Navigating the Depleted Fracture Gradient During Operations: From Concept to Drilling, Open Hole FIT Management & Cementing

O'Reilly, Gerard (Sabah Shell Petroleum Company) | Chan, Alvin W. (Sarawak Shell Berhad)


Abstract Depleted Fracture Gradients have been a challenge for the oil and gas industry during drilling and cementing operations for over 30 years. Yet, year after year, problems related to lost circulation, borehole instability (low mud weight due a low fracture gradient), and losses during cementing operations leading to NPT and remedial work continue to rank as some of the top NPT events that companies face. This paper will demonstrate how the geomechanical modeling, well execution and remedial strengthening operations should be implemented to provide for a successful outcome. The use of a Fracture Gradient (FG) framework will be discussed, and the use of a negotiated fracture gradient will highlight how the fracture gradient can be changed during operations. This paper will also show actual examples from Deepwater operations that have successfully executed a detailed borehole strengthening program. Through our offset studies and operational experience, we will provide a format for navigating complex depleted drilling issues and show an example on recovering from low fracture gradients. This paper will demonstrate (1) how our framework facilitated multi-disciplinary collaborative discussion among our subsurface and well engineering communities; (2) how the impacts of drilling fluids and operational procedures can change this lost circulation threshold; and (3) how our negotiated FG approach has successfully delivered wells drilled in narrow margins.

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