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SPE 15467

Basic Concepts in Static BHA Ana ysis for Directional Drilling

by U. Chandra, comxdtant
SPE Member,formerlywith NLIndustriesInc.


19S6, Society

of Petroleum


This paper was prepared for presentation

Orleans, LA October 5-8, 1986.

at the 61s1 Annual



and Exhibition

of the Society

of Petroleum


held in New

This paper was setected for presentation

by an SPE Program Committee
following review of information contained in an abstract submit!ed by the
have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the
author(s). Conlonts of the paper,
author(s). The material, as presented, does nol necessarily rellect any position of Ihe Society of Pelroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Papers
presented at SPE meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees
of the Sociely of Petroleum Engineers. Permission 10 copy is
reatricled to an abstract of not more than 300 words. Illustrations may not be copied, The abstract should contain conspicuous acknowledgment
where and by whom the paper is presented. Write Publications Manager, SPE, PO. Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3636.
Telex, 720989 SPEDAL.


Basic concepts related to the static analysis of twoand three-dimensional
bottomhole assemblies are discussed. Beginning with a straight one stabilizer assembly,
the effects of multiple stabilizers, borehole curvature,
torque, wall contact, etc. are introduced in steps. The criteria for defining the build, hold, drop and walk trends is
clarified. Two methods for computing bending stiffness
and equivalent outer diameter of MWD collars with nonuniform cross-sectional properties are proposed, Also,
simple methods of estimating buckling loads for one and
two span assemblies are presented.

In the early days of drilling, the holes were shallow
and were supposedly drilled straight. The experience
with the Seminole fields in Oklahoma during the late
twenties, made the industry realize that drilling does not
necessarily follow the intended trajector yl. Something
happens downhole which makes the drillstring deviate
from its course, The efforts to understand the cause for
deviation of drillstring led to their mechanical analysis
using the concepts of structural mechanics. Many papers
have been written on the subject29. However, the basic
concepts of mechanics, as related to directional drilling,
have not been put together in a systematic manner. This
paper attempts to fill such gap,
The subject matter in this paper is presented on the
Iines of standard textbooks on structural mechanics10-13.
References and illustrations at end of paper.

Herein, a BHA (bottomhole assembly) is treated as a

beam column subjected to its self-weight, buoyancy, and
weight-on-bit (WOB). For simplicity, a one stabilizer BHA
in a straight but inclined borehole is discussed first. Then,
further considerations
of multiple stabilizers, borehole
curvature, torque, wall contact and of variations in collar
cross-section or material properties are introduced in
steps. Both two- and three-dimensional
BHAs are discussed. The difficulties experienced in the application of
closed from methods, and the advantages of their numerical counterparts (finite difference and finite element) in
analyzing complex modern BHAs are highlighted. Then,
using the equilibrium of forces at the drill bit and the formation, the criteria for defining the build, drop, hold and
walk trends is explained.
Since bending is the dominant mode of deformation
in a drillstring, the knowledge of its resistance to bending,
i.e. bending stiffness, is important. This paper explains
the basic concepts of stiffness and presents two methods
for computing bending stiffness and equivalent diameter
of collars with non-uniform cross-section (e.g. MWD colIars). Finally, simple methods for estimating critical buckling loads of bottom hole assemblies are discussed.
The scope of the paper is limited to the static analysis
of the drillstring.
It does not discuss the effect of
dynamics or of rock and bit characteri~lcs on the directional tendencies of BHAs. Also, it emphasizes combining the physical and mathematical
concepts in a
simple fashion. No attempt is made to provide mathematical derivations; instead, the applicable expressions
are borrowed from easily accessible sources.



Equation (1) is a fourth order differential equation,

and its general solution is,

When the BHA of interest and all loads acting on it

are contained within one plane, we can refer to it as a
problem. For example, consider the
straight bottomhole
assembly of Figure 1, which is
inclined to the vertical at an angle 6. It consists of the
drill bit at A, the drill collar AB, a stabilizer at B, etc. In
engineering mechanics terminology, the drill bit and the
stabilizers are termed as supports, and the length of drill
collar between two supports is termed as a span.
For brevity, we first ccmsider only the span AB adjacent to the drillbit, The forces acting on this portion of the
BHA are weight-on-bit I? and the self-weight w (adjusted
for buoyancy), as shown in Figure 1(a). The self-weight w
can be decomposed into two components, the normal
component q = w sin8, and the axial component p =
w COS6. The normal component
causes sagging or
bending of the collar, i.e. it corresponds, to the beam
action, The axial component corresponds to the column
action, and can cause buckling of the collar on reaching a
certain critical value. The behavior of the collar in the
presence of combined normal and axial loads is referred
to as the beam column. We note that if the BHA is vertical, i.e. if 0 = 0, the normal component of the selfweight is zero, and the problem reduces to that of a
ln Figure 2, we consider the case of a Ctinpie beam
column which represents the span AB of Figure 1. As a
starting point, we assume that (1) the two ends do not
carry any bending moment, (2) the drill collar above the
stabilizer B is not effective, (3) there is no contact between
the drill collar and the borehole wall, (4) the collar is
straight prior to the application of the loads (i.e. no initial
curvature), (5) the cross-sectional and material properties
of the collar are uniform, and (6) the axial component of
the self-weight is negligible. We will discuss the implications of relaxing each one of these assumptions later in
this section.
The normal deflection,
v, of the beam column
shown in Ft ure 2 is given by the following differential
equational1 ,
EI +P=



where, x is the distance alon~ the axis, P is the axial load,

q is the norm> Distributed load, E is the modulus of elasticity of the material, and I is the moment of inertia of the
collar section. The product EI is called the flexural rigidity
of the collar cross-section.

In the absence of the axial ioad F! Equation (1) reduces to
simple beam bending equation.


........... .


where the coefficients A, B, C ancl D are obtained by

applying appropriate boundary conditions. For the beam
column of Figure 2 with pinned supports, the boundary
conditions are,
v dx2


and the coet%cients are






. ...(3)


COS j~-

sin ~~1



. . . . . . . . . . . . . (4)


By substituting (4) in (2), one can find the displacements along the drillstring. Then, using additional mathematics the reaction (side force) R at the bit, and the bit
rotation a can be computed. As explained in a subsequent section, the knowledge of R and/or x is needed in
predicting the deviation tendency of a BHA.
In some cases, it maybe justified to treat end B as a
fixed support; for example, in the case of a very long stabilizer or a packed assembly. Then, the expressions for
coefficients A through D will change, resulting in different
values of drillstring deflections, bit tilt and side force as
compared to the pinned support condition. For a special
case of zero WOB, the results for assumed pinned and
fixed end conditions at B are compared in Figure 3.
It is obvious that, with this closed-form approach,
the analysis of even the most basic collar will require a
considerable amount of computation, A drilling engineer
cannot conceivably perform such analysis in a routine
fashion. His job will be even more difficult when working
with real life BHAs where some (or all) of the six assumptions mentioned earlier are invalid.
In the following para{
cations of relaxing each c
one. Due to space limitat~.

-!e examine the impliassumptions one by

ussion is kept brief.



End Moments
The bending moment at the bit is generally assumed
to be zero in order to simplify the analytical effort. In
reality, the resistance offered by the rock, the mechanical
design of the bit, and its cutting characteristics, all combine to generate a non-zero bending moment at the bit.
Such bending moment will tend to limit the rotation at the
bit. Although this moment can be explicitly accounted for
by adding a rotational spring of known stiffness, it is
deemed advanta eous to combine it with the rock and bit
anisotropy effects
In previous discussion, the bending moment at end
B was assumed zero only for illustration purposes. The
presence of additional drill collar beyond stabilizer B (as in
any multi-stabilizer BHA), the design of the stabilizer and
the flexibility of the rock will result in a non-zero moment
at end B. Of these three, the first factor is addressed in
the following paragraphs and elsewhere in the paper,
whereas, the other two factors are not discussed further.

Multi-Stabilizer Assemblies
In reality, a BHA consists of many stabilizers dividing
it into several spans, and more than one span must be
considered in the analysis to accurately determine the
directional tendency of the BHA. h-i mechanics terminology, such a BHA can be regarded as a beam which is
over several supports,
i.e. a continuous
beam. The analysis of a multi-span BHA requires the
application of Equation (2) to each span, along with the
use of continuity requirements at intermediate supports
(stabilizers) and boundary conditions at the end supports.
The continuity conditions at the intermediate supports
are, (i) the deflection is zero, (ii) the slopes at the two
sides of the stabilizer are equal, and (iii) the moments at
the two sides are equal and opposite. Obviously, the
manual computations
will become very tedious for a
multi-stabilizer assembly, and the use of a computerbased technique will be profitable.
In Figure 4, we demonstrate the effect of stabilizer
placement on the directional characteristic of a multistabilizer BHA. In the three cases shown, the total length,
collar size and the inclination from the vertical are the
same, i.e. tkte normal load q is the same. For each case,
the deflected shape of the drillstring and the side force at
the bit are shown in the figure. The importance of the
placement of first stabilizer above the bit is obvious. As we
will discuss later, the first assembly is dropping angle, the
second holding, and the third is building the angle.

Contact Between the Drillstring and Borehole

To understand the problem of contact between the
drillstring and the borehole wall, let us consider the one
span BHA of Figure 5. If the available clearance between
the collar and the borehole wall (CLS) is more than the
maximum deflection 6, no contact occurs, Case (a), If
CLS and 6 are equal, the two surfaces barely touch each
other resulting in a point contact with zero contact force,
Case (b). However, if CLS is less than 6, the area of contact as well as the contact force will have finite values,
Case (c). The contact force (pressure) will not necessarily
be uniform over the surface. Also, the bit tilt and the side
force will no longer be the same as in Case (a).
Referring to Figure
rewritten as follows:



for AC, DB.

d4v + p d2v
= q.q(x)


(1) can be

. ( 5a)



The solution of the contact problem requires that first

the deflection at each point of collar be computed without
regard to the borehole wall and compared against the
available clearance. It further requires finding the location
and size of the contact region, and the magnitude and
distribution of the contact force. Such computation is
tedious, and is best handled with the help of a computer
using finite difference or finite element techniques57 15.

Initial Curvature
Equation (1) is meant for a beam column or a collar
whose axis is straight prior to the application of any
external loads. [n order to study the effect of initial curvature, we consider the one span BHA of Figure 6. The
initial shape of the collar can be represented by,


a kin .


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (6)

Then, it can be shown that the initial curvaj)re

equivalent to an additional lateral load q given by ,


cl =Pa~




In Figure 7(a), we consider the first span of a dropping assembly in a borehole with positive curvature (i.e.
its inclination from the vertical increases as we move
For the purpose of this discussion, the self-weight is treated
as an external load.

SPE 1546

Basic Concepts in Static BHA Analysis for Directional Drilling

the possibility of contact between the drill collar and the

borehole wall can be examined by computing the maximum deflection. Some of the popular techniques suitable for hand computations
are moment
area or
conjugate beam method for single span beams, and
moment distribution method for multi-span beams or
multiple stabilizer BHAslOo13. The moment distribution
method has been further modified to account for a constant axial load such as the WOB17.

down the hole towards the bit). According to Equation

(7), the effect of this curvature is the same as that of a lateral load q on a straight collar. This lateral load q adds
up to the lateral component of the self-weight q, resulting
in an increased dropping tendency of the assembly. However, if the same assembly is used in a borehole of negative curvature as shown in Figure 7(b), q would oppose
q and the BHA will have a reduced dropping tendency.
This concept can explain the behavior of the building,
holding or dro ping assemblies in curved boreholes
reported earlier .


CrossSectional and Material Properties

When the BHA of interest and all loads acting on it

are not contained within a vertical plane, e ,g. when the
azimuth angle is not constant, we refer to this as a threedimensional problem. We again begin our discussion with
a one stabilizer BHA (one span beam column) with
straight axis, as shown in Figure 9(a). It has loads ql and
qz acting in two mutually perpendicular directions Y and
Z, respectively. Direction Y lies in the vertical plane,
whereas Z corresponcis with the azimuth,

Consider a simple, one stabilizer BHA shown in

Figure 8. It consists of two collars of different sizes and/or
materials, and thus of different Et values. The analysis of
such a BHA would require writing Equation (2) for portions AB and BC separately, and using additional continuity conditions of deflection and slope at point B.
Obviously, for complex realistic BHAs where the EI of
cross-section changes very often, manual computation is
not practical and, again, the use of computerized techniques is warranted.

In the absence of torque, the differential equations

representing deflections v and w are12,

Distributed Axial Load

Equation (1) did not account for the axial component of self-weight of the collar shown as p = w COSOin
Figure 1. The attempt to handle this term in a closed form
adds to the computational
complexity. However, the
finite element or f$ite difference method can easily deal
with this situation .
The application of the foregoing concepts to drillstring analysis requires some special considerations. For
example, it is found convenient to (i) establish a straight
reference axis passing through the bit to measure the
normal deflection v, (ii) replace the independent variable
x in Equation (1) by a variable s measured along the
curved borehole axis, (iii) cut off the BHA of interest at a
certain distance above the bit, and (iv) assume the WOB
direction to be coincident with either the borehole axis or
the deformed drillstring axis. The first three of these considerations
are discussed in References
5, and 16,
whereas the last one is explained in the section entitled
Criteria for Defining Deviation Trends.
Often, a drilling engineer is interested in only comparing the deviational tendencies of two or more BHAs
without a specific concern or prior knowledge of the
borehole curvature or the WOB. It is then possible to
ignore these two factors and to analyze the BHAs of
interest as straight continuous beams. In such cases, several standard techniques of structural analysis can be
used to compute the tilt and the side force at the bit. Also,








These equations are similar to Equation (1). Equation (8) is independent of w, whereas (9) is independent
of v, i.e. the two equations are uncoupled. However, if
torque is also present as shown in Figure 9(b), the equations take the following form12:



and, EI








. . . . (11)

Thus, in the presence of torque, the two deflection

equations become coupled. The solution of such equations is much more difficult. Additional complexities arise
if, similar to the two-dimensional case, some (or all) of
the six assumptions discussed earlier are invalid; which is
always the case.
References 6, 8, and 9 have derived equations similar to (10) and (11) which are specialized for curved,
driilstrings. Again, similar to the twodimensional case, it is found convenient to (i) establish a

SPE 15467


straight reference axis passing through the bit to measure

the normal deflections v and w, (ii) replace the independent variable x in Equations (8) through (11) by a variable
5 along the curved borehole axis, (iii) cut off the BHA of
interest at a certain distance above the bit, and (iv)
assume the WOB direction to coincide with either the
borehole axis or the deformed drillstring axis.
Since the Z direction corresponds to the azimuth, the
self-weight does not contrikmte to the term q7 in equations (9) or (11). If we further assume that ttie contact
between the drillstring and the borehole wall occurs only
within a vertical plane, qz becomes zero. Then, the only
source responsible for the azimuth side force at the bit
(indicative of walk tendency) is the initial curvature of the
borehole in the azimuth plane. As discussed earlier, this
curvature is equivalent to a lateral load similar to the selfweight. The assumption of contact being limited. to a vertical plane was made in DIDRIL in order to reduce the
computational efforts15.
If we assume that the contact between the drillstring
and the borehole wall does not necessarily occur in a vertical plane, the contact forces in the azimuth direction (Direction)
are not zero, and the computational
become much greater.
Equations (10) and (11) are meant for a straight
beam column where the torque T is constant along the
axis, Strictly speaking, such an assumption is not true for
a curved beam column or collar. It is reasonable only
when the curvature is mild and the BHA length is small.
On the other hand, a limited study indicates that torque
has practically no influence on the deviation tendencies15, If this result is confirmed by further analysis, one
can conclude that the inclusion of torque in Equations
(10) and (11) is not warranted, i.e. Equations (8) and (9)
are adequate to analyze a three-dimensional BHA. Moreover, since these two equations are unco~pled, a twodimensional program should be adequate to handle the
BHAs by analyzing them independently in inclination and azimuth planes. In this authors
opinion, the merit of a three-dimensional
program lies
not so much in predicting the deviation trends but in
determining the actual direction of drilling especially by
accounting for the effects of rock and bit characteristics.


Before we discuss the criteria for determining the
deviation trend (build, hold, drop and walk) of a BHA, it
would be appropriate to clarify the meaning of the term
weight-on-bit (WOB) and its direction.
In Figure 10, we consider a dropping assembly in a
two-dimensional curved borehole. The bit is located at A
and the first stabilizer at B. The solid curved line indicates


the borehole axis, and the broken line the deformed drillstring axis. The WOB can be defined as the net axial
force at the bit, which is equal to the axial component of
the self-weight minus the sum of the axia) components of
all reactive forces at stabilizers and contact points and the
pull at top end. Alternatively, we can limit the discussion
to the drillstring between the bit and the neutral point.
The axis in question is, in general, the centerline of the
borehole5, which is also the axis of undeformed drillstring. Alternatively, the tangent to the deformed drillstring can be used as the W(?B direction, as is the case
with DIDRIL9115. Evidently, for a vertical borehole, the
first assumption makes the WOB axis coincident with the
vertical, whereas the second assumption does not. We
note also that, these two different approaches would
result in somewhat different values of side force at the bit.
Now, we look at the forces at the bit and the formation. The equilibrium of a dropping assembly in a straight
but inclined two-dimensional borehole is shown in Figure
11(a). For brevity, we consider only one span of the
assembly, with q as the normal component of the selfweight. The reaction at the bit, R, is normal to the borehole axis. If the WOB is assumed to act tangential to the
deformed drillstring it can be resolved in components
parallel and perpendicular to the borehole axis, as shown
in the figure.
The bit force system of Figure 11(a) is equivalent to
that shown in (b). AF is the axial force equal to WOB x
coscz, where m is the bit tilt. Also, SF is the net side
force, and ii equais R - WOB x sin~. The forces acting on
the formation are equal but ~pposite to those acting on
the bit, as shown in (c!. These formation forces together
with the rock and bit characteristics are responsible for the
cutting and removal of the rock, and further advancement of the drillbit.
The exact direction of the bit advance cannot be predicted without considering the bit and rock characteristics. However, it is still possible to predict the tendency of
drillstring deviation based on the knowledge of bit tilt,
side force, or resultant force at the bit. Millheirn8 favors
the use of the side force for this purpose. Accordingly, if
the net side force on the formation points down as shown
in Figure 11(c), the assembly is dropping. Whereas, if the
side force points up, the assembly is building. An
assembly is considered holding if the side force is small,
regardless of its direction. This is how the three BHAs of
Figure 4 were classified.
It is evident from Figure 1 l(c) that the use of resultant force direction as a criteria will give similar prediction
of the directional tendency as the side force. However,
the choice of the side force has two advantages. First,
since the value of WOB is generally much larger than the
side force, the latter has very fittle effect on the magnitude or the direction of the resultant. If we compare twc

Basic Concepts in Static BHA Analysis for Directional

assemblies, one building and the other dropping, their

side forces may be drastically different but the resultant
force will show little change. Thus, the side force is a
more sensitive indicator of the directional tendency than
the resultant. Secondly, the determination
of resultant
force would require additional computation.
For such
reasons, DIDRIL uses the side force on formation as the
criteria for determining the deviation tendencies15.
In three-dimensional boreholes, the question of walk
trend also needs to be addressed. Obviously, if tt,~ azimuthal component of the side force on the forrnatim is
pointing to the right of the borehole (look ~g down
towards the bit), the BHA is walking to the right. Con
versely, if this side force points to the left, the BHA is
walking left.



The present day BHAs often include collars which

have non-uniform inner or outer diameter (ID or OD)
along their lengths, e.g. MWD collars. Obviously, the
deviation characteristic of such a collar is not necessarily
the same as that of a standard 7- or 8-inch OD drill collar
it replaces.
In drilling industry, a collar with non-uniform crosssection is often specified by its stiffness. But, the concept
of stiffness (especially, the bending stiffness) is not well
understood. The commonly used definition of stiffness as
the product of E and I is misleading. In fact, the product
EI is more appropriately called the flexural rigidity of
one cross-section and it is not a property of the entire
collarlO. A proper definition of stiffness should account
for al; cross-sections with their respective EIs, lengths,
and relative iocations, since all these factors influence the
overall bending behavior. A technical discussion of stiffness is given in the Appendix, and two methods for computing the bending stiffness are preser-ted in this section.
These two methods, although both correct, give vastly
different answers and can lead to confusion if not proper}~ understood.
Alternatively, a collar wiih non-uniform cross-section
can be specified by its equivalent outer diameter (OD).
Although, the value of equi~alent OD is computed via
stiffness, it is practically the same regm!!ess
of the
method used to compute the latter. Therefore, the use of
equivalent OD in specifying a non-uniform collar is not
subject to confusion. Also, knowing equivalent OD of the
collar, one can further compute its equivalent moment of
inertia 1, or- flexural rigidity EL We elaborate on these
ideas in the following paragraphs.

SPE 15467


bending stiffness (more appropriately, the bending stiffness coeffkient), kb, at end 1 or 2 can be defined as the
moment applied at that end necessary to cause a unit
rotation (at the same end), with the rotation at the other
end held at zero (see Appendix).
When the crosssectional properties of the collar are uniform throughout
its length, Figure 12(a), kb at the two ends is the same,
and is given by 1319,

kb =


. . . . . . . . . ........

. . ...+


When Eor I changes along the length, kbl is in general not equal to kb2. To find kbl or kb2, the collar is
divided into several segments with constant EI within
each segment, as shown in Figure 12(b). Then, if only
one or two changes in EI are involved, suitable expressions can be derived using such techniques as moment
area method and the bending stiffness for each end can
still be hand computed. But, if several Et variations are
involved, hand computations are impractical and the use
of finite element method becomes necessary.

Method 2- Pure Bending Method: In this method,

eq~al and opposite moments are applied simultaneously
at the two ends of the collar which are free to rotate, as
shown in Figure 13. Angle 4 is the included angle
between the radii at ends 1 and 2, and is equal to the sum
of the end rotations (31and Bz. The bending stiffness of
the collar can be defined as the moment needed to cause
an included angle of unity (e.g. one radian). Thus, for a
collar of uniform cross-section as shown in Figure 13,


kbl = kbz = kb = =


. . . . . . . ..


When the cross-sectional

of a collar
change along its length, PI is in general not equal to @2.
Also, for such a collar, the equivalent bending stiffness
can be computed from the following expression,




--. . . . +

+ +----+

. . . . . . . .. (15)


where, n is the number of different cross-sections in the

drill collar. This equation is similar to the case of several
axial springs connected in series.

Comparison of Methods 1 and 2 The stiffness coeffiComputation of Bending Stiffness

Method 1- Stiffness Coefficient Method: Consider
a drill collar or its segment

shown in Figure 12(a). The

cient method is more accurate since it accounts for the

relative location of all cross-sections. However, for collars
with several variations in EI, it requires the use of a computer, On the other hand, pure bending method is suit-

able for hand computations.

A comparison of Equations (12) and (14) shows that
for a collar of uniform cross-section the value of bending
stiffness resulting from the stiffness coefficient method is
four times that resulting from the pure bending method.
For a collar with non-uniform cross-section, this relationship is valid in an approximate sense.
A natural question arises at this stage, Which of the
two methods is correct. In fact, both of them are correct.
The primary difference in the two lies in the nature of the
boundary conditions assumed at collar ends. A user must
understand the concepts of the two methods and the
context of his application, because the stiffness is always
dependent upon the boundary conditions (or, in the terminology of the Appendix,
on the selection of the
degrees of freedom). Indeed, there is no such thing as
the stiffness of a collar or a beam.

Computation of Equivalent OD
The equivalent OD relates to a hypothetical collar
whose length is equal to that of the MWD assembly or
collar it replaces, ID is an assumed value (nominal ID),
and bending stiffness is equal to that of the replaced
MWD collar as computed from one of the two methods
discussed above. When the first method is used to compute the bending stiffness, the equivalent OD, do, can be
computed by rewriting Equation (12) as follows,



L rE



where. di is the nominal ID of the collar. Since the kb

values .3; the two ends of the collar are different, a decision is needed to choose one of the two or their average.
In case of the pure bending method,
OD can be computed from,

do =

the equivalent

[ r

Consider the first span of a BHA in a vertical borehole as shown in Figure 14(a). To begin with, we assume
that, (1) the bit and the stabilizer act as two simple supports, (2) the collar above the stabilizer has no stiffness,
(3) the self-weight is omitted, and (4) the drill collar is initially strai ht. The critical buckling load for such a case is
given byl #1220,


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ., (19)

If the self-weight (adjusted for buoyancy) of the

collar is also included, Figure 14(b), the critical buckling
load can be approximated by 1112




. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..(2o)

if the stabilizer at end B is very long, or the collar

above it is much stiffer than collar AB, the model shown
in Figure 14(c) can be used and the buckling load



. . . . . . . . . . ..


If the material
of the assembly
is the same
throughout, i.e. if E = Ez = ------ = En, Equation (17)
can be further simpkt
led as,
do =

Buckling of a BHA occurs when the weight-on-bit

reaches a certain critical value and the normal deflection
of the drillstring suddenly becomes large. This critical
value of the WOB depends upon the BHA make-up, i.e.
upon the size (OD, ID) of the drill collars, location of stabilizers and the elastic modulus of the collar material.
Although, contact with the borehole wall prevents excessive deformation of the drillstring, its buckling has several
adverse effects, such as; (a) formation caving due to rubbing of the drillstring against the borehole wall, (b) fatigue
failure of the drillstring, and (c) unintended deviation of
the drillstring. Therefore, avoiding buckling is a good
objective especially since many expensive MWD sensors
are used now-a-days in the BHAs.

L1/ll + L2/12 + --- Ln/In


The situations described above can be considered as

two extremes for a collar located immediately above the
bit. In general, the true condition lies in between the two,
and the corresponding
critical buckling load can be
bounded by Equations (19) [rather (20)1 and (21).

+ di4
. . . . . . . (18)

It is easy to see that Equations (16) and (17) give

almost identical results since kb in (16) is about four times
that in (17). The specification of equivalent OD of the
MWD collar in a vendors catalogue is very beneficial
since it eliminates the ambiguity associated with the
method chosen for ccmputing the bending stiffness.

If both ends of a collar could be considered

as shown in Figure 14(d), the corresponding
load becomes,
pa = 4#EI

as fixed,

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. (22)

Obviously, a good estimate of the critical buckling

load of a collar will depend upon an engineers ability to
properly model the boundary conditions at its ends.
Above discussion was primarily meant for a BHA in
a vertical borehole where no initial curvature or normal
load was involved. For a BHA in an inclined or curved
borehole, the concept of critical buckling load has a
slightly different meaning. In Figure 1, the BHA in an
inclined hole was shown to have a normal load component, q, in addition to the axial component, p. Furthermore, in Equation (7) an equivalence between the initial
curvature and normal load was established. Therefore,
the two cases of inclined or curved borehole can be similarly treated under the general catagory of an imperfect
An imperfect collar is shown in Figure 15(a). It bends
immediately upon the application of the axial compressive load, i.e. the WOB. If the imperfection VI is small!
initially the lateral deflection V2 increases gradually with
the WOB. But, as the WOB approaches a certain critical
vaiue, V2 grows rapidly regardless of the value Of VIt
Figure 15(b). In its later stage, the load deflection curve of
an imperfect collar follows that of its straight counterpart
in an asymptotic sense 20. Thus, the critical buckling load
assumes a limiting value for the imperfect collar. When
the initial imperfection VI is relatively large (as in a highly
curved or inclined borehole), the lateral deflection of the
collar increases gradually but non-linearly, and there is no
discernible knee in the curve.
Now, we consider the case of a BHA with two spans
as shown in Figure 16(a). It can be shown that the critical
buckling load for such a BHA lies between the two values
calculated for separate spans as if each were a bar with
hinged endslz,
i.e., Pcrl < Pcr < Pcr2

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (23)

Pcrl > Pcr > pcr2

where, Pcrl =


and Pcr2 =

When the values of pcrl and pcrz differ onlY marginally, their average will yield good approximation for the
critical buckling load of the assembly, Per. When this is not
the case, we can use a different approach.
Consider, for example, the BHA shown in Figure
16(b), with El = E2 = E, II = 12 = II and L1 = 2LZ =
L. The correct value of the critical buckling load for this
assembly is 14.9 E1/L2. Also, using equations (19), (21)
and (23), we obtain,


9.87 <pm<



In directional drilling, the ability to perform simple
static analysis of bottomhole assemblies is important. The
paper attempts to present some basic concepts of this discipline in a systematic fashion. Herein, the BHA is treated
as a beam column which can be straight (but not necessarily vertical) or curved, and subjected to the self-weight,
buoyancy, and weight-on-bit. Beginning with a one stabilizer BHA, the effects of additional stabilizers, borehole
curvature, torque, wall contact and of variations in crosssectional properties are introduced in steps. Both twoand three-dimensional
assemblies are discussed. The limitations of closed form methods and the advantages of
their numerical counterparts are highlighted. The criteria
for defining the build, drop, hold and walk trends is clarified. Two methods for computing bending stiffness and
equivalent outer diameter of collars with non-uniform
cross-sections (e.g. MWD collars) are proposed. Finally,
simple methods for estimating critical buckling loads of
one and two span assemblies are presented.

The subject matter presented in this paper was prepared when the author was employed with NL Industries,
Inc. The opinions expressed here are of the author alone.
Thanks are due to Carolyn McFarland and Mary Fouts
for their help in typing the paper.


The difference between the upper and lower bounds

s large, and we cannot obtain a meaningful approximation for pcr by averaging. On the other hand, since pcr2
>> Pcrl, it implies that span BC is much stiffer than AB
md we can replace span BC with a fixed support at B, as
shown in Figure 16(c). We can then conclude that the
;ritical buckling load, PCr, for the two span assembly of
Figure 16(b) should lie between 9.87 E1/L2 and 20.5 El/
L2. The average of the two values gives a better approximation to the exact buckling load of the assembly.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . (24)

DIDRIL i.s a trademark of NL Industries,


1. Wilson, G. E.: How to Drill a Usable Hoie, Part l, Work! Oil
(August 1960) .
2. Lubinski, A.: A Study of the Buckling of Rotary Drilling
String, Driliing and Production Practices, API (1950) 178214.
3. Lubinski, A. and Woods, H. B.: Factors Affecting the Angie of
Inclination and Dog-Legging in Rotary Boreholes, Drillingand
Production Practices, API (1953) 222-250.
4. Woods, H.B. and Lubinski, A.: Use of Stabilizers in Controlhng Hole Deviation, Drillingand Production Practices, API
(1955) 165-182.



5, Fischer, EJ.: Analysis of Drillstring in Curved Bore holes,

paper SPE 5071 presented at the 1974 SPE Fall Meeting,
Houston, Oct. 6-9.
6. Walker, B.H. and Friedman, M.B.: Three-Dimensional Force
and Deflection Analysis of a Variable Cross-Section Drill
String, Transactions of the ASME, Journal of Pressure Vessel
Technology (May 1977) 367-373.
7. Millheim. K., Jordan, S. and Ritter, C. J.: Bottom-Hole
Assembly Analysis LMng the Fini:e-Element Method, JPT
(Feb. 1978) 265-274.
8. Dunaevsky, VA. and Judzis, A.: Conservative and Nonconservative Buckling of Drillpipe, paper SPE 11991 presented at
the 1983 SPE Annual Conference, San Francisco, Oct. 5-8.
9. Ho, H.-S.: General Formulations of Drillstring Mechanics
Under Large 3-D Deformations, NL Technology Systems,
Houston, Texas (1985).
10. Popov, E. P.: Mechanics of Materials, Second Edition,
Prentice-Hall, Inc., New Jersey (1976).
11. Tlmoshenko, S.: Strength of Materials, Part II, Third Edition,
D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., New York (1956),
12, Timoshenko, S.l? and Gere, J. M.: Theory of Elastic Stability, Second Edition, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New
York (1961).
13. Wang, C. K.: Statically Indeterminate Structures, McGrawHill Book Company, New York (1953).
14. Bradley, W.B.: Factors Affecting the Control of Borehole
Angle in Straight and Directional Wells, JPT (June 1975)
15, Rafie, S., Ho, H.-S. and Chandra, U.: Applications of a BHA
Analysis Program in Directional Drilling, paper lADC/SPE
14765 presented at the 1986 lADC/SPE Drilling Conference,
Dallas, Feb. 10-12.
16. Chandra, U. and Rafie, S.: Users Instruction Manual for
DIDRIL-1,NL Technology Systems, Houston, Texas (1985).
17. James, B. W.: Principal Effects of Axial Load on MomentDistribution Analysis of Rigid Structures, Technical Note No.
534, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, Washington (1935).
18. Millheim, K.: Here Are Basics of Bottom-Hole Assembly
Mechanics, Directional Drilling - 3, Oil and Gas Journal (Dec.
4, 1978) 98-106.
19. Przemieniecki, J. S.: Theory of Matrix Structural Analysis,
McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York (1968).
20. Gerard, G.: Introduction to Structural Stability Theory,
McGraw-Hill Bock Company, Inc., New York (1962).


Consider a collar segment (beam element) arbitrarily

oriented in a three-dimensional space, as shown in Figure
17 (a), The behavior of such an element can, in general,
be represented by a total of twelve degrees of freedom
(DOF), six at each end as shown. Out of the six DOFl
three are translational and three rotational. The stiffness
matrix [K] of such element is a [12 x 12] matrix consisting
of diagonal as well as off-diagonal terms, kij. The force
displacement relationship for the element is given by,

where, {F }and {U }are vectors of force and displacement,

respectively. The expended form of Equation (A. 1) can
be found in Reference 19.
For round collars, one can take advantage of symmetry and only three DOF at each end are needed to
describe the behavior of the element. Of these three DOF
two are translational and one rotational, as shown in
Figure 17(b). The full stiffness matrix in such case is given










12EI 6EI
6E1 2E1
6EI 4E1




6x 1

From Equation (A.2), or from the extended form of

(A, 1), the definition of any stiffness coefficient, kij, can be
easily derived. It is the force (or moment) in the ith DOF
necessary to cause a unit displacement (or rotation) in the
jth DOF with all other DOFZ held fixed.


The stiffness of a collar or a beam column is a mathematical representation of its response to applied loads. A
load can be a force or a moment, and the response can
be displacement
or rotation. Thus, a load could be
applied in axial, bending, torsion or shear modes. The
response of a collar to one type of load is different from
that to other type, and hence its stiffness in one mode is
different from that in the other. Also, when the load is
applied in one mode, the collar may respond in other
modes as well. The stiffness matdx is a means of collectively describing the response in all individual as well as
coupled modes.

Whenever bending is the predominant

mode of
collar behavior, for example, in directional drilling, we are
with k~~ and k6G of Equation (A.2). This
approach is common in civil engineering structuresls. In
Figure 12, these two stiffness coefficients were called kbl
and kb2, respectively. This forms the basis of the stiffness
coefficient method discussed in the paper.
Pure bending method can be viewed as a special
case of the above, where only the rotational DOF at each
end is retained to describe the behavior of a collar element.













- 777Txrrr










Fig. 6lniNal curvature.


Fig. 8CoIlar



with nonuniform


\ .\.

on a dropping








-. <

++T zE=G


Fig. 10Possible





Fig. 9Three-dimensional






of borehole





Fig. 7Effect


beam column.


. /






WOB. cosa







F@. 11Fore.8onbftandf0mWflon.







E,I, L


bl = b2




E2,12, L2

E1, 11,L1





Fig. 12SNffn.?ss coefficient

Fig. 13Pure


bending method.







sPAN 1




of imperfect


of buckling.





Fig. 15-Buckling
Fig. 14Concept








} %~#RHT







E,I, L





sPAN 2



















Fig. 16Buckllng


of BHA with two spans.


Fig. 17-A

beam @umn

or collar element.