Nearbalanced Nitrified Foam Drilling: A New Frontier for the Drilling of Depleted & Fractured Carbonates - A Study on the Design, Execution, and Results on Multiple Wells

Khalid, Ali (Weatherford International Ltd) | Ashraf, Qasim (Weatherford International Ltd) | Luqman, Khurram (Weatherford International Ltd) | Moussa, Ayoub Hadji (Weatherford International Ltd) | Nabi, Agha Ghulam (Pakistan Petroleum Limited) | Baig, Umair (Pakistan Petroleum Limited) | Mahmood, Amer (Pakistan Petroleum Limited)



Carbonate platforms are one of the most common reservoirs on earth, and as such are one of the most frequently explored.

Sulaiman fold belt in Pakistan is known to contain multiple hydrocarbon bearing carbonate formations. One such formation is the Sui Main Limestone formation. The formation when first discovered was known to contain over 9.5 Tcf of gas in Sui field, and up to 5.0 Tcf of gas in the neighboring Zin field. Over the years due to extensive field development and production, the Sui Main Limestone reservoir has been driven to depletion. Operators are now looking to explore deeper horizons in the same fields.

The challenge in deeper exploration of the subject fields is now a depleted pressure of about 2.1 ppg EMW of the Sui Main Limestone formation. In addition to the low pressure, the SML formation is highly fractured in nature. These two factors resulted in massive circulation losses when an attempt to drill a well was made through the approximately 650 m width of the SML formation. To cure losses, operators resorted to heavy LCM pills, and numerous cement plugs. Losses in the hydrocarbon bearing SML formation also led to well control and stuck pipe events on multiple occasions. Successful drilling through the whole width of SML formation would sometimes take up to almost 3 months. Drilling time and lost circulation materials thus generated excessive well costs.

The operator sought a solution which would eliminate circulation losses in the SML formation, and cut down drilling time substantially. An underbalanced system was first considered for achieving these objectives but as the SML formation bore sour gas and excessive equipment would be required for a safe underbalanced operation, the option was ruled out. A nearbalanced nitrified foam system was thus designed to be able to drill the SML formation delivering the same benefits of an underbalanced operation without its perils.

By applying a nearbalanced nitrified drilling technique, operators in the subject fields were able to cut down the drilling time to about 3-5 days, achieve a substantial increase in drilling performance, and practically reduce the NPT to 0.

This paper studies the planning & design of a nearbalanced nitrified foam system for two different wells with hole sections of size 17", and 8-1/2". The paper also discusses the equipment selection, the wellsite execution, and the results achieved by applying nearbalanced nitrified foam drilling in the subject fields.