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SPE 80456

Pushing the Limit with Coiled Tubing Perforating

Edgar Paul R. Acorda, SPE, and Stephen P. Engel, SPE, BJ Services Company and Joanne L.J. Chu, SPE, Sarawak
Shell Bhd/Sabah Shell Petroleum Co. Ltd.
Copyright 2003, Society of Petroleum Engineers Inc.
This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE Asia Pacific Oil and Gas Conference and
Exhibition held in Jakarta, Indonesia, 1517 April 2003.
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of
information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as
presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to
correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any
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The use of coiled tubing in the oil and gas industry has
become wide and varied since its inception some forty years
ago. From its early applications of sand clean out and
unloading wells, coiled tubing is also now frequently used to
convey perforating guns. With the trend of new wells drilled
to a more complex trajectory and with horizontal sections
becoming longer and longer, perforating with e-line has
become difficult, if not impossible. With the added benefit of
underbalanced conditions, extreme lengths and weights of
guns to perforate extensive intervals in a single run, coiled
tubing has evolved into an invaluable tool.
This paper presents a case history where 2 coiled tubing was
used to successfully convey some 2,900 ft of guns having a
BHA weight in the order of 14 tons. The trend of ever
increasing BHA weights is extending the operating envelope
and creating new records of longest and heaviest coiled tubing
deployed perforating. Meticulous engineering and pre-job
planning is a prerequisite for deploying these types of
assemblies. Job simulation and operational data are presented
to highlight the reliability of computer models in predicting
the proximity of what can and cannot be achieved. Great focus
is placed on tools and techniques that have been employed to
reduce the friction in the BHA and coil. The paper also
discusses the risk assessment and mitigation plans of pushing
the technology to such limits.
The increasing trend toward longer and higher angle wells
today offer productivity and reservoir management
advantages. This has created challenges for conventional
perforating with electric wireline where the well inclination
and the total weight of the guns become an issue. With the
added benefits of perforating under balance, it is advantageous

to shoot the entire interval is a single operations both for

operational economics and for the effect of high drawdown to
flush the perforation tunnel. As a consequence, perforating
guns have become long and heavy to an extreme where
deployment and recovery tests the limits of the industry.
The industry has offered a number of solutions each of
which have its limitations and advantages. Stem rollers and
tractors can be incorporated in the perforating BHA to help the
wireline convey the guns to depth. Drag reducers may be
introduced into the well bore to aid progress to the required
depth. Hydraulically activated oscillating tools have been used
and a number of pump assist solutions have been used. All
such solutions have contributed in part to extending the reach
and the BHA pay load.
Perforating with jointed pipe is another option making use
of the rigid nature and offering more push and pull forces at
the BHA. With jointed pipe, recovery of the guns after
detonation may be a slow process with connections to break
and wellhead pressure and well control requiring some special
equipment and handling provisions. Options to leave the
perforating BHA in the well by dropping the guns on
detonation have been used but unless there is a suitable rat
hole, the production flow paths become restricted. The
economy of drilling a rat hole to accommodate the guns may
be questionable at best.
A combination of several of the techniques described
above for conveying and recovering long and heavy
perforating guns on coiled tubing has become the viable
option. Coiled tubing units are self-contained packages that
are custom built to operate safely in live well intervention and
remedial tasks. They have the ability to rapidly run in and pull
out of hole, deliver fluids for the introduction of chemical drag
reducers, deliver fluid or gas to create under balance
conditions, push the BHA along high angle or horizontal
well paths and pull high loads.
This paper reviews the technologies and techniques used in
the deployment of the longest and heaviest perforating guns by
coiled tubing. It is based on a case study of a perforation job
in Malaysia in 2002 where the utilization of rollers and drag
reducers expanded the operating envelope.
modeling was invaluable with job design with particular
regard to force and stress analysis of the buckling equilibrium
of the coiled tubing.

SPE 80456

Overview of horizontal wells

Horizontal wells were first drilled in Texas in the late 1920s.
The objective was to offer improved production relative to that
achieved from a less deviated or conventional well profile

The 1940s and 1950s saw a significant number of horizontal

wells being drilled but with a short length, usually less than
100 ft 2. Over the years, the length of the horizontal section
has become longer and longer. Any inclination over 60 to 70
degrees precluded the use of conventional e-line perforating.
Tool string aids and drag reducers
BHA rollers have been used very successfully for many years
especially in slick line operations. Highly efficient rollers have
been developed that effectively extend the slick line operating
envelope. Such rollers are also widely available for coiled
tubing operations but their use is almost exclusively in
combination with long and heavy BHAs.


Well tractors are a more recent development and are

available with electrical and hydraulic drive motors and are
used in conjunction with e-line and coiled tubing3. These
connect in tandem with conventional downhole wireline
equipment and assist in the descent in the well. Pumping
fluids in the well or inside the coiled tubing hydraulically
operate some of these tools.


Figure 1 Flow Geometry of Vertical and Horizontal Well

(Howes, 1998).
Horizontal wells produce, on average, roughly four times
more than vertical wells, mainly because of the greater
productive surface area exposed to the wellbore. Vertical
wells have radial flow geometry and a concerted pressure
drop, while horizontal wells have parallel flow and a
homogeneous pressure drop 1.

Figure 3 Rollers attached to the perforating guns

L e n g t h o f H o r iz o n ta l S e c tio n O v e r t h e Y e a r s

3 5 ,1 9 6

1 9 9 0 's


1 9 3 0 's


L e n g th , ft

Figure 2 Length of Horizontal Section over the years

(Perdue, et al 2000)



SPE 80456

The perforation process also causes its own damage to the

formation but to a lesser extent if done in underbalanced
conditions. Thus, perforating underbalance contributes some
great advantages of removing perforation damage and
maximizing productivity 4. The rapid reduction of the
underbalance in the well at the moment immediately after
detonation causes an outflow of formation fluids into the well
bore. The flow flushes drilling damage from the immediate
perforation tunnels, and removes particles which may
otherwise reduce the permeability of the surrounding rock.
After creation of the perforation channel, it further provides
flushing of the crushed zone responsible for the perforation
Perforating using coiled tubing
Some CT perforating jobs have been done for several years
already. Since 1993, more than 100 wells in the North Sea
were perforated using coiled tubing. At the early stages, stiff
wireline was being used since the workscope includes logging
In the Asia-Pacific, it is only recently these types of jobs
have become popular. Since 1999, a total of 57 jobs have
been completed with varying diameters of coil being used.
Sizes range from 1-1/4 OD to 2-3/8 OD. Sizes of guns too
have also increased with 4-5/8 TCPs planned to be deployed
at the end of the year. Figure 4 below presents coiled tubing
perforation runs associated with the authors in the Asia-Pacific
until June 2002.

Case history
The oil reservoirs in a field offshore Sabah, East Malaysia are
shallow and low pressure. A well was drilled and completed in
May 2002. The requirement to perforate a long horizontal
interval in underbalanced condition necessitated the
deployment of a long and heavy BHA. The well was
perforated at underbalanced condition and the perforations
were protected from kill fluid during the retrieval of the guns
using a downhole isolation valve. The well was flowed to
clean up immediately after the spent guns were laid down
safely at surface, followed with another coil tubing run to
break the isolation valve.
The underbalance condition was achieved during a
cleanout run using nitrogen gas after the completion string was
installed. A minimal underbalance pressure of 450-500 psi
was to be established for this depleted reservoir. Since the
workscope included multiple runs including circulation,
underbalance creation as well as perforating with some
14,000kg of BHA, it was considered most appropriate to use
the services of coiled tubing.
Well trajectory
The trajectory of the well is complex in terms of azimuthal
turns, inclination and build rates. The maximum angle of the
well is 91.6 degrees with a maximum dogleg severity of 4.5
degrees/100 ft. The MD distance from TD of the well to the
vertical section extended over 6,500 ft, while the distance
from the start of build until the TVD of the horizontal section
is between 1,000 ft to 2,000 ft.
The horizontal production interval of the well is relatively
long at some 2,500 ft. The well, in general, can be classified
as a long radius horizontal well.
3-D Plot Of Well Profile

Asia- Pacific Coiled Tubing Perforating Runs


No. Of Runs

















Ye ar

3-D Line Plot

Shadow TVD-Easting

Figure 4 Coiled Tubing Perforating Runs in the AsiaPacific




Underbalanced Perforating
In conventional underbalanced perforating the wellbore
pressure is set below reservoir pressure before the guns are
fired. The use of underbalance to create a high drawdown to
wash the perforation tunnels offer clean up benefits to the
damage zone to some extend. This implies that formation
damage due to fluid invasion during drilling and completion
phase can be minimized or removed.

Shadow TVD-Northing
Selected Point

Figure 5 3D plot of well profile

Shadow Northing-Easting

Well completion
The well was completed as a 4-1/2 Monobore. The liner is a
4-1/2, 11.6 lb/ft, and L-80 grade. The production tubing is a
4-1/2, 10.5 lb/ft, L-80 13Cr. See Figure 6 Completion Diagram
Perforating BHA
The guns that were used in this well have a 2-3/4 OD with
each section measuring in 21 ft in length. The loaded guns
weigh in at 11 lb/ft while the blanks are 8.5 lb/ft. The total
length of the perforating guns was 2,885 ft with 1,841 ft net
The total weight of the guns was 29,125 lbs. With the
other BHA accessories the total length and weight of the
perforating BHA was 2,942.77 ft and 29,619.52 lbs.
respectively. These parameters pushed the industry records of
coiled tubing perforating to new levels. The authors believe
that this set a new world record.

SPE 80456

To mitigate the situation, it was elected to incorporate a

chemical drag reducer. Field results have shown that, on the
average, a 17% decrease in the coefficient of friction is
attainable. Final modeling suggested that if the 50 rollers
available were installed at the bottom of the BHA and a 17%
drag reducer efficiency was input, the operation was right on
the very edge of what is and not possible. Risks of failing to
reach the required firing depth were jointly analyzed by the
operator and services providers and finally agreed to go ahead
with the operation. The operation went ahead and was short of
target by some 54 ft. The consequence of this had no
significant impact on well productivity.

Surface equipment set up

The equipment rig up is in accordance with standard coiled
tubing operation. In addition, a screen-running table was
included to function as the work window for the gun supplier
to make-up and deploy their TCPs. See Figure 7 Stack-up

Run 1, Cleanout followed by spotting of drag reducer

After the completion was stabbed into the liner, coil was
deployed with a 3 mill to condition and cleanout any residual
debris or cement in the well tubular. No resistance was
encountered but the returns were dirty. When the returns
became clean, 70 bbls of the drag reducer was spotted along
the horizontal section of the well. The coiled tubing was then
pulled up to the required target fluid level and unloaded with
nitrogen to create the required underbalance condition. Once
established, the coiled tubing was recovered to surface in
preparation for the gun run. See Figure 10 Actual versus predicted


surface weight gauge during POOH after cleanout run.

Circulation and drag analysis

A wide range of computer modeling was done using various
scenarios. Due to the weight and length of the BHA,
relatively large 2 x 0.156 wall coiled tubing was selected.

Run 2, Run in with perforating guns

Weight gauge readings while RIH, initially were slightly
lower than predicted. As the BHA was ran into the horizontal
section, RIH weights were not constant until firing depth. At
the end, the reading was higher than predicted. The coil was
pressurized with nitrogen and detonated the guns.

The output of the modeling indicated that the required

firing depth could not be reached under normal operating
conditions as helical friction lock of the pipe prevented further
progress. See Figure 8 Base case. Theoretical studies suggested
that attachment of rollers at every gun section effectively
reduce the push force required to move the guns to TD. The
efficiency of rollers has been found empirically to be of the
order of 50% in the horizontal section of the well.
Rerunning the model gave results indicating that the guns
could indeed reach firing depth with a significant margin by
including rollers. See Figure 9 RIH with rollers (dynamic friction).
This scenario was ideal as it was run using dynamic friction.
It has not taken into account inevitable stop and go
situations or static friction. It is well understood that
continuing to run or pull coiled tubing in a well is easier than
to start running or pulling by a factor of 4/3. Repeating the
simulation under these static friction conditions gave a margin
somewhat lower but still acceptable.
A few weeks prior the operation, it was discovered that an
inadequate number of rollers would be available to install one
roller every 22ft joint of guns. Only 50 rollers we available out
of the ideal number of 130 or so. The rollers that were used in
the job had 3 wheels. It was placed mainly at the end of the
perforating gun approximately at 7479 ft-AHBDF and every
22 feet thereafter.

The coil was POOH immediately and shift closed the

isolation valve with 5,000 lbs overpull. At 100 ft above the
valve, approximately 48 bbls of seawater was spotted on top
of the KOIV to ensure the integrity of the seal. The well was
monitored for any build up. The coil was then POOH to
surface and the guns recovered from the well.
The graph of actual versus predicted surface weight gauge
readings were compared after the job. See Figure 11 Actual
versus predicted surface weight gauge during RIH with perforating guns.

It was calculated that the rollers were efficient in the

horizontal section, as the push force required to get the guns at
depth decreased by 36%.
Run 3, Breaking the isolation valve
Knock-off isolation valve (KOIV) was incorporated in the
completion string to allow the safe pullout of the CT and
laying down of spent guns after perforation of the interval.
The well was gaslifted to flow and allowed to be cleaned up
The KIOV was RIH to the well in the open position and
shifted closed by the tool attached at the end of the perforating
BHA while POOH after detonation.
After laying down spent guns, a BHA with the impact
hammer was RIH. The isolation valve was tagged and broken

SPE 80456

by activating the hammer and laying off 500 lb weight. The

isolation valve broke quickly and this was confirmed by
reciprocating the BHA across the valve depth a number of
times. POOH to surface and rigged down the injector from the
Eventhough there were less than an idea number of rollers to
complete this operation, the well was successfully perforated
with the aid of a drag reducer. The target depth was missed by
only 54 ft demonstrating the reliability of the model, the
modeling technique and justifying the risks taken. Conveying
long and heavy guns with coiled tubing has once again proven
both a viable option and an efficient technique. Most
importantly this case study has shown the crucial importance
of accurate models, accurate modeling techniques and the
benefits of precise and cooperative planning. The function of
rollers is a little better understood but parameters affecting
their efficiency such as spacing, roller diameters, BHA
stiffness etc. are still not clearly defined.

1. Howes, J.: Horizontal and Extended-Reach Drilling
Come of Age, The Oilman (April 1988) 15-39.
2. Cooper, R.E. and George Birch: Horizontal Well
Cementing, in Well Cementing, Nelson, E.B.,
Elsevier Publishing, the Netherlands (1990) 15-1.
3. Perdue, J.M. and Silverman, S.A.: 2000 World
Records & Firsts, Harts E&P Drilling & Production
Yearbook, March 2002.
4. Local, E. and T.L. Searight: Wireline Tractor
Production Logging Experience in Australian
Horizontal Wells, SPE 51612 presented at the Asia
Pacific Oil and Gas Conference and Ehxibition, Perth,
October 12-14, 1998.
5. Walton, I.C., Johnson, A.B., Behrmann, L.A. and
Atwood, D.C.: Laboratory Experiments Provide new
Insights into Uderbalanced Perforating, paper SPE
71642 presented at the 2001 Annual Technical
Conference and Exhibition, New Orleans, LA, 30
Sept. 3 Oct., 2001.

The Authors wish to extend their gratitude to PETRONAS,
SHELL MALAYSIA E&P and BJ Services Company for their
permission to publish this paper.

Min ID

4 1/2 Flow C oupling


4 1/2 TRSCSS


4 1/2 K BUG + BK



9 5/8 Csg Shoe

4 1/2 K BUG + BK


4 1/2 K BUG + BK


4 1/2 SSD

Top of 4 1/2 Liner

4 1/2 Isolation
5 PBR Locator


7 5/8 Liner

4594 7479 ft
Target Sand

4 1/2 Liner TD @
7523 FT

Figure 6 Completion Diagram

SPE 80456

Figure 7 Stack-up diagram

Gooseneck guides CT
into the injector

Injector guides CT
into the well


Stuffing Box seals CT

annulus under normal
Quad BOP Stack
Primary well
control equipment
with Blind, Shear,
Slip and Pipe rams


Pump-In Tee
complete with
Low Torq Valve


Flow Tee Allows well

returns to be directed to a
To Trip Tank / Choke Manifold /
Production Facilities


Grapple Connector, Double Flapper

check valve, BOSS tool and Carsac

5-4 ACME Pin

Carsac Bottom Connection, X-Over

KOIV Shifting Tool, Firing Head
2-3/4 Gun Assemblies

5-4 ACME Box
1 ft Stick Up

Screen Running Table


Drill Floor

Screen Running Table Work

window for make up/brake up of
TCP guns and hang it for connection
to CT before RIH

Screen Running Table

5 Vam AtacTubing to Xmas

XmasTree Cap
6 -4 ACME


11 5/8 ID


1.5 ft
(500 mm)

SPE 80456

Expected Weight Gauge and Operating Limit during RIH

Weight Gauge Reading [lbf]


Perforation interval at 4594 ft to 7479 ft








Depht [ft]
operating limit

weight gauge

Figure 8 Base case

Expected Weight Gauge and Operating Limit during RIH

Weight Gauge Reading [lbf]


Perforation interval at 4594 ft to 7479 ft





Depht [ft]
operating limit

Figure 9 RIH with rollers (dynamic friction)

weight gauge




SPE 80456

Expected Weight Gauge and Operating Limit while POOH

Weight Gauge Reading [lbf]










Depth [ft]
operating limit

expected reading

actual reading

Figure 10 Actual versus predicted surface weight gauge

during POOH after cleanout run.

Expected Weight Gauge and Operating Limit during RIH

Weight Gauge Reading [lbf]








Perforation interval at 4594 ft to 7479 ft





Depth [ft]

operating limit

Figure 11 Actual versus predicted surface weight gauge

during RIH with perforating guns.

weight gauge

Actual Job