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As advanced drilling technology gains more popularity in the development of unconventional reservoirs and deepwater fields, the demand for an improved drilling hydraulics modeling escalates today. The situation is also true for foam applications that have long been used as a useful means of downhole cleaning and underbalanced drilling methods.
This study investigates how a new foam model, recently developed by
In spite of its complexities, foam underbalanced drilling has unique advantages such as reduced formation damage, improved rate of penetration, higher cutting-transport capacity, and lower circulation losses. Recent experimental studies in a wide range of experimental conditions show that foam flow in pipe can be represented by two different flow regimes: (i) the low-quality regime showing stable plug-flow pattern with fine-textured foams and (ii) the high-quality regime showing unstable slug-flow pattern with alternating free-gas with fine-textured foam segments. Such a new concept was successfully captured by a foam modeling technique with five model parameters, reproducing two distinct pressure contours.
This study, for the first time, constructs foam drilling hydraulics model with two foam-flow regimes handling both stable and unstable flow characteristics, and investigates how the model improves current foam drilling hydraulics modeling based only on stable foam flow behavior. The results from three different scenarios (scenario 1: a vertical well, scenario 2: a deviated well with relatively short horizontal section, and scenario 3: a deviated well with relatively long horizontal section) with the transition foam quality between the two flow regimes (fg*) around 75-85% showed that significant differences in drilling hydraulics calculations might occur when the conventional technique was replaced by this new technique. For example, a drilling scenario tested with 10,000 ft deep vertical well (scenario 1) was shown to have as much as 32%, 48%, and 25% deviations in foam density, total velocity, and pressure gradient, respectively, at the bottomhole. Examples from two other deviated well trajectories (scenario 2 and scenario 3) exhibited similar responses, showing even more deviations. These results clearly demonstrate why incorporating two foam flow regimes into the current drilling hydraulics calculations is a crucial step toward evaluating and designing foam drilling practice accurately and reliably.
Foam-assisted underbalanced drilling technique is advantageous over the traditional overbalanced drilling near the productive water-sensitive formations due to its reduced formation damage, improved rate of penetration, higher cutting-transport capacity, and lower circulation losses. However, the complicated nature of foam rheology has been a major impediment to the optimal design of field applications.
Earlier studies with surfactant foams without oils and polymers show that foam flow in pipe can be represented by two different flow regimes: the low-quality regime showing either plug-flow or segregated-flow pattern, and the high-quality regime showing slug-flow pattern. The objective of this study is to investigate foam flow characteristics in horizontal pipes at different injection conditions, with or without oils, by using polymer-free and polymer-added surfactant foams.
The results of this study were presented in two different ways: (i) steady-state pressure drops (or, apparent foam viscosity, equivalently) measured by multiple pressure taps and (ii) visualization of bubble size, size distribution and flow patterns in transparent pipes. The results with surfactant foams and oil showed that (i) oil reduced the stability of foams in pipes, hence, decreasing the steady-state pressure drops and foam viscosities, and (ii) the presence of oil tended to lower the transition between the high-quality and the low-quality regimes (i.e., lower foam quality at the boundary, or lower fg* equivalently). In addition, the results with surfactant foams with polymer showed that (i) polymer thickened the liquid phase and, if enough agitation was supplied, could make foams long-lived and improve foam viscosities, and (ii) the system sometimes did not reach the steady state readily, showing systematic oscillations. In both cases, though, the experiments carried out in this study showed the presence of two distinct high-quality and low-quality flow regimes.
A rapidly-growing energy demand in recent years has made shale gas more attractive than ever. Although shale-gas formations contain a large amount of hydrocarbons, their low-permeability characteristics have been a major impediment to economic development of the fields. Once properly designed, foam fracturing has advantages over the conventional hydraulic fracturing - for example, by using less water, it works better for water-sensitive shale-gas reservoirs; a smaller quantity of water involved makes the fracturing job more environment-friendly due to the reduced amount of chemical additives; and it offers a superior capability to carry and distribute solid proppants over the newly-created factures. In spite of its unique advantages, optimum foam fracturing treatment requires a good understanding of foam rheology.
A series of recent experimental studies revealed that foam flow can be represented by two distinct flow regimes in general: low-quality regime showing stable plug-flow pattern, and high-quality regime showing unstable slug-flow pattern. This study, for the first time, presents how to develop a comprehensive foam model that can handle a variety of bubble-size distributions and flow patterns by using two-flow-regime concept for fracturing.
Analyzing experimental data of surfactant foams and polymer-added foams shows that (i) in the low-quality regime, foam rheology is governed by bubble slippage at the wall with no significant change in its fine foam texture and (ii) in the high-quality regime, foam rheology is governed by the relative size of free-gas segment to fine-textured foam-slug segment. By using these governing mechanisms, this new foam model successfully reproduces foam flow characteristics as observed in the experiments, including almost horizontal pressure contours in the low-quality regime and inclined pressure contours in the high-quality regimes. Although the model is built with a power-law fluid model, the same procedure can be taken for Bingham-plastic or yield-power-law fluids.
To minimize fluid loss and the associated formation damage, foam is a preferred fluid to perform cleanout operations and reestablish communication with an open completion interval. Because of their high viscosity and structure, foams are suitable cleanout fluids when underbalanced well-cleanout operations are applied. Although several studies have been conducted to better understand foam-flow behavior and hydraulics, investigations performed on foam stability are very limited. Specifically, very little is known regarding the impact of wellbore inclination on the stability of foams. Unstable foams do not possess high viscosity, and as a result, they are not effective in cleanout operations, especially in inclined wellbores. Predicting the downhole instability of foam could reduce the number of drilling problems associated with excessive liquid drainage, such as temporary overbalance, formation damage, and wellbore instability. The objectives of this study are to investigate the effects of wellbore inclination on the stability of various types of foams and develop a method to account for the effect of inclination on foam stability in inclined wells.
In this study, foam-drainage experiments were performed using a flow loop that consists of a foam-drainage-measurement section and pipe viscometers. To verify proper foam generation, foam viscosity was measured using pipe viscometers and compared with previous measurements. Drainage experiments were performed with aqueous, polymer-based, and oil-based foams in concentric annulus and pipe under pressurized conditions. Tests were also conducted in vertical and inclined orientations to examine the effect of wellbore inclination on the stability of foams. The foam-bubble structure was examined and monitored in real time using a microscopic camera to study bubble coarsening. The foam quality (i.e., gas volume fraction) was varied from 40 to 80%.
Results show that the drainage rates in the pipe and annular section were approximately the same, indicating a minor effect of column geometry. More importantly, the drainage rate of foam in an inclined configuration was significantly higher than that observed in a vertical orientation. The inclination exacerbated foam drainage and instability substantially. The mechanisms of foam drainage are different in an inclined configuration. In inclined wellbores, drainage occurs not only axially but also laterally. As a result, the drained liquid quickly reaches a wellbore wall before reaching the bottom of foam column. Then, a layer of liquid forms on the low side of the wellbore. The liquid layer flows downward because of gravity and reaches the bottom of the test section without facing the major hydraulic resistance of the foam network. This phenomenon aggravates the drainage process considerably.
Although foam-drainage experiments have been reported in the literature, there exists only limited information on the effects of geometry and inclination on foam drainage and stability. The information provided in this paper will help to account for the effect of inclination on foam stability and subsequently improve the performance of oilfield operations involving foam as the working fluid.