High torque, friction factors, and pick up weights were major challenges encountered by a major operator in Abu Dhabi while planning to drill challenging extended reach development (ERD) wells with complex 3D profiles. Well torque and drag simulations showed that planned depths were not reachable with water-based muds. This paper describes the implementation of a mechanical lubricant, which resulted in significant decrease of the friction factors and turned an ERD well from not drillable to drillable with water-based mud.
After analyzing several possibilities, the solutions were narrowed down to two: use either a new generation mechanical lubricant or a reservoir non-aqueous fluid (NAF). The complexity was amplified by the necessity to re-design a filter-cake breaker for NAF, were this option to be selected, due to the type of completion. This second option would also create a substantial cost increase for the operator for products and rig time; therefore, the decision was made to introduce a mechanical lubricant.
A comprehensive study and lab tests were conducted to ensure compatibility and stability of the lubricant with a planned mud type at downhole conditions. The results of this study were promising enough for the operator to introduce this lubricant, aiming a substantial reduction in torque and drag to enable drilling of the longest horizontal section in the history of the project.
Before addition of the mechanical lubricant, drilling continued with a conventional type of lubricant, noticing an increasing tendency of torque and drag tracking the predicted trends. At a certain stage, drillstring buckling was observed and drillpipe started to reach their limits. To mitigate these impediments, the mechanical lubricant was introduced into the drilling fluid.
After reaching the optimum concentration, the mechanical lubricant eliminated buckling and provided significant reduction in torque, pick-up, and slack-off friction factors, respectively by 27%, 52%, and 42%. These parameter improvements facilitated continued drilling the well to final depth without reaching the drillpipe limits. Additionally, the well and bottomhole assembly (BHA) designs allowed for significant margins in case of a stuck pipe event, and based on the new friction factors, the well could be extended by 3,000 ft without reaching the drillpipe limits.
The impact of this exercise in future ERD wells is considerable. It will simplify well and completion designs, improve logistics by reducing the amount of chemical movements, facilitate drilling fluids selection, and optimize the well cost.
The paper covers the gaps related to drilling complex ERD wells with water-based drilling fluids. It provides detailed methods and procedures covering the suitable application of the mechanical lubricant and the extensive laboratory tests done during the planning stage, as well as the field application and results. The proposed solution can be used during the well planning process in any other area of the world.