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Hydraulic Optimization Introduction

The main objectives of circulation during drilling are:

To clean cuttings from the bottom of the hole and prevent re-grinding. To clean cuttings from the bit and prevent bit balling. To carry the cuttings up the annulus and out of the hole. To cool the bit

Maximum bottom hole cleaning is important to obtain the highest penetration rate. It is achieved by either:

Maximum hydraulic power at the bit, or Maximum hydraulic impact force.

In the first case it has been assumed that cutting removal from the bottom is related to the fluid energy dissipated at the bit (bit hydraulic power). In the second case it has been assumed that the cutting removal is optimized when the fluid impact on the bottom is maximized (impact force on bottom). The parameters that influence the cleaning effect in both cases are the flow rate and the nozzle area. Effective removal of cuttings from the borehole by the drilling fluid is possible only when an annular velocity that creates an upward movement exceeding the gravitational settling of the cuttings is maintained. The parameters that influence the efficiency of cutting transport are the carrying capacity of the drilling fluid, the annular clearance (referred to as the hydraulic diameter) and the flow rate. The power delivered by the rig pump is required to overcome the total hydraulic friction throughout the circulating system. Only part of this power can be used for bottom hole cleaning because of the power losses in the system. These system, or parasitic, pressure losses are influenced by the drilling fluid properties, the length and hydraulic diameter of the conduit (e.g. string, annulus and surface lines) and the flow rate. The hydraulic parameters which will affect drilling operations will be examined in detail including methods for calculating and measuring them. Ideas will be extended to consider ways of reducing pressure losses, how to calculate the surface power needed, the hydraulic power developed at the bit, the limits of annular velocities and pump pressure and optimum bit hydraulics. The focus of concern in this part is the fluid behaviour of the drilling fluid as it flows through the surface lines, standpipe and hose, down the drill string, through the nozzles and up the annulus. When the drilling fluid is circulating it is necessary to consider the mechanics of the drilling fluid in motion. This is necessary to calculate the pressure at any depth in pipe or annulus, or the pressure on bottom. The hydraulic parameters to be considered in this Part are summarized in the accompanying figure.

Eng. Fayez Amin Makkar

Fig.1 : Important parameters in drilling hydraulics

No matter what the nature or stage of the project, there are three effects resulting directly from local pressure control that must be considered. These are shown in Figure 2. In this context local pressure means the pressure at the place under consideration, be it at the bottom of the hole or at any intermediate depth inside the drill string or annulus. Of these three effects it is the influence of pressure on achieving an efficient penetration rate that is the prime interest in this Part.

Figure.2: Important considerations relating to pressure

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Efficient penetration occurs when proper control is exercised over a number of conditions. Drilling rate increases in direct proportion to weight on bit only when the cuttings are effectively removed from beneath the bit. The drilling fluid stream provides the energy needed to clean both the bottom of the hole and the bit, and hydraulic conditions have to be selected to achieve this with the greatest effect. It must be stressed that the objective is to optimise the penetration rate. The limiting factors are on the one hand the hydrostatic head and the necessity to clean the hole (lower boundaries), and on the other the prevention of losses and possibly the pump capacity (upper boundaries). There are a number of variables over which you have direct control; the more important ones in drilling hydraulics are as follows.

flow rate pump pressure nozzle size drilling fluid gradient drilling fluid viscosity

The main concern in this Part is with the first three of these; flow rate, pump pressure and nozzle size.

The hydraulic parameters

In this Topic each of nine hydraulic parameters which must be considered are separately introduced.

Pump volumetric output and circulation pressure (Pt ) Flow rate Bit nozzle jet velocity Annular velocity Pressure losses in the system Pump hydraulic power output Pressure drop across the bit nozzles Hydraulic power developed at the bit Jet impact force

Some can be measured directly at the surface. Most have to be calculated. All relate to the operational activities. The well is considered as a closed system in which energy and power are conserved. Therefore the total hydraulic power developed by the pump is either dissipated within the system or is used at the bit.


PUMP OUTPUT The pump volumetric output or "pump output" depends on the type of pump and the size of the liners installed.

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The volume output for double acting pumps is obtained with the following equation:

The value of factor K in this equation is: 00257 when the flow rate Q is in dm3/min (l/min). 000679 when the flow rate Q is in gals/min. 0000162 when the flow rate Q is in bbl/min. 0000909 when the flow rate Q is in ft3/min. For single acting triplex pumps the equation to be used is:

where the value of K is: 00386 when the flow rate Q is in dm3/min (l/min). 0010199 when the flow rate Q is in gals/min. 0000243 when the flow rate Q is in bbl/min. 0001364 when the flow rate Q is in ft3/min. In both the equations: L = stroke in inches. D = inside diameter of liner in inches. d = outside diameter of piston rod in inches. spm = strokes per minute. nvol = volumetric efficiency as percentage. The pump or circulating pressure (Pt ) is usually measured directly at the surface with a standpipe gauge. It can also be estimated using the following.

the dimensions of the hole and drill string rheological drilling fluid properties

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nozzle area flow rate

The units for Pt are kPa or psi. CIRCULATING PRESSURE AND PRESSURE DROP IN THE HYDRAULIC SYSTEM Since the drilling fluid returns to the surface at atmospheric pressure (in normal drilling operations), all the pressure developed by the pump is used between it and the flowline. Thus Pt = Ps + Pb Where: Pt is the pump or circulating pressure (kPa or psi) Ps is the total of all pressure losses except at the bit (kPa or psi) Pb is the pressure drop across bit nozzles (kPa or psi)


The flow rate is the volume of drilling fluid passing any point in unit time. It is usually expressed in m3/s or m3/min (m3/sec will be used throughout this Part). In oilfield units it is expressed in bbls/min or gals/min (gpm). The flow rate can be measured directly with a flow meter in the surface lines, usually between pump and standpipe.


The jet velocity is the governing parameter in the impact-force method of maximized bottom-hole cleaning. The higher the jet velocity the better the cleaning effect. The accepted minimum value for optimized bottom hole cleaning is approximately 100 m/s (350 ft/s). The jet velocity is calculated from the jet nozzle area and the flow rate:

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The annular velocity is the speed with which the drilling fluid rises in the annulus and is expressed in m/min (ft/min). The annular drilling fluid velocity is confined by an upper and a lower limit. MAXIMUM ANNULAR VELOCITY The upper velocity limit is determined by the effects of erosion on soft formations (or maximum possible pump output volume). Wash-outs can easily be created in such situations. The maximum annular velocity in sensitive formations is often limited to 30 m/min (100 ft/min) to prevent wash-outs. MINIMUM ANNULAR VELOCITY The lower limit is always governed by the cuttings transport capacity of the drilling fluid. Too much build-up of cuttings in the drilling fluid will result in an increase in the density of the fluid in the annulus. The consequent increase in hydrostatic head against exposed weak formations could cause formation break-down and loss of circulation. It could also cause stuck pipe in a deviated well (building up of cuttings bed). The annular velocity should therefore, in relation to the cuttings generated, be sufficient to maintain densities within formation strength limits. However, the minimum annular velocity is also dependent on the slip velocity (rate of settling of the cuttings). As a result of gravity the cuttings tend to drop through the drilling fluid. Therefore when the slip velocity exceeds the annular velocity the particles will not be carried out of the well. There will be insufficient returns of large cuttings over the shale shaker and, due to regrinding, erosion and deterioration, the solid content and density of the drilling fluid will increase. APPLIED ANNULAR VELOCITY The annular velocity depends on the flow rate and the flow area, the latter of which is not constant. The drill-pipe open-hole area must be considered when determining the maximum or minimum value for the velocity. This means that the actual velocity in the drill-collar open-hole annulus may be higher than the recommended value. However, that often has to be accepted. The DC-OH section is comparatively short so that the wellbore wall in soft formations will be exposed only briefly to these higher erosive effects. In harder formations erosion often becomes negligible. The annular velocity at a given flow rate can be calculated by the following equations, derived from the general equation Q = V.A.

Eng. Fayez Amin Makkar

When drilling hard formations where penetration rates are low, lower annular velocities can be used. In soft formations with high penetration rate, often encountered in top-hole drilling, higher annular velocities will be required to remove the cuttings from the well. Because the total pump capacity is limited, sometimes it is not possible to obtain sufficient annular velocity, especially in drilling large hole sizes. If the fluid density is critical because weak formations are exposed, the drilling rate may have to be adjusted to reduce the amount of cuttings generated. Generally speaking the minimum practical annular velocity is maintained above a value of approximately 17 m/min (50 ft/min) in the very large hole sizes. In the smaller holes the more common value of 30 - 40 m/min (90 - 120 ft/min) usually applies (the smaller hole size is usually at greater depth where the formations are more consolidated). Selection of an appropriate annular velocity is one of the first decisions to be taken when considering hydraulic conditions. Actual annular velocities are uncertain due to the irregularity of the hole size and configuration. During drilling the actual hole size is not known; for this reason the bit size is taken as the internal diameter of the hole, or the last measured average caliper hole size obtained from logs, for calculation purposes. Between the maximum annular velocity and the minimum annular velocity is an annular velocity which, under the given circumstances, is the best annular velocity to be used. This is called the optimum annular velocity. OPTIMUM ANNULAR VELOCITY The optimum annular velocity is that velocity which is obtained through a flow rate which gives an annular velocity sufficiently high to effectively remove cuttings from the hole and having the lowest possible erosion effect on the borehole. Over time, any flow results in erosion. It is therefore advisable to obtain the minimum flow rate required to effectively remove cuttings from the hole and to avoid circulating any faster than is required to obtain this flow rate. If this rate is a calculated rate, actual hole cleaning should be monitored to confirm the hole cleaning ability of this flow rate.

Eng. Fayez Amin Makkar

You should be able to distinguish clearly between flow rate and annular velocity.


What is the 'system'? The system is made up of all parts between the pump and the flowlines with the exception of the bit nozzles. These are excluded because pressure drop across the nozzles is considered a useful loss of pressure. It represents the change in kinetic energy used to clean the bottom of the hole. Pressure losses in the system represent wasted energy used in overcoming friction. These pressure losses are called parasitic losses. The main sections of the circulating system which contribute to the system losses may be summarized as follows:

The surface lines (from pump to kelly saver sub). The drill string (drill pipe and drill collars). The annulus (open hole and cased hole).

In addition we will look at;

causes of changes in circulating pressures flow regimes

PRESSURE LOSSES IN SURFACE EQUIPMENT Surface equipment consists of surface lines, stand pipe, kelly hose, swivel and kelly. The pressure loss occurring in this equipment depends on the length and the internal diameters of each of the items mentioned. A simple practical method to find the surface equipment pressure losses is to hang the kelly or top drive open ended in the rotary table and pump at different rates. Table.1 shows four common combinations of surface equipment. The case numbers in this table (No.1 to No.4) were originally intended for use with hydraulic slide rules. They are now also used to identify different surface pressure loss situations to be used in calculations.

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PRESSURE LOSSES IN THE DRILL STRING (Pfd) The pressure loss in the drill string represents the major portion of the parasitic losses. The fluid velocities are usually high and therefore friction loss is significant as the flow regime in most cases is turbulent. The losses calculated across the drill pipe and the drill collars are based on the Bingham Plastic Flow model. When drilling, the flow pattern in the drill string is normally turbulent. (With reference to the factors above, consider why this should be true). There is no exact method of calculating pressure losses in the drill string because there is no exact method of establishing the degree of turbulence. However, it is possible to estimate pressure losses in the drill string with sufficient accuracy to select appropriate bit nozzles for optimizing hydraulic conditions. Pressure losses in the drill string can be calculated by the following equations:

You should have noticed the introduction of a new term, the friction factor (f). It can be defined in terms of Reynolds Number (and hence flow rate) and pipe roughness and has been determined empirically. If circulating a given drilling fluid at a given depth only V and f can vary, and both of these are proportional to flow rate. The equations for pressure losses in the drill string as given above can also be expressed in the equation:

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Where c is a constant incorporating the values of all the parameters which are fixed at a given depth N is found empirically and is not the same 'n' as in the equations in the paragraphs on the following pages dealing with pressure losses in the annulus. The latter is called a 'rheological' 'n'. c is given, in SI units or API units respectively, by:

Where is the plastic viscosity and the other symbols are as used before. Note that N is often taken as 1.82 PRESSURE LOSSES IN THE ANNULUS (Pfa ) Since the annular pressure loss acts as an applied pressure on the formation, this loss should be kept as low as possible to minimise the risk of formation break down. To monitor the pressure against the formation during circulation, the equivalent circulation density (ECD) is often used, which is defined as:

Where ECD = equivalent circulating density (kPa/m, psi/ft) m = density of the drilling fluid (kPa/m, psi/ft) Pan = total pressure drop in the annulus (kPa, psi) L = total length of the annulus (m, ft) The value of the annular pressure loss is relatively small compared to that developed in the drill string and is often neglected in cases where the circulation rate is low, e.g. during well killing. It is more difficult to find pressure losses in the annulus because conditions are less well defined than in the drillpipe. The following uncertainties exist.

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the actual flow condition is not clear, the flow pattern is commonly near the transitional region the hole size and shape are irregular so it is not possible to get an accurate value for the annular velocity or the hydraulic diameter the downhole viscosity is very uncertain because it varies with temperature and flow conditions pipe rotation and eccentricity effects

For efficient drilling conditions it is found that the power lost in overcoming friction in the system absorbs approximately 30-50% of the circulation energy. The remainder will be expended at the bit. It is found that the majority of the system losses are in the drill string. For medium depth drilling the annular pressure losses probably total no more than 3 to 7% of the pump output pressure at normal circulation rates. Although pressure losses in the annulus are small, they are very important because of their effect on the exposed formations. The effects of annular pressure losses are that:

they increase the bottom hole pressure when circulating they reduce the initial severity of a kick by providing a 'hidden' safety margin, but they increase the risks of lost circulation during killing (only while circulating) they cause formation damage if the pressure losses are due to establishing circulation. When establishing circulation, the pressure drop in the annulus increases significantly due to the initial high viscosity (gel strength) of the drilling fluid

Much research effort has been devoted to improving knowledge of the flow characteristics of drilling fluids particularly in order to reduce pressure losses. This is a complicated and specialized subject because of the complexity of the fluids. The following expressions provide values for annular pressure losses.

Where: Pfa is the annular pressure loss (kPa) L is the pipe length (m) Va is the annular velocity (m/s) d is the hydraulic diameter (dh - dp) (mm) n is the Power Law index of flow behaviour (dimensionless) Pfa is in psi L is in ft Va is in ft/min d is in inches n is dimensionless

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n and K are derived from viscometer data

Note that K here is an approximation to that given for the Power Law model found in the section on Drilling Fluids. The number 511 results from using a specific type of viscometer with particular values of spring constant and cylinder surface speed. With Pfa, as with Pfd , when drilling at a particular depth with a given drilling fluid all values in the above equations are effectively constant except for the annular velocity (Va). But Va is directly proportional to the flow rate (Q). Thus there will be a tendency to assume that all pressure losses in the system follow the same equation as shown below.

Where c and N are constants whose values are empirically determined in particular cases (see under "Pressure losses in the drill string") Pressure losses can be calculated for all parts of the system using the equations given in this Part. CAUSES OF CHANGES IN CIRCULATING PRESSURES According to Pt = Pb + Ps a change in the circulating pressure can be induced by a change in either Pb , Ps or both. Increases in surface pressure A sudden increase in circulation pressure, although drilling fluid properties, flow rate, and conduit length are unchanged, can be caused only by an increase in Pb. This could be caused by one or more nozzles plugging. A gradual increase in surface pressure could be the result of several causes (excepting hole problems):

Increased flow rate. Extending the string while deepening the hole. Change in drilling fluid rheological properties.

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Decreases in surface pressure A spontaneous sudden decrease in circulating pressure while conditions remain unchanged can be caused by:

decrease of Pb resulting from the loss of a nozzle. a twist-off in the drill string.

A gradual decrease in pressure could signal the following:

A developing wash-out (leak) in the drill string or in pump valves. Reduction of hydrostatic head in the annulus caused by lighter substances (e.g. gas or formation water). An increase of hydrostatic head in the string.

Caution: Any change of the surface pressure or change in pump strokes not deliberately instigated should be investigated immediately. To a limited extent, pressure losses can be measured directly; for example by pumping through the standpipe and open kelly and through drill collars. It is also a useful exercise to observe the total circulating pressure at various flow rates. Pressure losses in the system can be derived from actual circulating pressure values by subtracting the pressure drop at the bit, which can be calculated accurately. Pressure losses in the system can also be calculated. However, although the dimensions are known for all parts of the system, the calculation also depends on knowing the type of fluid flow regime in the drill string and annulus. The flow may be turbulent or laminar or of some transitional type between the two. The calculations are also based on a rheological model. If the drilling fluid in use behaves slightly variant to the model the calculation results will be less than accurate. Pressure losses within the system are minimised by reducing the fluid friction in each part.

surface connections: losses are negligible compared with elsewhere but can be reduced by avoiding tight bends and using large diameter pipes drill string: reduce friction by using a larger internal diameter pipe coated with plastic drill collars: increasing the internal diameter will again reduce friction but only at the expense of decreasing their weight; a balance has to be made between these opposing effects annulus losses: are usually small and only become significant in deep, small diameter holes; pressure losses depend on the 'hydraulic diameter', found from the difference between the hole size and the pipe o.d.; it is actually desirable to reduce the pressure developed against the formations

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Flow regimes The differences between laminar and turbulent flow are illustrated in the table overleaf. The type of flow is determined by calculating Reynolds number (Re) for the known well conditions from the following equations

The value obtained is compared with those shown in Table.2 (figures are based on Newtonian fluid properties).
Table.2 : Deciding the flow condition from the Reynolds number

Inspection of the equations shows that turbulent flow is more likely with the conditions below.

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denser drilling fluid lower viscosity higher flow rate decreased pipe bore or hydraulic diameter

( higher) ( lower) (Q higher) (d lower)


In rig operations the amount of available hydraulic power is determined by the size, number and types of pump(s) on site. However, the demand in terms of output volume (Q) and pump pressure (P) varies considerably with hole size and depth. Once the pump output or flow rate Q has been selected the available power input determines the maximum circulating pressure (Pt) that can be achieved. This circulating pressure Pt (total pressure drop in system) is consumed partly by friction in the fluid and the system (Ps = system pressure loss) and partly by the pressure drop across the bit nozzles (Pb = bit pressure drop). Therefore Pt = Ps + Pb. Pt is normally given by the pump pressure gauge. The system pressure drop has no effect on bottom-hole cleaning. It is unavoidable and is also called the parasitic pressure loss. The bottom-hole cleaning action is provided by the hydraulic energy expended at the bit. Therefore the amount of hydraulic power expended at the bit is a measure for the cleaning effectiveness. (This assumes that the bit is properly matched to the formation - if a bit designed for a hard formation is run in a soft formation no amount of power will keep it clean !) The hydraulic power available at the surface from the pump is used to drive the drilling fluid round the system, power the bit and flush the cuttings to the surface. If you know the pump or circulating pressure (Pt ) and the flow rate (Q), then it is possible to calculate the total power available at the surface.

Since Power = work done in unit time and Work done = pressure x volume then Power = pressure x volume pumped in unit time

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Therefore the power available at surface is given by:

The power output of the pump is generally assumed to be 85% of the mechanical or electrical power input of the pump.


The pressure drop across the bit nozzles Pb depends on:

The flow rate, Q. The total cross-sectional area of the nozzle openings, A. The drilling fluid density, .

Once the desired (optimum) annular velocity has been determined the flow rate (Q ) and the hydraulic power expended at the bit for a given nozzle size are fixed. Since the jet velocity (Vn) is directly related to the flow rate, the hydraulic power expended at the bit is also fixed. Both jet velocity and hydraulic power at the bit determine the cleaning action on bottom. Pressure losses through the bit nozzles are not frictional but represent a change in kinetic energy as the drilling fluid changes its velocity from that above the bit to that leaving the jets. The pressure expended is therefore dependent only on the drilling fluid density and the square of the jet velocity. The pressure drop across the bit nozzles is calculated using the following equations.

Where: Pb is the pressure loss across the bit nozzles (kPa) is the drilling fluid gradient (kPa/m) Q is the flow rate (m3/s) A is the total nozzle area (mm2)

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Cn is the nozzle coefficient (dimensionless) The nozzle coefficient for jet nozzles is usually taken as 095

Where: Pb is in psi is in psi/ft Q is in gpm A is in inch2 Cn is dimensionless


As stated, Pt = Ps + Pb where the symbols have their previous meanings. It was later shown that the total power available is given by or ,

according to the system of units, where the symbols again have their previous meanings. Similarly, the power lost in the system is given by or .

But the power generated at the pump must either be lost in the system or used at the bit, so the hydraulic power developed at the bit is given, in SI units and oilfield units respectively, by:

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Since Pt - Ps = Pb, then the hydraulic power developed at the bit is also given by:


Consideration may also be given to the actual force with which the drilling fluid jetting from the bit strikes against the formation. This is called the jet impact force (I). The jet impact force can be calculated using the following equations.

Where I is the jet impact force (N) is the drilling fluid gradient (kPa/m) Q is the flow rate (m3/s) Vn is the jet velocity (m/s) and

Where I is in lbf is in psi/ft Q is in gpm Vn is in ft/s

These equations can be modified by substituting for Vn .

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You should note the following points:

the result obtained does not take into account the extremely complicated flow conditions at the bottom of the hole impact force is an important measure of the hole cleaning effort which is applied on bottom impact force theory is very important in the design and operation of extendednozzle and high-impact jet bits

In this topic nine important hydraulic parameters have been described. The important equations from this section are listed below and these indicate how the parameters are related. Note in particular the importance of the flow rate and the nozzle area.

Evaluation of the parasitic pressure losses

This Topic will provide some theoretical background information to explain how the parasitic pressure losses can be related to the flow rate. It will deal with:

Aspects of fluid flow. Practical application. Determination of c and N.

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The movement of fluid through a conduit is caused by an external force, provided in this case by a pump. This force must overcome the internal fluid friction and the friction between fluid and conduit which results in the pressure drop. It, and the pressure drop is a function of :

The flow rate. The fluid properties: o fluid density o viscosity The type of conduit and its dimensions: o length o flow area i.e. hydraulic diameter o roughness of the system wall The flow regime.

Basically these parameters are related as follows: (1)

and, since




The friction factor f in equations (1) and (2) is a function of the drilling fluid properties, flow regime and Reynolds number and is expressed as follows: (3) where the friction factor coefficients are functions of the plastic viscosity (PV) and yield point (YP) of the drilling fluid. The magnitude of the Re number determines the flow regime which, under most drilling conditions, will be turbulent inside the drill string and laminar in the annulus. In its most general form the Reynolds number (Re) is determined by the equations: (4) In equations (1) to (4): P = pressure drop (kPa) (psi). k1,2,3,4 = conversion factors. = drilling fluid gradient (kPa/m) (psi/ft). V = average fluid velocity (m/s) (ft/s). Q = flow rate (m3/s) (ft3/s or gall./min). L = length of conduit (m) (ft).

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d = hydraulic diameter of conduit for the annulus d = ID hole - OD pipe and for pipe d = ID) (mm) (inch). f = flow friction factor. = effective viscosity (Pa-s) (cP). a,b = friction factor coefficients. As stated previously, once drilling has started with a particular drilling assembly and bit, the circulating pressure is composed of two parts:

The bit pressure drop can be calculated accurately as explained. The system pressure drop could be calculated by substituting equations (4) and (3) in equation (2). A rather complicated equation then evolves which can be simplified to:

The following variables are included in this general expression for the parasitic pressure losses: In c:, , L, d In N: friction factor coefficient b.

The effect of changes in depth, circulating rate and drilling fluid gradient on the circulating pressure will now be explained. While drilling a section of hole with one bit (a certain "bit run") the circulating rate is determined by the annular velocity, which is usually kept constant. The drilling fluid properties are normally also kept steady during such a period (as long as no changes are required as a result of hole condition or formation pressures). The only variable that changes is the string length L. For pressure drop calculations the drill string is divided into two sections, i.e.:drill pipe and drill collars, which are considerably different in both internal and external diameters. During a bit run the length of the drill collars does not change. Depending on the ratio of Ldp/Ldc and the magnitude of the increase in Ldp the following approximation may be used to determine the change in Ps:

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If, however, the increase in hole depth during one bit run is considerable, the change in Ps should be determined more accurately by pump tests as described in the following section. During well control operations, however, a reduced circulating rate is used, and at the same time the drilling fluid gradient is changed. The effect of a change in drilling fluid gradient on Pb is proportional and, for practical purposes, the same proportional change is applied to Ps. Scrutinizing the theoretical equations in the previous section, the change in Ps is not exactly proportional. The friction factor changes with via the Re-number. However, from practical experience neglecting this inaccuracy is justified and therefore the following proportional relation is used:

Theoretically the value of the exponent "N" and the factor "c" can be calculated from two standpipe pressure readings knowing that: observed at two different pump rates


the value of "N" can be solved by the ratio:

Therefore it follows that


(The value of N is often quoted as 1.82 in literature. Where insufficient information is available to make the calculation, 1.82 can be assumed to make an estimate of the pressures which can be expected.

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As soon as operations allow pressure readings should be taken and N calculated.) c can be determined from the equation

As small inaccuracies in pressure readings and pump stroke counts can result in considerable errors in "N" and "c" it is recommended to monitor pressures at more than just two pump rates. These readings should cover the expected range of both drilling and well killing pump rates.

Operating limits
Decisions regarding hydraulic parameters may be necessary before the hole is drilled. In this Topic attention is focused upon the annular velocity, pump pressure and flow rate. Knowledge of their allowable maximum and minimum values is important in the process of establishing the optimum values of the variables under your control at the surface. When considering the operating limits there are three important processes.

DECIDING the limits for the annular velocity, pressure and flow rate CONSIDERING special hydraulic conditions. Is the hole abnormally deep? Is the hole to be of unusual diameter? Will there be high temperatures? Will it be a deviated hole? What is the hydraulic capacity of the rig? REVIEWING the hydraulic parameters when there are hole problems.


As a first step the most suitable annular velocity should be decided. The purpose here is not to show how a precise value is selected but to indicate the factors that affect the minimum and maximum values of the annular velocity that can be selected.


It is normal practice to operate circulating pumps at a constant pressure. The pressure used is either the rated delivery pressure (inclusive of a safety factor) for the size of liner installed or a rate selected to minimize pump maintenance if this still allows good hole cleaning and adequate power at the bit.

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MAINTENANCE COSTS These increase sharply above a critical operating pressure. If used above this pressure, wear on components suddenly increases out of proportion to the increased output. Additionally maintenance has to be carried out more frequently increasing rig downtime. Table 3 lists the maximum normal running pressures for most duplex and triplex pumps (however the manufacturer's instructions are the determining factor). These values only apply to rig surface equipment that is suitably rated.
Table 3 Maximum normal running pump pressures

LINER SIZE This should be selected to minimize the need for changing liners through the project. They should also be such that they provide both an adequate flow rate for the surface hole and the pressure needed at depth. MINIMUM VALUE OF ANNULAR VELOCITY The minimum value of the annular velocity is governed by the ability of the drilling fluid to clean the well. If the well is not efficiently cleaned there will be cuttings build up leading to increased hydrostatic and ECD pressures which might cause drilling fluid losses to the formation. In inclined holes, a significant amount of the cuttings might drop to the lower side of the hole, and form a cuttings bed. When the annular velocity is not sufficient, the cuttings bed will grow, thereby increasing the risk of differential and mechanical sticking of the drill string. Vertical wells In vertical sections (in practice those with an inclination of up to 25), the cuttings suspension will be homogeneously distributed over the entire cross section of the annulus. Given that cuttings settle relative to the upward flowing mud, then as long as the fluid velocity is greater than the cuttings settling velocity, transport will occur. Figure 2.2.3 shows how the cutting velocity varies with annular velocity for different drilling fluid thicknesses. Four coloured areas are shown corresponding to different amounts of cuttings being removed.

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Figure.3 : The relationship between annular velocity, drilling fluid and cuttings velocity.

Thick drilling fluid will lift more than 75% of the cuttings at all speeds; thin drilling fluid will carry more than 50% if the annular velocity exceeds about 0.2 m/s (30 ft/min). Water, even at annular velocities of 0.3 m/s (66 ft/min) will carry away only slightly more than 25%. In other words drilling fluid thickness (viscosity and gel strength) is an important factor. A practical method of estimating the minimum annular velocity to ensure hole cleaning is based on Fullerton's approximation, which assumes that the diameter of the cuttings is 635 mm (025"), that their density is 2,510 kg/m3 (157 lbs/ft3) and that the annular fluid velocity should be not less than twice the cuttings settling velocity.

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The approximation is:

Note: drill string rotation does not benefit transport much in these well sections because it does not effect the distribution of cuttings over the wellbore cross section. Penetration rate and hole size must also be considered. In large diameter shallow holes it may not be possible to achieve the necessary minimum velocity and special precautions may be necessary to ensure that the hole is properly cleaned. At such depths penetration rates are likely to be high anyway so there may be less emphasis on the need for optimum hydraulics.

Fig. 4

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Inclined sections
In intermediate inclined sections ( 25 to 50), cuttings tend to settle towards the low side of the wellbore and form an unstable deposit. As the deposit grows, it will avalanche downhole with increasing velocity. When the velocity becomes too high, the deposit breaks up and re-suspends in the flow (see also Figure.4). The most important factors to enhance transport are:

Annular drilling fluid velocity increase (see also under vertical sections) Drill string rotation &endash; faster is better. Drill string rotation results in a more homogeneous distribution of cuttings over the cross section of the annulus and consequently enhances transport. Viscosity increase. A viscosity increase will usually enhance transport in intermediate inclined sections but the effect is less pronounced compared to the effect in vertical sections.

Highly inclined sections In highly inclined sections ( 50 to horizontal), a large part of the cuttings will not stay in suspension, but will settle towards the lower side of the hole to form a stationary cuttings bed. As the height of the deposit grows, the area of the annulus open to flow decreases leading to an increase in the average drilling fluid velocity above the bed. At a certain bed height, the velocity of the fluid above the bed (and the associated stresses on the bed surface) will exceed a critical value above which cuttings are continuously picked up / eroded and transported upwards. Under these conditions, a "steady state" constant bed height will develop (See also Figure.4). Operational problems can be minimized by setting the operational variables in such a way that cuttings accumulation is minimized. The following parameters have the most impact on cuttings transport in highly inclined well sections:

Annular drilling fluid velocity (flowrate): higher is better. Drill string rotational velocity: faster is better (see also above). The impact of rotation on cuttings accumulation can be very large. In troublesome wells avoid sliding/orient mode drilling. Consider the use of rotary steerable systems. Drilling fluid viscosity. It is difficult to give a general guideline about the level of drilling fluid viscosity. In horizontal well sections, transport is obtained by erosion of the bed surface. Erosion can be optimized by a high shear stress at the surface of the deposit (which requires a high viscosity) or by increasing turbulence intensity (turbulence is intensified by a viscosity decrease). Furthermore, the resistance to erosion of a cuttings bed depends on the consistency of the (stationary) drilling fluid in the pores between the cuttings. A high gel strength or yield point tends to 'glue' the particles together. High yield points should therefore be avoided.

Eng. Fayez Amin Makkar


These conflicting mechanisms usually mean that "medium" viscosity fluids should preferably be avoided. It is usually better to choose either a high or a low viscosity drilling fluid. Which one is preferable depends on the specific case and can only be evaluated using cuttings transport software. Note: The optimum viscosity to clean horizontal sections is often not the optimum viscosity to clean the vertical or intermediate inclined sections. The viscosity choice will therefore always be a compromise. MAXIMUM VALUE OF ANNULAR VELOCITY Erosion of the formation face will occur over time as the drilling fluid flows over it. However, the rate of erosion is only slightly influenced by the actual annular velocity. Far more important is the flow type. Turbulent flow is more erosive than laminar flow, hence the need to calculate the Reynolds Number. Also important is the formation type: the softer the formation the faster it erodes. Once the range of acceptable values for the annular velocity is known it is then possible to consider the selection of pump pressure and flow rate.

Optimum bit hydraulics

This Topic discusses optimized drilling performance in general, and two possible approaches to obtaining optimum conditions at the bit. These are to maximize the hydraulic power at the bit, or to maximize the jet impact force.


Opinions vary both as to what the optimum conditions are, and how they can be achieved. There is agreement that the aim is to achieve the best penetration rate. All efforts should be made to minimize costs per foot. The first factor affecting the costs is the rate of penetration. It is a well known fact that if bottom hole and/or bit cleaning is inadequate, drilling progress will be jeopardized. Optimum drilling performance therefore is closely related to optimum use of the available hydraulic power within the constraints posed by the drilling fluids and the hole condition. Optimization can be effected only when, during drilling, the hydraulic force and energy at the bit is, in the first place, sufficient to remove cuttings effectively as they are produced by the bit. In roller cone bits, the bit teeth crush the rock as shown in Figure 2.2.5, and the hydraulic forces have to remove these cuttings from the hole bottom. Significant fluid forces are required since the cuttings are pushed against the hole bottom due to the difference between the borehole pressure BHP and the pore pressure Po in the formation (BHP > Po). This effect is called the chip hold-down effect. It causes regrinding of the cuttings, which greatly reduces the rate of penetration.

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Figure.5 : Cutting action of a roller cone bit

Soft formation roller cone bits have therefore been designed not only to crush the rock, but also to remove the cuttings from the hole bottom by a dragging action of the teeth (this would cause mechanical failure of the bit teeth or inserts in harder formations). In these formations, part of the hydraulic power should therefore be used to remove the rock from between the teeth and to prevent clogging of the bit. Penetration rate can be reduced significantly if the layer of rock cuttings on the cones of the bit is so thick that it can hamper the penetration of the teeth into the formation. This process is called bit balling, and can be so severe in some soft and sticky formations that the rate of penetration reduces to almost zero after only a few metres of drilling. In large size bits, bit balling can often be prevented by adding a nozzle into the centre of the bit. PDC bits have a very different cutting action than roller cone bits, as shown in Figure.6. The PDC cutters drag through the rock continuously, the cuttings are therefore immediately removed from the hole bottom. Hydraulic forces now have to break the cuttings, and remove them from the bit face.

Figure 2.2.6 : Cutting action of a PDC bit

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If this is not done properly, the cuttings will be pushed upwards, towards the bit face, where they might stick to the bit surface. This will also ball up (part of) the bit, which can again reduce the rate of penetration significantly. In drag bits, the available hydraulic power should therefore be used to clean the cutters and the bit surface. PDC bit designs for soft and sticky formations should achieve high fluid velocities along all cutters, and along the surface of the bit. Bits with large waterways have proven to significantly reduce the risk of bit balling. The remainder of this paragraph will be limited to optimization of bottom hole cleaning for roller cone bits. In general, two theories on the subject of bottom hole cleaning are supported:

Bit hydraulic power: It is assumed that chip removal depends on the fluid energy dissipated at the bit. Therefore the hydraulic power at the bit should be maximized. Jetting (impact) force: It is assumed that the bottom is cleaned best when the drilling fluid hits the rock at maximum force. Therefore the hydraulic impact force should be maximized.

The magnitudes of both impact force and hydraulic power expended at the bit vary according to the following factors:

Diameter and number of nozzles fitted at the bit. Circulating rate through the bit. The drilling fluid density or drilling fluid gradient.

There are a number of limitations or constraints for any given circulating system which directly affect optimization. These constraints are:

Upper and lower limits set on annular velocity. Maximum pumping speed and therefore circulating rate with the pumps available on the rig. Maximum practical operating pressure, often dictated by the pump liner size fitted or the pressure rating of the surface equipment.

The pump output and standpipe pressure can be determined accurately for any given drilling situation. The standpipe pressure, as has been explained, is considered to be the sum of all the friction losses in and around the drill string. The pressure drop at the bit is included in the total sum. To simplify a direct approach to optimizing drilling hydraulics the pressure drop at the bit is separated as the only useful pressure drop. System or parasitic pressure losses in and around the drill string are, however, unavoidable. The only direct control over the hydraulic energy expended at the bit is by keeping the system losses to a minimum or in proper relation to the useful pressure drop across the bit. This can be achieved by:

Proper selection of nozzle sizes.

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Operating at optimum flow rate but within rated pressure.

In the latter case it should be remembered that operating rig pumps at high pressure ratings will be uneconomical with regard to spare parts and fuel consumption.

The two approaches will now be considered in more detail. In the first approach the assumption is that the best penetration rate is achieved if cuttings are removed efficiently from below the bit. It is then assumed that the most efficient cutting removal is achieved by maximizing the hydraulic power available at the bit. In the second approach the assumption is that the formation is best removed by maximizing the jet impact force. These two approaches are summarized in the following Table.

The most popular approach is that of maximizing the hydraulic power developed at the bit although with some formations, notably soft formations, maximizing hydraulic impact force is preferred. There are other approaches, including maximizing the jet velocity and optimizing the fluid energy with respect to the bit diameter. These approaches are seldom used, hence they are not considered here. Each of the two main approaches, the maximum hydraulic power at the bit and the maximum jet impact force, will be examined in turn. The procedure for optimizing drilling hydraulics using the two approaches is summarized in the flowchart below.

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An expression was found for the hydraulic power at the bit in terms of the pump or circulating pressure, the pressure losses in the system, and the flow rate

Thus, in order to maximize the hydraulic power at the bit we have to ensure that this expression has a maximum value. It was said that it is normal practice to operate circulating pumps at a constant pressure. So in the expression for the hydraulic power at the bit Pt will be effectively constant for a particular well. Thus the only variable on the right hand side of the expression is Q, the flow rate. Therefore the maximum hydraulic power will be developed at the bit when its derivative with respect to the flow rate is zero. i.e. Maximum hydraulic power at the bit is when

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Differentiating, Thus maximum hydraulic power at the bit is when that is, when But since the hydraulic power at the bit will be a maximum when: To obtain a similar relationship between the power at the bit and the system losses, Ps from the equation can be substituted in the above to give:


When maximizing the hydraulic power at the bit the method was as follows.

Obtain an expression for the hydraulic power at the bit in terms of one variable, Q (This was possible because the pump operating pressure was taken to be fixed). Differentiate with respect to Q and equate the derivative to zero Obtain an expression for Ps in terms of Pt and N Obtain an expression for Pb in terms of Pt and N

By a worked example it was then possible to show that given values of Pt , and calculated Q and N led to a value of Pb. The method is essentially the same for maximizing the jet impact force. Thus the first step is to obtain an expression for the jet impact force in terms of the flow rate, Q . In the jet impact force is given by

If we consider that for a given situation the drilling fluid gradient, , is constant then the expression for the jet impact force can be written as:

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where k is a constant

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It is now possible to obtain an expression for Pb in terms of Pt and N when the jet impact force is maximized.

Reduced drilling hydraulics

So far we have been concerned to achieve optimum hydraulic conditions in order to drill at the best possible speed, without reservations. However, sometimes there are factors present that prevent the use of optimum hydraulics. In such cases 'reduced' drilling hydraulics are used even though it is known that maximum penetration rates will not be achieved. The occasions when reduced drilling hydraulics are used include the following.

when drilling poorly consolidated formations when losses are anticipated when large nozzles are being used or nozzles have been omitted to allow the use of lost circulation material when using hydraulic motors when using special deviation tools e.g. MWD

The major concern is with poorly consolidated formations. In these formations erosion by the drilling fluid can occur and the hole may be enlarged greatly above its nominal size. Once a washout is started, conditions can deteriorate rapidly and large quantities of formation slough into the hole. Eventually the hole can collapse and bridging off results. Large washouts also contribute to mechanical problems with the drill string (vibration). They interfere with logging and with running casing. Large irregular holes make successful primary cementation difficult if not impossible and therefore reduce isolation between potentially productive reservoirs. An inadequate cement column in these situations often later proves very costly since lost production frequently occurs as a result of remedial action. It is better to drill an in-gauge hole using reduced drilling hydraulics than a hole that was drilled in record time but which needs some remedial repair work later in its life time. Hole enlargement in these cases can be avoided by.

ensuring that annular flow conditions are kept in the laminar range limiting the annular velocity to a specified value limiting jet velocity to a locally determined empirical value

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Appendix 1

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Appendix 2
SOLUTION IN FIELD UNITS For drilling fluid density of 0676 psi/ft and drilling a 121/4" hole the minimum flow rate is 485 gpm

for optimum circulation will be (144 + 1) x 1,274 = 3,109 psi. Maximum pump pressure is given as 3250 psi. Therefore the Maximum hydraulic power at the bit method can be used.

3 times 13 nozzles gives the closest match with 03889 inch2. The actual pressure drop over the nozzles will be

Bit hydraulic horsepower:

Total hydraulic horsepower:


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Appendix 3 Determining "c" and "N"

Before starting a trip out at 3,150 m (9,460 ft) to change the bit, 311 mm with 3 x 111 mm (121/4" with 3 x 14/32") nozzles the following readings were taken: Pump rate Circulating pressure spm kPa psi 160 24,000 3,480 135 18,200 2,640 110 12,480 1,810 88 8,480 1,230 Drill string in use:127 mm (5"), 290 kg/m (195 lb/ft), G105, drill pipe, and 192 m of 210 mm x 762 mm (630' x 81/4" x 3") drill collars. The 3397 mm (133/8"), 795 daN/m (545 lb/ft), N80, casing is set at 1,524 m (5,000'). Mud pumps: two single-acting triplex pumps, with 6" liner, 10" stroke, 975 % volumetric efficiency. The drilling fluid gradient in use is: 1529 kPa/m (0676 psi/ft), with and of 11 lbs/100 ft2. of 16 cP

Calculate for each circulation rate (Q).

Calculate N and c for a minimum of three combinations and obtain the average.

SOLUTIONS The solutions are given in SI units and in Field units

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Appendix 4 Determination of other parameters

Use the data of Appendix 1.


For max. hydraulic horsepower at the bit, calculate and , assuming the maximum pump pressure to be used is 22,500 kPa (3,250 psi). Determine the size of the nozzles for the next bit, to obtain optimum hydraulics. Calculate bit and total hydraulic horsepower for the next bit run. Calculate annular velocity around drill pipe 127 mm (5"). Calculate nozzle velocity.

FOR MAXIMUM HYDRAULIC POWER AT THE BIT: We have seen that the optimum flow rate is determined by the carrying capacity of the drilling fluid and the degree of erosion the flow will give in the open hole. We have established that the optimum flow rate is the minimum rate required to clean the hole. Fullerton's approximation will give us the minimum annular velocity required to clean the hole. Knowing this velocity, drill pipe size, and hole size, the optimum flow rate can then be obtained.

The solutions are given in SI units and in Field units

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Appendix 5

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