out frac plugs has become more complex. This study explicitly benefits all operators in their ever-increasing need to understand their frac plug drillout operations to ensure efficient, cost effective, and most importantly, consistent and repeatable results.

While efficient results for frac plug drillout operations have been accomplished to date, the on-going feedback from the field has been the requirement to produce repeatable drillouts. This paper is the first to show a holistic approach for obtaining a transient debris transport model used for through-tubing drillouts of frac plugs. The novelty also consists of the transient debris transport model validation through laboratory data and actual Montney and Duvernay field data.