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SPE 105536 First Application of Underbalanced Drilling in Fractured Carbonate Formations of Iranian Oilfields Leads to Operational Success and

Cost Savings
A. Hooshmandkoochi, M. Zaferanieh & A. Malekzadeh, National Iranian Oil Company

Copyright 2007, Society of Petroleum Engineers This paper was prepared for presentation at the 15th SPE Middle East Oil & Gas Show and Conference held in Bahrain International Exhibition Centre, Kingdom of Bahrain, 1114 March 2007. This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Papers presented at SPE meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper for commercial purposes without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper was presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O. Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836, U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435.

Abstract Underbalanced drilling techniques (UBD) are evolving at a fast pace as oil companies learn how to use the technology to maximize well production and lower finding costs. Although there was some air drilling through surface drilling activities in Iran for the past decade, the full package of UBD equipment and other UBD techniques were not introduced until National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) supplied the package for a pilot project in southern Iran. The first well selected to be drilled UBD was GS 333, the reason for selecting that particular well was because the Gachsaran field is depleted and sever mud losses is experienced while conventional drilling, also, the UBD technique is expected to increase productivity of the well by decreasing formation damage resulted from drilling fluid losses. The drill pipe injection technique was proposed to be utilized in this well because of its suitability for the well conditions where it is not expected to drill through the gas cap and the well will be completed in 8 open hole. This paper discusses the well design, UBD design parameters, Underbalanced modeling considerations and the lessons learned from this job which all led to the success of this project. It is also describe the process used to address HSE issues of the project in the face of the potential presence of H2S while drilling. The drilling and production results that were achieved were significant to the future operational potential and viability of this mature field. Of equal importance was the success of the operation from a health, safety and environmental (HSE) perspective in an environment in which the industry has been traditionally reluctant to use UBD techniques. Introduction NIOC GS 333 was the 1st well of the NIOC UBD campaign. The well was drilled from 2,630 m (9 5/8 shoe depth) to a

total depth of 2,938 m MD (2567m TVD). The underbalanced section of this well was drilled in approximately 99 hrs. The key performance indicators included: 1. To drill the deviated reservoir section from 2,630 m MD to 2,938 m TD eliminating/minimizing lost circulation such that no drilling time is lost curing losses or associated with drilling problems. 2. To eliminate, as far as realistically possible, formation damage caused by the loss of conventional drilling fluid to the formation while drilling overbalanced. 3. To eliminate, as far as realistically possible, impairment of the reservoir formation by damaging fluid or material. 4. To evaluate and characterize the reservoir production rates along the well path. To achieve these key performance indicators, NIOC/Weatherford UBS was enlisted to provide underbalanced drilling services along with RIG 78, Schlumberger (MWD, motor and directional services). GS333 was drilled using a nitrified Diesel circulating system employing the drill string injection UBD technique. Procedures were put in place for the maintenance of constant bottomhole pressures and reduction of pressure transients. UBD on this well experienced some typical logistical and start up problems associated with a steep learning curve, this being the first such operation in Iran. Despite all the problems encountered the well GS-333, was: Drilled to 308 m of total open hole depth. No loss circulation was encountered while drilling. Successfully implemented UBD technology. No QHSE incidents were recorded. Objective The primary objectives of this underbalanced drilling project are to: Minimize drilling induced formation damage Eliminate drilling fluid losses Improve drilling performance Well plan GS 333 is a new drill, underbalanced deviated well. The well plan is as outlined in Figure 1 [2]. Geological and Reservoir Description The target reservoir for the GS 333 is Asmari formation, the formation is fractured carbonated formation. The reservoir

SPE 105536

drive mechanism is Gas Cap. Shale strings are not expected in this formation. Expected reservoir pressure and temperature are 2622 psi and 141 F, respectively. Reservoir fluid is oil with API gravity of 25, GOR 564 SCF/STB, H2S concentration of 240 ppm. The permeability of the reservoir is 0.1 1000 md with a porosity of 9% [2]. Underbalanced Drilling Design Parameters Casing Design- 9 5/8 casing design was checked for underbalanced drilling operations and the result shows there is no need for any casing modifications. Rig Modification- There are no essential modifications to be made on the rig to suite UBD operations. The substructure has to be high enough to allow RCH to be installed on top of the Hydril. BHA and Drill String Design- The plan is to use a 5 DP and 5 HWDP on 6 BHA. The BHA consists of 6 Mud Motor and MWD to drill 8 hole. Drilling Fluid Selection- The drilling fluid selection is one of the most critical decisions in planning an underbalanced well. The right fluid(s) selection will not only lead to suitable BHCP but will also minimize pressure transients and thus eliminating/minimizing formation impairment. The deviated underbalanced section of GS 333 is to be drilled with a Gachsaran field native crude oil and a membrane nitrogen generation circulating system. Liquid Phase- The native crude oil was chosen over Diesel and other drilling fluids because it is the natural reservoir fluid for this well. This will minimize chances of formation damage in event of pressure transients and/or from fluid imbibitions. If the reservoir fluid available on location is too heavy to achieve UBD conditions with the available nitrogen rate, the use of diesel will be recommended to initiate UBD condition with nitrogen. The well will be displaced with the produced fluid after getting enough oil production. Gas Phase- Nitrogen was selected as the injection gas because of its inert nature, economic availability and suitability for this specific underbalanced drilling project. Nitrogen will be obtained from the surrounding air and generated onsite, by NIOCs nitrogen production unit. Operating Envelope and Optimum Rate- The multiphase flow behavior in the wellbore during underbalanced drilling is very complex. The response of the downhole conditions to changes in various flow parameters must be characterized prior to the commencement of underbalanced drilling operations in order to maximize chances of success. Figure 2 contains a plot of the bottom hole circulating pressures induced by a variety of nitrogen rates and the Gachsaran native crude oil injection rates. This plot is referred to as the operating envelope. Also plotted on the operating envelope are the various constraints that must be fulfilled during underbalanced drilling operations. The range of flow rates that satisfy all of the constraints, defines the acceptable operating region. A minimum drawdown at the bit of 200 psi is required to ensure adequate underbalanced conditions in the well, with a maximum drawdown of 300 psi to minimize any near wellbore depletion effects. The target bottom hole circulating pressure at the bit for this well is 2300 - 2400 psi. The downhole conditions are also

constrained by the ability of the circulating system to effectively achieve an underbalanced state, provide adequate hole cleaning, power the BHA and provide well control. The maximum nitrogen generation capacity of the underbalanced drilling package, under local conditions, is also factored in. Typically, the flow rates are also constrained by the maximum and minimum downhole positive displacement motor equivalent flow rates [2]. Drilling Fluid: Nitrogen and Native Crude Oil (0.9 SG). Injection Rates = 600 - 1400 scfm N2 & 240 - 360 gpm Crude Oil. Optimum Rate = 1400 scfm Nitrogen and 320 gpm Crude Oil Induced BHCP = 2300 psi (no production); Wellhead Pressure = 50 psi Reservoir Pressure = 2622 psi Min Motor flow = 300 gpm; Max Motor flow = 550 gpm Min Vertical Velocity = 165 ft/min H2S Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a major concern in hydrocarbon production. Operating problems caused by H2S can include: severe corrosion and fouling, injection well plugging with iron sulfide and QHSE problems associated with H2S gases. Trace amounts of H2S are anticipated. A thorough monitoring system will be put in place before the underbalanced drilling phase in preparation for any emergencies. The advice of Weatherford QHSE department will be fully enlisted. H2S scavenger is to be supplied by NIOC and to be added to the Native Crude if needed while drilling reservoir section of this well underbalanced. Operations The 8.5-inch directional wellbore was drilled with a nitrified Diesel to a total depth of 2,938 m MD (2,567 m TVD) with one motor and two bits. The directional bottom hole assembly (BHA) consisted of a 8.5-inch tri-cone bit, a 6-7/8 inch positive displacement motor (PDM having a 1.5o bent housing) with a drillstring consisting of 5-inch drill pipe and heavyweight drill pipe. A MWD tool was incorporated in the BHA for survey telemetry. The Top hole of GS-333 directional well was drilled conventionally and cased with a 9 5/8 casing to 2,630 m MD. The Shoe track was drilled out to 2630 m with fresh Water, prior to arrival of UBD equipment and crew. A new BHA with directional tools were made up and run into the hole. The hole was initially displaced to Diesel and circulated for two complete circulations. A two-phase flow commenced with 400 gpm of Diesel and 800 scfm of N2. The BHCP before drilling operations commenced was calculated at 2275 psi. A total of 307 m of directional wellbore was drilled at 10% to 20% drawdown. Average liquid injection rate was 400 gpm, and average N2 injection rate was 900 scfm [3]. Production/Losses While Drilling During the underbalanced section of this well, no losses were encountered. Also no oil and gas production were recorded while drilling the underbalanced drilling section [3].

SPE 105536

Lessons Learned Hydrocarbon based fluids are particularly susceptible to the increase of density due to natural solids accumulation. This warranted accurate monitoring of the diesel to make sure that the re-injected diesel would not exceed 1 % of solids content. It is important to ensure that minimal drilling fines are re-circulated back into the wellbore. High fines concentrations will increase slugging and the likelihood of BHCP spikes. It is crucial to minimize the time with the pumps off during a connection. The rig crew should be on the rig floor with the tongs ready to break off the Kelly as soon as it is bled off. Every effort must be made to start the pumps as soon as possible after a connection has been made. Any time saved during the pumps-off period will also reduce the amount of time required to regain circulation prior to drilling ahead and also reduce pressure transients. During underbalanced drilling operations, mud weight often increases as a result of the milling action of the drill bit on the formation. This was present while drilling on GS-333. For the 307 m drilled, the density of the diesel changed from 52.5 pcf to 54.5 pcf. Although increasing nitrogen injection rate compensated this increase in density, it is highly recommended to reduce the solids in the surface system by continuous dilution with fresh diesel. Deployment of centrifuge also may aid to reduce percentage of solid particles in the active liquid system. The Data Acquisition System will provide more value to the UBD Engineering and separation team with the integration of more data points from the rig and MWD provider. Digital stroke counters can be added to the rig pumps and taken directly into the Data Acquisition to provide real-time injected fluid rates. Conclusions and Recommendations: 1. The NIOC GS-333 well was successfully drilled to the target total depth. 2. No loss circulations were encountered while drilling UBD section. 3. During Underbalanced drilling, base liquid weight often increases due to the penetration of new hole, on the formation. This natural solids accumulation will no doubt result in increased effective bottomhole circulating pressures and may make maintenance of underbalanced conditions difficult. Therefore accurate monitoring of the base liquid weight on a continuous basis is essential for the proper evaluation and monitoring of underbalanced states. 4. As this was the first directional underbalanced drilling project, in this Field, a steep learning curve was the case for everyone involved at various stages of the GS-333 well. 5. Good communication and following the well program is important for successful underbalanced drilling operations. 6. Planned and applied correctly, underbalanced drilling technology can address problems of formation damage, lost circulation and poor penetration rates. The ability to

investigate and characterize the reservoir while drilling is another important benefit of underbalanced drilling. 7. As gas percentage in the drillstring has a significant effect on conventional MWD survey tool performance. Alternative survey tools such as EM-MWD or concentric gas injection needs to be considered for future UBD wells. 8. The effect of long connection periods could be greatly reduced by proper operating practices, which include among others, the use of trained rig crews capable of making connections in a rapid and yet safe fashion. 9. The ability to obtain real time bottom pressure would be an additional benefit to UBD engineering during the operation. It is highly recommended the use of PWD measuring tool for the future UBD wells to accurately measure and analyze bottom hole parameters. Acknowledgement The authors wish to thank NIOC for permission to publish this paper, and to the many whose efforts on the wellsite contributed to the success of the completion.

1. Mc Lennan John., et al Underbalanced Drilling Manual Published by Gas Research Institute Chicago, Illinois, 1997, GRI Reference No.GRI-97/0236. 2. NIOC, South Drilling Engineering Division, Underbalanced Drilling Program for well GS 333. December 2004. 3. NIOC, South Drilling Department, Underbalanced End of Well Report, Well GS 333, Gachsaran Field, 2005.

SPE 105536

Figure 1. Well Profile Diagram

Figure 2. Operational Envelope Native Crude

BHCP vs Oil and Nitrogen Injection Rates NIOC, GS 333 Gachsaran Field, Iran
3000 Static Reservoir Pressure 2,622 psi

2800 240gpm 2600 360gpm BHCP (psi) Min. Liquid Velocity 2400 100gpm Operating Area 2200 320gpm Max. Motor Flow Rate



280gpm 2000 Min. Motor Flow Rate 1800 400



1000 N2 Injection rate (scfm)