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Torque and Drag in Directional

Wells-Prediction and Measurement

C.A. Johancsik, * SPE, Exxon Production Research CO.
D.B. Friesen, ** Exxon Production Research Co.
Rapier Dawson, SPE, Exxon Production Research Co.
A computer model has been developed to predict drill-
string torque and drag, and a versatile rotary torque
meter has been built to use in calibrating the model. The
principle of the predictive model is that torque and drag
forces in a directional wellbore are primarily caused by
sliding friction. Sliding friction force is calculated by
multiplying the sidewall contact force by a friction
Realistic sliding friction coefficients were determined
from field data by using the same predictive computer
model. These field data were gathered using novel
torque and hookload indicators that are accurate, por-
table, and easily installed. Good agreement between fric-
tion coefficients calculated from different loads in the
same well, as well as agreement between those for dif-
ferent wells, indicates the validity of the predictive
drillstring model. Sliding friction is concluded to be the
major source of torque and drag in directional wells. For
waterbase mud systems, typical friction coefficients
range from 0.25 to 0.40.
Drillstring drag is the incremental force required to move
the pipe up or down in the hole; torque is the moment re-
quired to rotate the pipe. Drag forces usually are given
relative to the string weight measured with the string
rotating but not reciprocating. Measured from the
rotating string weight, the pickup drag usually is slightly
greater than the slack-off drag. The magnitudes of torque
and drag are related in any particular well; high drag
forces and excessive torque loads normally occur
There are a number of causes for excessive torque and
drag, including tight hole conditions, sloughing hole,
keyseats, differential sticking, cuttings buildup caused
by poor hole cleaning, and sliding wellbore friction.
With the exception of sliding friction, these causes are
associated with problem conditions in the wellbore. Con-
versely, in wells with good hole conditions, the primary
source of torque and drag is sliding friction.
Torque and drag from any source tend to be more
troublesome in directional holes. In very deep, highly
deviated wells overcoming torque and drag can be
critical to the successful well completion.
The capability to predict frictional loads on drill pipe
Now with Esso Resources Canada Ltd.
"Now with Esso E&P Norway Inc.
Copyright 1984 Society of Petroleum Engineers of AIME
JUNE 1984
has two main benefits. First, deep, highly deviated wells
can be planned to minimize torque and drag. Use of
torque and drag as criteria to select the most appropriate
well path will help ensure successful drilling operations
to total depth. Second, more complete knowledge of
drillstring loading allows use of improved drill string
design techniques. Drillstring components can be chosen
by using a systematic approach that considers the extra
forces involved.
Torque and Drag Prediction Technique
Mathematical Model. A lumped-parameter model pro-
vides the basis for the prediction of torque and drag.
Both torque and drag are assumed to be caused entirely
by sliding friction forces that result from contact of the
drill string with the wellbore. Other less important
sources of torque and drag are not considered in this
Two factors affect sliding wellbore friction-the nor-
mal contact force and the coefficient of friction between
the contact surfaces. The product of these two factors
represents the magnitude of the sliding friction force.
The normal contact force between the pipe and hole
wall depends on several factors. This paper considers on-
ly two contributions to normal force-the effects of
gravity on the pipe and the effects of tension acting
through curvatures in the wellbore. These forces, and
their contributions to normal force, are shown
schematically in Fig. 1. Other factors such as pipe bend-
ing may contribute small normal forces but are not con-
sidered here.
The sliding friction coefficient is the ratio of the fric-
tion force to the normal contact force. In reality, this
value depends on specific contacting materials and on
the degree of lubrication at various places in the
wellbore. However, in this paper all these effects are ex-
pressed as a single characteristic friction coefficient
representing average conditions in a particular wellbore.
Determination of this lumped-parameter coefficient is
fundamental to practical application of this model.
Computer Calculations. The following paragraphs
describe the calculation of torque and/or drag forces
when the sliding friction coefficient is given. This
calculation is made directly. The reverse calculation,
where a friction coefficient is determined from given
torque or drag data, is done by assuming a friction coef-
ficient and iterating to match the data. In either case,
drill string description and wellbore survey data are
Fig.1-Force balance on drillstring element illustrating
sources of normal force.
Once the drillstring description, sUlVey data, and fric-
tion coefficient are specified, the calculation starts at the
bottom of the drill string and proceeds stepwise upward.
Each short element of the drill string contributes small in-
crements of axial and torsional load to running totals in
the control program. Calculation of these load in-
crements is the heart of the whole calculation.
Calculation of the normal force is the first step in
calculating the load increments for an element of the
drillstring. Fig. 2 shows the forces acting on a short,
slightly cUlVed element. The net normal force, F n' is the
negative vector sum of normal components from the
weight, W, and from the two tension forces, F
. Even though the axis of the element is as-
sumed to be an arc of a circle, this circle is not usually
vertical and therefore the net normal force is not usually
in the vertical plane. Fortunately, the friction calculation
requires only the magnitude of the normal force, not its
direction. The magnitude of the normal force is
The equation for normal force leads immediately to
equations for the tension increment:
f1Fr=Wcos8 pP
, ....................... (2)
and for the torsion increment:
r. . ............................. (3)
In Eq. 2, the plus or minus sign allows for pipe motion
either up or down; the plus sign is for upward motion
where friction adds to the axial load and the minus sign is
for downward motion where the opposite is the case. In
presenting data, this sign often is carried with the friction
coefficient, so that a negative value identifies coeffi-
cients calculated from slack-off drag measurements.
Eqs. 1 through 3 would be exact if applied to in-
finitesimal elements of the drillstring. Use of longer
Fig. 2-Forces acting on drillstring element during pickup.
elements introduces small errors caused by neglecting
second-order terms. For example, Eq. 1 uses the tension
at the bottom of the element and assumes that tension
does not change over the length of the element. First-
order approximations are appropriate here because the
underlying problem is complex. Predicting drill string
drag is a three-dimensional belt friction problem with
gravity; no closed-form solution for this problem exists
except for special cases where f1a=O or W=O.
The errors introduced by Eqs. 1 through 3 are small if
the CUlVature of each drillstring element is small. In test
calculations with typical sUlVey data, changing from I-
to 100-ft [0.3- to 30.S-m] elements produced only about
a 1 % change in the overall results. All the calculations
discussed in this paper were made with the drill string
divided into roughly 100-ft [30.S-m] elements.
The best way to choose drill string element lengths is to
use the basic sUlVey data stations to establish the calcula-
tion intelVals. When intermediate calculation points are
desired-for example, at a change in drill string proper-
ties-a linear interpolation can be made. With this ap-
proach, sUlVey inaccuracy probably contributes more er-
ror to the results than approximations in the computer
Calibration of the Model. Before being used for torque
and drag prediction, the computer model must be
calibrated. Specifically, calibration involves a realistic
determination of typical average sliding wellbore friction
Realistic friction coefficients can be calculated from
actual drilling situations by using the computer program
with drillstring surface loads as input data to calculate
the friction coefficient for a particular well geometry and
drillstring. Input data include pickup weight, slack-off
weight, and torque readings, each of which can produce
an independent friction coefficient. Agreement among
the three coefficients from one well not only lends
credibility to the model but also provides confidence in
the friction coefficient for its use in prediction of torque
and drag when subsequent wells are planned.
It is believed that friction coefficients will depend
largely on mud type and whether a hole is predominantly
cased or open. Thus, friction coefficients from a number
of similar wells must be compared to verify useful values
for prediction use. This requires collection of a signifi-
cant amount of field data for statistical comparison.
Field readings, to be reduced to wellbore friction coef-
ficients, must be accurate and in useful units. This in-
cludes both torque and drag data; torque must be in foot-
pounds force or Newton-meters rather than in amperes or
percent. Also, the friction calculation is enhanced by the
use of accurate survey data. The directional well descrip-
tion and the drillstring configuration are obtained easi-
ly-accurate surface loads are not.
Field Measurement of Torque and Drag
The ability to obtain accurate field readings of drill string
loads depends largely on the accuracy of the measure-
ment equipment. Most rigs are well equipped to measure
weights; few are capable of accurately measuring
rotating torque.
To ensure high-quality field data, two special tools
have been designed and built, one for tension and one for
torque. Both devices can be used for direct measurement
or as calibration instruments to verify rig torque and drag
readings accurately.
Drag Measurements. Almost all drilling rigs have a
weight indicator to provide the operator with string
weight, weight on bit (WOB) , and drag and overpull
forces. The weight indicator normally is both accurate
and repeatable. However, the force is sensed at the drill-
ing line and includes the weight of the traveling equip-
ment and the kelly. To analyze drag forces, the tensions
at the top of the drill pipe , below the kelly, are required.
Thus, it is necessary to subtract the weight of the travel-
ing equipment when string weights are recorded.
There are several potential sources of error in rig drag
readings. Zero offset in the instrument and inaccurate
knowledge of total traveling equipment weights are two
sources. The best way to eliminate these errors is to
calibrate the weight indicator with a load cell placed
below the kelly and traveling equipment.
Weight Indicator Calibration Sub. A short drill collar
sub was machined, instrumented, and calibrated to pro-
vide accurate tensile readings over the range of to
500,000 lbf [0 to 2 224 kN] with less than 0.5% error.
The sub is 30 in. [76.2 cm] long with NC50 connections.
A machined-down area in the center is instrumented with
strain gauges in a conventional four-arm, 350-ohm
Wheatstone bridge arrangement. A protector cover, at-
tached only above the gauge area, protects the gauges
and houses a plug-in-type connector. Strain readings are
monitored using conventional strain readout equipment.
The sub was calibrated on an accurate tensile testing
machine to 500,000 lbf [2 224 kN]. The weight in-
dicator calibration sub is shown in Fig. 3.
Use of this device involves making up the sub between
the kelly saver sub and the top joint of drillpipe. With
slips set on the drillpipe, the blocks are hoisted in small
weight increments up to full string weight. Readings
from both the weight indicator and the calibration sub are
recorded and plotted to produce a calibration curve. This
JUNE 1984
Fig. 3-Weight indicator calibration sub.
calibration relates weight indicator readings to actual
tension at the top of the drillstring.
Drillstring pickup drag readings are taken by hoisting
the string slowly and recording the weight indicator
reading. Similarly, slack-off drag is recorded while run-
ning in slowly, and the rotating string weight is recorded
while rotating without reciprocating the pipe. These
readings then are adjusted according to the calibration
curve to give actual loads at the top of the drill string for
use in the computer program.
Torque Measurements. Measurement of rotary drilling
torque presents a problem, primarily because it is dif-
ficult to sense and communicate torque from a rotating
piece of machinery. Most drilling rigs are equipped with
some simple method for indicating torque. However,
few of these techniques are accurate, and most devices
are not calibrated to provide readings in useful torque
A few drilling rigs in the world are equipped with
calibrated rotary torque indicators. Even when they work
well, these devices lack portability. A portable torque
meter can be taken from rig to rig as needed and can be
easily returned to a shop for recalibration or repair. 1
Portable Torque Meter Design. To collect torque data
from several rigs, it was necessary to design a portable
device to measure torque in absolute torque units with a
range up to 50,000 ft-Ibf [67 kN m]. An important con-
sideration was the ease of installation without customiz-
ing conventional rig components. Also, the device had to
withstand the rugged working environment.
The concept of a portable torque-measuring device in-
volved choice of a placement location in the torque path,
a method for sensing torque, and a technique to com-
municate readings in a suitable readout display. These
problems were solved in the following way. The torque
meter is designed to fit in the torque path between the
rotary table and the kelly bushing (KB). Torque is con-
tinuously sensed internally with strain gauges, and the
data are communicated by a frequency-modulated (FM)
datal ink to a receiver and display unit.
The prototype torque meter is designed to adapt to a
27V2-in. [70-cm] pin drive system. Its configuration is
Fig. 4-Rotary torque meter.
that of a 4 V2-in. [11.4-cm] thick, ring-shaped spacer
plate located between the rotary table and the drive
bushing. Pins on the torque meter fit into the rotary
table, and holes in the torque meter accept the drive pins
from the KB. Fig. 4 shows the prototype torque meter.
The body of the torque meter was machined from
steel. Kelly drive pins were attached using the same pro-
cedure used in the manufacture of drive bushings. Holes
to accept Kelly drive pins were bored and fitted with
wear bushings.
The torque path within the torque meter is from the
four drive pins to the four wear bushings. Within the
steel body, compressive and tensile forces are generated
in front of and behind the drive pins, respectively. Strain
in the steel resulting from these forces can be measured
with strain gauges.
To increase strain to measurable levels, eight load-
bearing webs were created within the solid steel struc-
ture. These eight webs are oriented between drive pins
and wear bushings. Two strain gauges are used on each
web, top and bottom, and are connected in parallel. Each
parallel pair is wired in series with the pair situated
diametrically opposite to create one ann of the 350-ohm
Wheatstone bridge. This strain-gauge bridge design is a
conventional four-ann circuit with alternating tension
and compression anns.
The net effect of this bridge arrangement is that web
tension and compression are additive. When torque is
applied, a signal is generated proportional to the torque.
Because of the symmetrical arrangement of tension and
compression gauges, the bridge negates side loads and
reacts only to torque.
Telemetering the data is accomplished using an FM
radio transmitter in conjunction with a custom-built radio
frequency amplifier. Change in the strain signal is con-
verted to a change in a subcarrier frequency. This infor-
mation is transmitted through three radial antennas that
are imbedded in fiberglass around the circumference of
the torque meter. Transmission (carrier) frequency on
the prototype torque meter is approximately 100 MHz
[1 X 10
A dipole receiving antenna and an FM radio receiver
receive and demodulate the signal. Output from the
receiver is a direct current voltage that is proportional to
torque. A strip-chart recorder provides a pennanent trace
of the torque signal. The torque transducer is protected
by a %-in. [1.9-cm] thick steel plate on top and a S-in.
[0.9-cm] thick steel plate on bottom. Removable cover
plates provide access to the battery power supply and to
the transmitter package where the on/off switch is
Calibration of the instrument is accomplished using a
special calibration frame capable of applying 50,000 ft-
lbf [67 kN m] of known torque. Hydraulic cylinders are
used with load cells to apply and measure the force at a
known moment-ann length. This device allows easy
recalibration to verify continued accuracy of torque
Field Use of Torque Meter. The torque meter is in-
stalled between the table and drive bushing during a con-
nection. The slips will fit through the center ofthe torque
meter, and subsequent connections can be made with the
torque meter in place. Drilling, working pipe, washing
the floor, etc., can all be done virtually ignoring the
presence of the torque meter.
Static and dynamic torque data are recorded on a strip-
chart recorder with a pennanent tract for a given period
of drilling activity. As expected, the typical torque trace
is not constant during drilling but rather includes oscilla-
tions at various frequencies. In this paper, these oscilla-
tions are ignored; all torque readings are average values.
Torque readings are taken at a variety of drilling con-
ditions with various rotary speeds and WOB's. Changes
in rotary speed have only a minor effect on mean torque
values. WOB, particularly in deeper, deviated wells,
also tends to have a small effect on torque levels. This
may result from the counteracting effects of increased bit
torque and decreased string weight (and thus decreased
friction) when WOB is increased.
Friction Coefficients From Field Data
Three examples are given that show the calculated fric-
tion coefficients from accurate surface torque and drag
data. Table 1 shows tabulated infonnation about each
well, including details of the drill string and the direc-
tional profile, as well as measured loads and calculated
friction coefficients.
Example 1. Well No.1 was drilling at 9,790 ft [2984 m]
when torque and drag readings were taken. The well
configuration was a 32
[0.56-rad] average angle build-
and-hold profile with the kickoff point at 1,000 ft [305
m). A seawater-base drilling fluid of 11.6 Ibm/gal [1389
kg/m3] was used. Seventy percent of the hole was cased.
Pickup drag was 49,000 lbf [218 kN] over the rotating
string weight of 153,000 lbf [681 kN]. Slack-off drag
was 31,000 lbf [138 kN] less than string weight. Using
the computer program, these loads reduced to a friction
coefficient of 0.28 for pickup and -0.27 for slack-off.
Torque readings both on and off bottom oscillated in-
tennittently with a mean value of 15,900 ft-Ibf [21
KN . m]. The detennination of a friction coefficient from
this torque is complicated by the presence of drillpipe
rubbers in the cased section of the hole. The
characteristic radius of the drill pipe was increased in
consideration of these rubbers to a value slightly greater
than that for 4 V2-in. [11.4-cm] drillpipe with 6S-in.
[16.2-cm] tool joints. The resulting sliding friction coef-
ficient was calculated to be 0.27.
Example 2. Well No.2 was a deep, relatively low-angle
well. When readings were taken, an 8V2-in. [21.6-cm]
hole was being drilled at 15,573 ft [4746 m], below
12,900 ft [3932 m] of9Ys-in. [24.4-cm] casing. The hole
was kicked off at 3,000 ft [914 m] to a build-and-hold
well profile with 24
[0.42-rad] average angle. This par-
ticular hole was relatively free of doglegs.
Well No.1
Depth, ft 9,790
Percent of hole cased, % 70
Drillstring 124 ft of 73f4-in. DC
990 ft of 41J2-in. HW
8,676 ft of 41f2-in. DP
Well profile build and hold
Kick-off paint, ft 1,000
Average angle, degrees 32
Maximum angle, degrees 37
Mud weight, Ibm/gal 11.6
Rotating string weight, Ibf 153,000
Pickup weight, Ibf 202,000
Slack-off weight, Ibf 122,000
Rotating torque, ft-Ibf 15,900
Pickup 0.28
Slack-off -0.27
Rotating 0.27
The pickup weight of 377,000 lbf [1676 kN] was
reduced to a friction coefficient of 0.31 using the com-
puter program. A slack-off string tension of 232,000 lbf
[1031 kN] produced a coefficient of -0.3L
Torque readings, both on and off bottom, were ap-
proximately 18,300 ft-Ibf [25 kN m]. Torque was fairly
constant with only small oscillations synchronous with
rotary speed. Drillpipe rubbers were used in the cased
portion of the hole with greater frequency of use near
surface. If the extra effective radius was considered, the
torque reading produced a sliding friction coefficient of
Example 3. Well No.3 was a case in which high torque
and drag were experienced during and after drilling out a
9Ys-in. [24.4-cm] casing shoe at 12,100 ft [3688 m]. The



Fig. 5-Drillstring tension vs. depth from Well No.3.
JUNE 1984
Well No.2 Well No.3
15,573 12,200
83 99
458 ft of 6
i4-in. DC 372 ft of 61f2-in. DC
15,115 ft of 5-in. DP 840 ft of 5-in. HW
10,988 ft of 5-in. DP
build and hold build and hold
3,000 2,400
24 44
27 49
12.5 9.8
290,000 218,000
377,000 376,000
232,000 141,000
18,300 24,500
0.31 0.40
-0.31 -0.40
0.29 0.39
build-and-hold well profile was kicked off at 2,400 ft
[731.5 m] to an average angle of 44 [0.77 rad]. The
well had several severe doglegs of 4 and 6 per 100 ft
and 0.1 rad per 30.5 m] in the lower portion of the
build zone.
Initially an attempt had been made to drill out the shoe
while drillpipe rubbers were used to protect the casing
and drillstring. However, the torque required to rotate
was found to be more than 35,000 ft-Ibf [47 kNm].
This was beyond the capability of the rig rotary drive.
After the pipe was tripped to remove rubbers, the
string could be rotated but only when surface tension was
slacked off. Without WOB, rotation was impossible.
With approximately 38,000 lbf [169 kN] on the bit, the
string could be rotated with a mean rotating torque of
24,500 ft-Ibf [33 kN m]. With an estimated 2,000 ft-Ibf


'---------5000---10..-'..000---15,-00-0 --2-0.o-oo--2-5,00-0--30--',lIXl
Fig. 6-Drillstring torque vs. depth from Well No.3.
[2.7 kN m] bit torque, the remaining 22,500 ft-lbf [30
kN'm] resulting from friction was reduced to a sliding
friction coefficient of 0.39.
Without drillpipe rubbers, the radius of the drillpipe
for use in the program was determined to be two-thirds
of the distance between pipe body radius and tool joint
radius. This is a reasonable assumption when based on
the hypothesis that two-thirds of the side load is sup-
ported at the tool joints.
Like torque values, the pickup and slack-off drag
values were very large. Pickup weight was 376,000 Ibf
[1672 kN], which was 158,000 Ibf [702 kN] more than
the calculated rotating string weight of 218,000 ft-lbf
[295 kN m]. Rotating string weight was not recorded as
it was impossible to rotate without WOB. The pickup
weight value produced a friction coefficient of 0.40.
Slack-off weight of 141,000 Ibf [620 kN] produced to a
coefficient of -0.40.
Torque and Drag Profiles. Once a friction coefficient
has been determined, it is interesting to use the computer
model to calculate the load profiles along the length of
the drillstring. Fig. 5 illustrates tension in the drill string
as a function of depth for Well No.3. Three cases shown
are pickup, rotating off bottom, and slack-off of the
The tension profile while rotating off bottom (no axial
movement) is a smooth curve. The slope of this curve at
any point represents the product of the buoyed drill string
weight per foot and the cosine of the hole inclination
Axial movement of the pipe produces marked changes
in drill string tension. The most notable changes occur in
the build zone between 2,400 and 4,800 ft [731.5 and
1463 m] where noticeable doglegs are present. In par-
ticular, the lower part of the build zone had extreme
doglegs of up to 61100 ft [0.1 rad/30.5 m]. Rapid
changes in tension occur in this area in both pickup and
slack-off tension.
Because friction acts in an upward direction during
slack-off, the slope of this curve illustrates the relative
effects of friction and weight on the string tension. Be-
tween 4,000 and 4,600 ft [1219 and 1403 m], because of
the extreme doglegs, the upward friction force is greater
than the increments of pipe weight, and the string tension
actually decreases over this interval.
A torque profile during drilling is shown in Fig. 6 for
the same well. Torque changes in the vertical section of
the hole (0 to 2,400 ft [0 to 731.5 m]) are shown to be
small because of small side forces. As with tension,
torque changes are rapid in the angle build zone and
more gradual in the hold-angle zone. The 2,000-ft-lbf
[2.7 kN] bit torque shown is assumed.
1. Drillstring torque and drag are primarily caused by
simple sliding friction between the drill string and the
wall of the hole.
2. The computer model presented in this paper is
3. Sliding friction coefficients in seawater-base mud
typically lie between 0.25 and 0.40.
We thank Exxon Production Research Co. for permis-
sion to publish this paper and Exxon Co. U.S.A. for
their continued support and cooperation in collecting
field data. Special thanks are extended to Lisa A.
Beaudry, Hubert L. Morehead, and Paul H. La Marche
for their contributions in developing this technique.
Both the torque meter and the hookload indicator were
fabricated by Brewer Eng. Laboratories of Marion, MA;
LaVerne F. Wallace and Roger W. Masson were the
principal Brewer participants in this project and did most
of the design work on both devices.
1. Dyer, N.D.: "Rotary Torque Indicator for Well Drilling Ap-
paratus," U.S. Patent No. 3,664,184 (1972).
= sliding friction force acting on element, Ibf
F n = net normal force acting on element, Ibf [N]
= axial tension acting at lower end of
element, Ibf [N]
tJ.Ft = increase in tension over length of element,
Ibf [N]
M = torsion at the lower end of element, ft-lbf
tJ.M = increase in torsion over length of element,
ft-lbf [Nm]
r = characteristic radius of drill string element, ft
W = buoyed weight of drill string element, Ibf
ex = azimuth angle at lower end of drill string
element, degrees [rad]
tJ.ex = increase in azimuth angle over length of
element, degrees [rad]
8 = inclination angle at lower end of drill string
element, degrees [rad]
tJ.8 = increase in inclination angle over length of
element, degrees [rad]
if = average inclination angle of element,
degrees [rad]
p, = sliding friction coefficient between
drill string and well bore
SI Metric Conversion Factors
ft x 3.048*
Ibf x 4.448 222
"-Conversion factor is exact.
Original manuscripl received in Society of Petroleum Engineers office Jan. 25, 1983.
Paper accepted for publication July 2, 1983. Revised manuscript received Jan. 3,
t 984. Paper (SPE 11380) first presented at the 1983 IADCISPE Drilling Conference
held in New Orleans Feb. 20-23.