Full Scale Geomechanics Review Assisting Drilling Risk Mitigation in Wushi Sag, Beibu Gulf, China

Guo, Shusheng (CNOOC Ltd_Zhanjiang) | Gao, Yongde (CNOOC Ltd_Zhanjiang) | Gui, Feng (Baker Hughes, a GE Company) | Wang, Shanshan (Baker Hughes, a GE Company) | Bordoloi, Sanjeev (Baker Hughes, a GE Company) | Ong, See Hong (Baker Hughes, a GE Company) | Du, Chao (CNOOC Ltd_Zhanjiang) | Wang, Shiyue (CNOOC Ltd_Zhanjiang)



The drilling in Wushi Sag of the Beibu Gulf appears to be problematic with frequent pack-off, tight-hole and stuck-pipe events as well as kicks and losses occurring in different wells. It is of great importance to find out the main cause or causes of these problems so that proper methods and techniques can be utilized to mitigate the problems and reduce the drilling non-productive time (NPT).

A series of drilled wells were reviewed to identify the key wells to be used for the geomechanical modelling and to help with understanding the drilling problems. One of the outcomes of the detailed geomechanical analysis was the realization that the stresses and rock behaviors are mainly affected and controlled by the structures. Wushi Sag can be divided into four structural areas: subsag-steep slope in the south, central inverted structure area, north slope and strike-slip faulting belt in the west. As a consequence of the complex structures, the formation depth varies greatly while some formations are absent or incomplete in some wells due to the well-developed high-angled faults.

An outcome of the study was the understanding that formation pressures are different in every structural area and are controlled by structural location and burial depth. The main overpressure generating mechanism was found to be type-II fluid expansion caused by either hydrocarbon generation or thermal effects, which can be well correlated to the oil window threshold in the area. Under-compaction may also play a role in some cases, but the overpressure caused by this mechanism is usually low in magnitude. Rock properties vary across the Sag while wells are hard to correlate with each other in different structural areas. The stress conditions appear to be different in each area although the main stress regime is strike-slip with the strike-slip faulting belt in the west having the highest stress ratio.

Due to the complexity of the pressure distribution, lateral formation changes and different stress conditions, improper mud weights and casing designs were used in some earlier wells, which likely led to the types of drilling problems listed above. Wells with severe instability problems were generally drilled with lower mud weights compared to the wells with lesser problems. Wells with both pack-off/tight holes and fluid losses usually have surface or intermittent casing shoes set too shallow while not preparing for the steep pressure ramp in deeper formations. Based on the problem diagnostics and geomechanical analyses, recommendations were made to help with the drilling of future wells by mitigating drilling-related instability problems. A series of wells were drilled successfully following the recommendations with all the possible risks properly understood and mitigated.