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ARMA 09-40

Drillability of a Rock in Terms of its Physico-Mechanical and MicroStructural Properties


Prasad, U.
Baker Hughes, The Woodlands, TX USA
Copyright 2009 ARMA, American Rock Mechanics Association
This paper was prepared for presentation at Asheville 2009, the 43rd US Rock Mechanics Symposium and 4th U.S.-Canada Rock Mechanics Symposium, held in Asheville, NC June 28th July 1,
2009.
This paper was selected for presentation at the symposium by an ARMA Technical Program Committee based on a technical and critical review of the paper by a minimum of two technical
reviewers. The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any position of ARMA, its officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper
for commercial purposes without the written consent of ARMA 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 acknowledgement of where and by whom the paper was presented.

ABSTRACT: Drillability of a rock is often expressed in terms of a large number of parameters; however, the industry hardly
uses any. Quite often these are not well understood or communicated to the end users. As a compromise, the present work
describes drillability in terms of eight simple physical, mechanical, and micro-structural properties, which are displayed visually
and are available from either log data or from laboratory core testing. The relevant rock properties are density, porosity,
compressional and shear wave velocities, unconfined compressive strength, Mohr friction angle, mineralogy, and grain sizes.
These are compiled and normalized in a scale of 1 to 8; value of 1 represents very soft rock and a value of 8 represents hard rock,
ideally. The real rock is in between depending upon the rock type. The plot is called a spider plot, which characterizes
drillability fully in simple enough parameters for use in the industry, yet detailed enough to describe drillability issues to a great
extent. Further, this gives an excellent tool to optimize the bit and drilling process for a given rock formation while depicting its
physico-mechanical and micro-structural properties as a signature plot.

in the laboratory in absence of logs. Further, it has been

1.The
INTRODUCTION
relevant rock properties are density, porosity, compressional
andthat
shear
wave
velocities,
compressive
found
these
estimates
dounconfined
not often provide
the full

strength, Mohr
friction
angle,
mineralogy
and grain
sizes. These
are compiled
and normalized
in a scale
of complicated
1 to 8; value
picture
of drillability
of rocks, which
have
Drillability
may be
defined
as an
ease of drilling
or rate
of
1
represents
very
soft
rock
and
a
value
of
8
represents
hard
rock,
ideally.
The
real
rock
is
in
between
depending
upon
mineralogy and microstructures that go through complex
of penetration (ROP), achieved using specific cutterthe
rock
type.
The
plot
is
called
spider
plot
which
characterizes
drillability
fully
in
a
simple
enough
parameters
for
use
digenesis process. In addition, it is also well known in
metallurgy type cutters or compacts with the given
in the industry yet detailed enough to describe drillability issues to a great extent. Further, this gives an excellent tool to
the industry that different rocks such as limestone,
cutter-bit
design parameters and operating parameters;
optimize the bit and drilling process for a given rock formation while depicting its physico-mechanical and microanhydrite, shale, and sandstone with similar UCS values
anstructural
efficient cutting
removal
system
for
the
drilling
properties as a signature plot.
have very different drilling characteristics and need
environment using a particular drill rig type; and an
completely different sets of bit designs/drilling
outcome of unchanged cutter /bit dullness or balling
parameters.
condition. The drillability is assumed to be indicative of
unconfined compressive strength (UCS) at atmospheric
As a judicious compromise, the present work describes
drilling [1,2] or confined compressive strength (CCS)
drillability in terms of eight simple physical, mechanical,
together with a factor of efficiency [3,4,5]. The UCS is
and micro-structural properties. These properties are
considered fundamental as it not only indicates
displayed visually, and are available either from the log
atmospheric stress and strain at failure but also is related
data or from the core testing in a commercial laboratory.
to elastic behavior (compressional and shear wave
Since the typical relevant rock properties are subject of
velocities, Youngs, bulk and shear modulii), which
investigation at various phases of exploration and
doesnt change much under confinement. It also
exploitation of energy resourceswhich fall under
indicates a co-efficient of energy transfer and the extent
various subjects of expertise such as seal, fault and trap
of vibration in an efficient drilling process.
estimation, mineralogy and petrophysics of reserves

Drillability of rocks, by an expert, is defined by a large


number of parameters [6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16],
which are not well understood or communicated to the
end user. As a result, the industry uses hardly any.
However, quite often, rock properties like UCS and
abrasiveness have historically been used to define rock
drillability and help decide bit selection, drive
mechanism and drilling parameters. These rock
properties are typically estimated using electric log data
[17,18,19,20,21] using a known calibration or measured

estimation, perforation and hole completion, drilling and


sand control, etc.there is no synergy in the rock
mechanical properties that are to be considered as the
minimum necessary for characterizing formation leading
to drill bit selection or drilling optimization. The present
work tries to accomplish this using the methodology
described in this paper.

2. PRESENT WORK

The present work creates some level of synergy among


all rock mechanical investigations among Routine Core
Analysis, Petrophysical Analysis, Thin Section Analysis,
X-Ray Diffraction Analysis, Drillcuttings Analysis,
Rock Mechanics Analysis, and Log data Interpretation
which are performed at various stages of energy
exploration and exploitation. These tests are
complementary in nature to a great extent but often
ignored by other users. The eight physical, mechanical,
and micro-structural properties are simple enough to
describe rock characteristics for drilling, but detailed
enough to characterize the rock as fundamental to
describing many applications, which are already
available in log data. Furthermore, the strength values
being statistical in nature, and its calibration based on
one or limited parameters quite often may give
misleading results; however, the same estimate will not
fail if constrained by various rock mechanical properties.

3. PHYSICAL, MECHANICAL AND MICROSTRUCTURAL PROPERTIES


The physical properties considered are porosity, density,
compressional sonic wave (P-wave) velocity or Dtc
slowness, and shear sonic wave (S-wave) velocity or Dts
slowness, which can be obtained through physical
testing and/or log data. These properties represent the
behavior of a rock in absence of load or under low level
of load application. The mechanical properties
considered are UCS and borehole pressure strengthening
Mohrs friction angle, which can be measured directly
from core samples in the laboratory or calculated
indirectly from a previously calibrated model using log
data. The micro-structural properties considered are
hard and abrasive minerals and grain sizes or block
sizes. For simplicity, only quartz minerals are
considered here as an indicator of hardness. Others,
such as dolomite, pyrite, hematite, and some
metamorphosed minerals, directly related to
abrasiveness, can also be used. Tests such as thin
section analysis or X-Ray Diffraction yield microstructural properties including, for example, grain size
and mineralogy, which are representative of hardness
based on hard or abrasive materials. The grain sizes also
indicate strength of rocks. For example, in a given
mineralogical compositions, with possibly the exception
of clay, smaller grain sizes result more contact area thus
stronger rocks. Each of these eight formation properties
are described in more detail in the following sections.

3.1. Density
Density is a bulk property that represents mass per unit
volume. Since density of an individual mineral matrix is
fixed (e.g., quartz 2.65 g/cc, calcite 2.71 g/cc, dolomite
2.89 g/cc etc.), a decrease in density of rocks can be
indicative of the porosity of the rock type. Further, this
formation property is unaffected due to the presence of

cracks or fracture, especially in a closed condition. The


interpretation of it, however, is not as simple as it
appears. A complication arises when the rock matrix is
not pure and is mixed with other mineral types. Another
source of discrepancy is whether the pore space is filled
with gas or one or more different kinds of fluids.
Accordingly, another variation of density representing
porosity and fluid saturations (e.g., bulk density, dry
density, nominal saturated density, vacuum saturated
density, water saturated or Kcl saturated density. etc.),
can be used. If the pore volume, water volume, and
matrix volume are known, all of the interrelated
parameters can be readily calculated. Therefore, density
can be used to estimate UCS, and thus confined
compressive strength (CCS) using well known Mohr
failure envelope. It can be assumed that the same
correlation exists between log measured data of density
and UCS of the formation. Due care, however, should be
taken as even the log data needs some expertise filtration
as presence of gas and fluids of different type may
complicate the true density. As such, density alone
should not be the only parameter used to estimate UCS
and or CCS.

3.2. Porosity
Porosity is sometimes considered one of the most usable
parameters in the petroleum industry, whether for
drilling, reservoir engineering, completion, or production
purposes. Data for such formation parameters, however,
is often difficult to obtain, as it may be confidential to
operators. A proper estimate of porosity, however, may
be vital for the drilling process. Fundamentally, porosity
is void space or pore volume, which causes stress
concentration in the deformation or failure process.
Porosity also causes a decrease in modulii of elasticity,
and thus wave velocity, as well. The presence of a
compliant crack or fracture contributes little to porosity,
but decreases the modulii of elasticity to a great extent,
and can make the rock type anisotropic. The anisotropy
is reflected in the S wave being horizontally and
vertically polarized. The pore volume and its shapes,
and even the compliant crack, can be vital for strength of
rock determination if it favors a suitable stress
concentration (e.g., depending upon sharpness of pore
edges and alignment of crack or fractures). In any case,
porosity can be characterized in various parameters such
as, primary porosity, secondary porosity, fracture
porosity, vuggy or channel porosity, effective porosity,
etc. About 17 variations of porosity related terms have
been used in the literature, which characterizes texture,
grain sorting and shape, deposition environments, high
or low energy, its evolution to present state, etc. This
makes proper interpretation of it difficult. Further, the
presence of gas and fluids of different types may
complicate the bulk porosity values. Accordingly, the
present work cautions the user to use the porosity values
with great care.

3.3. Compressional Sonic, Dtc


The compressional wave (P wave velocity or Dtc
slowness) is the fastest wave that can travel in a rock
type. This feature is easy and economic to measure and
needs the least expertise in its interpretation. For this
reason, it has been used to characterize rock material in
various branches of engineering (rippability in civil
engineering, percussion and diamond drilling in mining
and estimating triaxial strength and stiffness in
petroleum engineering). This feature can also be used to
characterize the extent of brokenness in rock mass by
taking the ratio of log-derived sonic data to that of its
matrix velocity. Although the P wave is largely
dependent on stiffness values, it does not remain fixed in
a given rock type due to compliant cracks, fractures and
pore types due to crack closure, refraction, reflection,
and attenuation of a traveling wave. As the P wave is
very low in pore spaces (~330 m/s in air and ~1450 m/s
in water) as compared to the rock matrix (~7000 m/s),
the P wave gets drastically reduced in the presence of
pores or voids. Some stiff rocks, however, give fixed
velocity even at low confining pressure as, accordingly,
the present work gives an opportunity to choose the
parameter and use it with care.

3.4. Shear Sonic, Dts


The shear sonic wave (S wave or Dts) is much slower
than the P wave. In an isotropic material, the S wave is
largely influenced by Poissons ratio which is subjected
by the mico- and macro-structure, and fluid saturation.
In anisotropic material it may be vertically and
horizontally polarized. Further, measurement of the S
wave is more complicated and costly and may require
the use of costly transducers to filter the accompanying
surface and stonely waves originating from reflected and
refracted P waves form joint or bedding planes.
Therefore, due care should be taken in its true
interpretation. The S waves has been found to indicate
complicated behavior as compared to P wave at low
confining pressure, which is largely due to compliant
crack closure, grain adjustments or possible reflection,
refraction and attenuation at various sites. Further, the
current work has shown that stiff rocks show almost no
change in velocity, but at the same time, fail to show
isotropic behavior (two S waves merging) even at high
confining pressure. This reminds us of the danger in
using one fixed value of S wave.

3.5. Mineralogy
Mineralogy plays a significant role in wear and balling
characteristics in drilling. For example, quartz, being
the hardest minerals in common rock types, causes
extensive wear, whereas; clay, due to its affinity of
moisture and swelling characteristics, causes balling.
Due recognition and quantification of these minerals,
already determined via core samples and log
measurements, provides a much better characterization

of the rock type. For example, gamma-ray analysis can


indicate the presence of clay or shale. Furthermore, log
data of uranium, thorium and potassium can be used to
indicate the type of clay, such as kaolin, illite, smectite,
montmorillonite, etc. The individual minerals can be
quantified from thin section or X-Ray Diffraction
analysis. It should be noted that both quartz as well as
clay are absent in carbonate or maffic rocks. In such
cases, other common but vital minerals can be quantified
(e.g., feldspar, dolomite, pyrite, ankerite, etc). Further,
with respect to UCS, particularly in carbonic rocks, a
higher UCS has been found to correspond with a higher
value of a Vickers Hardness Rock Number (VHRN)
calculated from the respective Vickers hardness number
of individual minerals and its fraction content in the rock
type.

3.6. Grain or Block Size


Grain sizes and block sizes are among the most
important features of the microstructure having
relevance in drilling, but are analyzed the least. One
factor is the difficulty in collecting and measuring such
features both in core sample as well as in log
measurements. Block size can be even more important
when rocks are highly interbedded, as it shows
brokenness of the rock formation. Grain size can be
more important in absence of block or joint sizes. In
either case, both grain size and block size are reflected in
bulk properties such as wave velocity, density, porosity,
etc. If the rocks are not crystalline in nature, grain size
tends to vary widely, making it difficult to ascertain a
representative value.

3.7. Unconfined Compressive Strength (UCS)


UCS is considered to be a fundamental property, and
arguably the most easily understood parameter in the
drilling industry. UCS represents the maximum stress
sustained in a uniaxial loading condition beyond which
load carrying capacity decreases drastically until
physical disconnection between broken pieces occurs.
Further, since the amount of strain sustained in
compressive loading is about 0.2-0.5% only, the slope of
the line in stress-stress space (Youngs modulus of
elasticity) is also proportional to UCS. This direct
correlation of the Young's modulus with UCS also
indicates that sonic velocity is proportional to UCS.
Further, as the area (of a plot) between stress and strain
is the energy consumed in the destruction process, for a
given strain value at failure, the UCS reflects
deformation and destruction energy. If the compressive
strength is measured under confinement, as noted
previously, it is termed as CCS. This can also be
calculated using the Mohr failure envelope with net
differential pressure (confining pressure minus pore
pressure).

3.8. Mohr Friction Angle

Mohr-Coulomb failure envelope is one of the effective


ways to graphically visualize normal stress and shear
stress along a failure plane. The slope of the line is
called The tangent of Mohr friction angle-. The
same plot can also be visualized in a maximum and
minimum principal stress plot. In the former, the Yintercept is cohesion or shear stress at zero confining
pressure and the slope is the Mohr friction angle,
whereas in the latter, the Y-intercept is UCS and the
slope is equivalent to the Mohr friction angle. Although
the slope of the line in the latter condition can be
different than that of the former, it can nevertheless be
used directly to calculate the Mohr friction angle. This
friction angle is highest at low confining pressure and it
decreases continually at high confining pressure.
However, for all practical purposes, in the borehole
pressure environment where drillability is investigated, it
can be assumed to be a straight line. Very limited work
exists in the literature on the Mohr friction angle and its
correlation with other rock properties. Particularly, there
is no consensus on the definition of friction angle.
Some call it an internal friction angle; some call it
coefficient of friction angle. Further, some calculate it
using a simple moving block on a horizontal table and
by measuring the ratio of tangential load to normal load.
Some use a standard shear-box system to calculate the
same, and some calculate it as the slope of the line on a
Mohr failure envelope, etc. The present work considers
the latter as a true reflection of friction angle.

4. DRILLABILITY AS A SPIDER PLOT


Typical values of the previously mentioned rock
properties are compiled and normalized in a scale of 1 to
8 as displayed in Fig. 1. A value of 1 represents very
soft rock and a value of 8 represents hard rock, ideally.
The real rock is in between depending upon the rock
type. The lower values of acoustic slowness, grain size,
and porosity indicate harder rocks and, thus, the orders
are reversed so that the line toward the center shows
weaker rocks, and at the outside, it shows harder rocks.
Altogether, six rock types have been selected to
characterize the drillability in a spider plot. These are
gabbro, granite, limestone, sandstone, shale, and a field
example of Travis Peak formation of East Texas. Each
of these rock types have their own characteristic feature,
some have more UCS or sonic speed and other have
more quartz content or porosity and grain sizes. For
example, gabbro or maffic rocks may have high sonic
speed, and are dense and nonporous, but may have
coarser grain sizes with complete absence of abrasivity.
Limestone, on the other hand, may have very high sonic
speed but often show less values in UCS and Mohr
friction angle with of course unabrasive characteristics.
An interesting thing to observe is that Berea sandstone

shows very low UCS but may become very strong under
confining pressure due to its high Mohr friction angle.
This plot gives an excellent tool to optimize the bit
selection for a given rock formation while considering
its physico-mechanical and micro-structural properties as
a signature plot. Further, it gives an opportunity to
investigate the details of micro-mechanical behavior of
rocks as to why it shows weaker in one parameter and
stronger in other attributes.
UCS: 0-50k psi

8
S:220-80 s/ft

Mohr : 10-60

4
2
P:100-40 s/ft

Q: 0.1-100 %
7

Density 2-3.2 g/cc

Grain/Block:3-0.001, mm

Porosity:20-0 %

Very Hard Rock (Imaginary)


Gabbro (coarse grained)
Carthage_limestone
Berea_SS (medium grained)

Mancos Shale
SWG Granite (coarse grained)
Travis Peak SS (Average values)

Fig. 1: Drillability of a rock in terms of its physico-mechanical


and micro-structural properties

5. SPIDER PLOT AS A TOOL TO REFINE


STRENGTH ESTIMATE
There are wide varieties of models or algorithms
typically used in strength estimates in civil, mining and
petroleum industries [22, 23]. Some use compressional
or shear wave velocities (alternatively, slowness of Dtc
or Dts) or gamma ray; some use density or porosity; and
some have tried to combine few parameters albeit with
no calibration, at least in public domain literature. The
present work demonstrates how the eight rock
mechanical parameters can be used to refine the strength
estimates from easily available rock properties. It further
describes how these lab-measured parameters can be
used in developing a calibration curve. This can be
used to estimate the UCS or CCS and refine its estimates
so as not to rely on only one or few limited parameters
as is practiced in the industry.
The data available in the public domain literature is
scarce. The extent of details on rock properties varies
significantly depending upon expertise of individual
researchers or even commercial laboratories. In spite of
this, some density, porosity, Dtc, and Dts data have been
collected together with the measured values of UCS and
Mohr friction angle. These are shown in Fig. 2 for 140
sandstones, Fig. 3 for 240 limestone, and Fig. 4 for 36
dolomites. All the figures follow the same increasing
and decreasing trends; however, Figs. 3 and 4 result in a
larger scatter.

lower. These scatters are much lower in weaker rocks,


lower density, higher porosity, and lower P wave
velocity. Further, the linear inverse correlation of
porosity with Friction angle is also encouraging. A
similar trendan increase in strength for finer grain
sizes and a similar increase with cumulative VHRN
hardnesswas also observed, but due to very limited
datasets, this is not shown in the present work. This
trend is not surprising as similar work has been shown
for the grain size effect in marble [24] and dolomite [25].

Fig. 2: Data on 140 sandstones for their density, porosity, P


wave and Friction angle

The typical correlation curve obtained in the above three


rock types can be further used to refine the strength
estimates. Fig. 5 shows one such example. The UCS
estimate based on shear sonic Dts alone is further off
than with those estimated using density, porosity, and
Dtc. The UCS estimates, if constrained with the above
rock parameters, will greatly enhance the confidence in
the results obtained. Further, the limited work has shown
that a similar strength estimate can be accomplished
using mineralogy and grain sizes also; however, due to
its limited datasets, the UCS estimate is not shown in
Fig. 5. The same applies to the Mohr friction angle,
which is estimated using Dtc and porosity [26, 27]. This
is again due to the limited datasets of the Mohr friction
angle, which is costly and time consuming to obtain.

Fig. 3: Data on 240 limestone for their density, porosity, P


wave and Friction angle

Fig. 5: UCS estimates from density, porosity, terminal Dtc and


Dts in sandstones

6. DISCUSSION

Fig. 4: Data on 36 dolomite for their density, porosity, P wave


and Friction angle

It should be mentioned that the exact condition of the


above testing sample results are not known; however,
there is a fair amount of correlation, which is
encouraging. If the samples are selected in unfractured
portion and brought to isotropic condition, and loading
directions were kept uniform for all the tested samples
(which is impossible), the scatter would have been much

In the present work, drillability has been used


synonymously with UCS, albeit qualitatively, but taking
into account physical and micro-structural properties. It
may be used quantitatively by taking a suitable weighted
average of these rock properties, similar to Rock Mass
Rating or Q-factor as in the mining or tunneling
industries. In the same way, the inner plot area of the
Spider Plot could have been used to quantify the
drillability or a corresponding area by taking a suitable
weighting factor of each rock parameter. However, this
is the subject of future work.

Both the P and S waves have been found to be


independent of pressure on stiff rocks; whereas, they
may vary as much as 100% in compliant rocks. This has
been attributed to crack closure and grain size
adjustments leading to a limiting value terminal
velocity. This phenomenon reminds us of the caution
required in using sonic data for strength and porosity
estimates. However, in the present work, the Terminal
velocity has been taken when the data is available.
Strength tests are costly and are based on one or few
tests, therefore, calibrating strength with other strengthrelated rock properties (e.g., density, porosity, grain
sizes, and P & S wave velocities) would greatly
supplement the strength estimate. Refining the strength
estimate based on the above properties will give a better
estimate. These properties control the strength and
stiffness and can be used individually or collectively.

the area under the Spider Plot, similar to Rock Mass


Rating or Q-factor as in the mining or tunneling
industry.
Strength tests are costly and are based on one or few
tests; therefore, calibrating strength with other strengthrelated rock properties would greatly supplement the
strength estimate.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The author would like to thank the Baker Hughes
management, in general and GMI, in particular, for their
support and permission to prepare, present, and publish
this paper. Further, the author expresses his great
appreciation for the valuable technical and editorial
comments given by David Curry, Roy Ledgerwood, and
Erica Tucci.

7. CONCLUSIONS

REFERENCES

An expert describes rocks using a large number of


properties; whereas, the industry uses hardly any. As a
compromise, density, porosity, compressional -P wave,
shear -S wave, grain sizes, and mineralogy can be used
to characterize and visualize rock formations that may
already be in log data or obtained from core testing in
absence of data. The Spider Plot appears to visualize
rock characteristics fully as a judicious compromise.

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The eight parameters, also referred to as drillability


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drilling. These include the presence and influence of
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way. These eight rock properties are obtained either
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detailed enough to characterize the rock as fundamental
to describing many applications, which are already
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into account of physical and micro-structural properties.
However, it may be used quantitatively by taking a
suitable weighted average of these eight parameters or

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