Following the significant reservoir depletion on Elgin / Franklin fields since 2007, drilling infill wells was considered to not only be high cost but also carry a high probability of failure to reach the well objective. The recent campaign on the Elgin field, one of the most heavily depleted reservoirs worldwide, demonstrated that infill drilling can be achieved safely while improving performance.
Drilling of HPHT infill wells on the Elgin field faced increasing challenges arising from the reduction of reservoir pressure that changed the stresses in the formations above and influenced the overall pressure regime. This stress reorganization in the overburden has affected the fracture network in these formations resulting in reduction in Fracture Initiation Pressure (FIP) and increase of gas levels.
Challenges were faced during the drilling of three wells in the 2015-2017 campaign. Loss events in Chalk formations in the intermediate sections significantly decreased the already Narrow Mud Weight Window (NMWW). A strategy to define and validate the minimum required MWW in 12-1/2" and 8-1/2" sections was developed following a complex subsurface well control event. Managed Pressure Drilling (MPD) technique was extensively used to safely manage gas levels and assess pore pressure.
Reservoir entry with more than 850 bar of overbalance remains the main challenge in infill drilling. A total loss event during first reservoir entry in the latest campaign confirmed the limitations of wellbore strengthening mud and stress caging materials available today.
Lessons learned from each well in this campaign were implemented to address these challenges and improve performance. This paper describes the Elgin HP/HT infill drilling experience and the specific techniques and practices that were developed to address these challenges and improve performance. The importance of Equivalent Circulating Density (ECD) management with very narrow MWW, successful high gas level management with MPD and depleted reservoir entry, shows that even in a highly complex environment, drilling performance can be improved allowing for further economical development drilling. The successful and safe delivery of the Elgin 2015-2017 infill drilling campaign demonstrates this at a time the industry moves toward unlocking the reserves of more challenging HPHT fields.