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Deepwater Horizon Study Group

Working Paper January 2011

The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering


and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk
David M. Pritchardi and Kenneth J. Kotowii
Successful Energy Practices International, LLC

Abstract
The Macondo blowout highlights the need for well designs capable of consistently obtaining
commercial and technical well objectives while improving safety for personnel and the environment.
But in order to identify a problem, it must be recognized that there is a problem.
This paper discusses key issues concerning setting and aligning safety objectives to achieve an
acceptable balance among a plethora of risks and maintaining a healthy deep-water drilling industry.
In particular we focus on how this impacts performance and, more importantly, safe well designs.
It is important to fully realize how well-drilling objectives and their associated uncertainties are
linked to the safe drilling margin. At first blush, this issue may be viewed as a purely technical matter
but it is primarily a human one, grounded in the forces that inspire to create false choices in risk and
reward.
This paper illustrates how just one key uncertainty can lead to an unsafe well design, e.g., how
the Rig Schedule plays into routinely ignoring warning signs and how risk-taking behavior can
insidiously infect a risk-adverse goal. The symptoms of this infection of an otherwise healthy safety
management system can lead to operator manipulation of both company design practices and also
regulatory requirements under the assumption that any increase in risk or error in judgment is
manageable by last resort safety systems. Inevitably, in this environment, black swan disasters will
eventually occur.iii

Successful Energy Practices International, LLC 2010

David M. Pritchard, Owner, Successful Energy Practices International, LLC. Mr. Pritchard is a Registered Professional
Petroleum Engineer associated with the Petroleum industry since 1970. He has extensive experience managing,
planning and supervising worldwide drilling and production operations.
ii Kenneth J. Kotow, Successful Energy Practices International, LLC. He has a B.Sc. in Mineral Engineering from the
University of Alberta, with a specialization in Petroleum Engineering, and is a professional engineer with the
Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta (APEGGA). Mr. Kotow is a SEPI
associate.
iii Black Swan Theory is a philosophical and mathematical theory founded by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It describes
randomness and uncertainty. The theory was described in Taleb's book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly
Improbable. Its name originates in the assumption in Medieval Europe that black swans could not exist, when in fact,
they are rare, but do exist.
From http://www.mahalo.com/black-swan-theory.
i

Deepwater Horizon Study Group Working Paper


The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk

Table of Contents
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.

Forward ........................................................................................................................................................ 3
Rig Schedule and the Macondo Prospect ............................................................................................... 4
The Rig Schedule and Compromised Designs A Design Example............................................... 11
What Are the Solutions to the Rig Schedule Dilemma? ..................................................................... 13
What Are the Options for the Rig Schedule Dilemma? ..................................................................... 14
More On Casing Seat Depth Fundamentals......................................................................................... 14
How Did Casing Seats Influence the Completion of the Macondo Well A Story Not Heard . 16
Understanding Wellbore Instability Well Listening and the Rig Team Interactive Factors ...... 23
Discussion of Key Hazards Leading to Wellbore Instability ............................................................. 24
Analyzing the Risk of Deepwater Drilling The Metrics of Wellbore Instability ......................... 28
Conclusion ................................................................................................................................................. 31
Acronyms and Definitions ...................................................................................................................... 32
References .................................................................................................................................................. 36

Figures
Figure 2.1 The difference between long casing and liner: the 13 in liner. ................................................... 5
Figure 2.2 First mistake, fewer barriers to gas flow............................................................................................ 6
Figure 3.3 Second mistake,, fewer centralizers to evenly distribute the cement. ........................................... 7
Figure 2.4 Third mistake, a bond log was dismissed as being unnecessary. ................................................... 7
Figure 2.5 Fourth mistake, the pressure test results were misinterpreted....................................................... 8
Figure 2.6 Fifth mistake, the mud barrier to well pressure was removed early. ............................................ 9
Figure 2.7 Sixth mistake, the blowout preventer failed to close the well. ..................................................... 10
Figure 3.1 Acona WellPro Macondo mini seminar, August 2010.................................................................. 11
Figure 3.2 Type Dodson MRI 5 deepwater well. .............................................................................................. 12
Figure 6.1 Typical deepwater riserless casing seat rationale. ........................................................................... 15
Figure 6.2 Fundamentals of casing seat optimization. ..................................................................................... 15
Figure 7.1 Acona WellPro Macondo mini seminar, August 2010.................................................................. 16
Figure 7.2 Hydrocarbon Zones and Potential Flow Paths. ............................................................................. 21
Figure 7.3 BP knew they had a tight margin...................................................................................................... 22
Figure 9.1 Downhole pressure during fluid feedback from formation. ........................................................ 27
Figure 10.1 Graphic of total days of wellbore instability. ................................................................................ 29
Figure 10.2 NPT for 263 wells drilled in less than 600 ft of water. ............................................................... 30
Figure 10.3 NPT for 99 non-subsalt wells drilled in greater than 3000 ft of water. ................................... 30
Figure 10.4 NPT for 65 wells subsalt wells drilled in greater than 3000 ft of water. .................................. 31

Tables

Table 3.1 Summary table for the Dodson deepwater Mechanical Risk Index ............................................. 12
Table 3.2 A caption from a deepwater well program. ...................................................................................... 13
Table 7.1 Deepwater well example...................................................................................................................... 17
Table 8.1 Interpretive well listening: the human factors. ................................................................................ 23
Table 9.1 Deepwater ballooning case history. ................................................................................................... 25
Table 10.1 Days of wellbore instability as a percent of total time (exclusive of weather).......................... 29
Table 12.1 Key drilling acronyms. ....................................................................................................................... 32
Table 12.2 Key drilling definitions. ..................................................................................................................... 33

Deepwater Horizon Study Group Working Paper


The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk

1. Forward
The Macondo blowout highlights the need for well designs capable of consistently obtaining
commercial and technical well objectives while improving safety for personnel and the environment.
In order to identify a problem, it must be recognized that there is a problem. Examining deep
water operations in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) indicate that there are unidentified and,
consequently, reoccurring systemic risk management problems unique to complex deepwater well
development that have not as yet been fully understood or effectively treated by some offshore
operators.1 Fundamentally this stems from a deficient safety culture and a resulting dysfunctional
safety management system.
Professor Andrew Hopkins2 has analyzed high-performing organizations and found that
organizational mindfulness is a key leading indicator of such problems, i.e., a mindset that exists in
some organizations that support a culture of denial, as characterized by following:
A belief that it can't happen here. It usually will, especially when in denial.
A tendency to dismiss warning signs. Many deepwater well operators experience an
frequent subsurface problems that have risk implications that are not fully
analyzed or appreciated.
A tendency to normalize warning signs. At what point are abnormal operations
considered routine and safe? Recognizing a conditioned behavioral response by
the crew due to frequency of occurrence is a function of a successful safety
management system.
Rather than proving that an activity is unsafe, there is a tendency to prove that an activity is
safe (important distinction). The safety of the complex operations should not be
assumed.
Group think. The tendency to ignore the dissenting voice and move towards the
loudest or more popular choice without fully regard of the issue. How many
times does this happen?
From an organizational perspective, drilling management equals risk management. As
J. C. Cunha has observed3:
It is clear to me that drilling management is related closely to risk management and The
correct assessment of all risks involved in drilling operations will provide better planning and will
consequentially improve operational results. Furthermore, A proficient drillingmanagement
process is now more important than ever. This process must permeate all phases of a project, from
early planning to final execution. Risk assessment of all operations must become a routine.
Indeed, risk assessment of all operations must become routine; however, it must also be
performed in a mindful-manner NOT as a matter of routine or with a compliance-mentality.
Drilling performance and safety is a multidisciplinary responsibility. Managing risks begins with well
planning and clearly stated objectives agreed to by all stakeholders and by setting forth clear lines of
responsibility and accountability in the decision-making process.4

Deepwater Horizon Study Group Working Paper


The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk

This paper discusses key issues concerning setting and aligning objectives, and how this impacts
performance and, more importantly, safe well designs. It is important to fully realize how welldrilling objectives and their associated uncertainties are linked to the safe drilling margin. At first blush,
this issue may be viewed as a purely technical matter. However, that would be a mistake -- it is not
and this paper illustrates how just one key uncertainty can lead to an unsafe well design, e.g., How
the Rig Schedule plays into routinely ignoring warning signs and how risk-taking behavior can
insidiously infect a risk-adverse goal. The symptoms of this infection of an otherwise healthy safety
management system can lead to operator manipulation of both company design practices and also
regulatory requirements and complacency. Schedule driven decisions create a dynamic characterized
by a tendency to overlook or possibly ignore essential design requirements to ensure a safe drilling
margin and properly manage uncertainties and ancillary risks. Like a virulent virus, as the
contagion spreads, it can and has escalated into an unhealthy co-dependent relationship between
operators and regulators, contaminating the intended system of checks and balances in favor of
doing it cheaper and faster.

2. Rig Schedule and the Macondo Prospect


The record shows that BP Macondo well rig schedule and budget over-runs influenced the
casing design decision to forego a tied-back string of 13 in casing to the wellhead in favor of a
single long-string5 as well as other questionable decisions (all of which increased the risk of a
blowout) were more than causal to the failure. If the 13 in casing had been tied back and
successfully cemented, then the prolonged consequence of the catastrophe could have been avoided
as pointed out in Figure 2.1 on the next page.6 That is, if the ability to conduct "bullheading"
operations had been possible the well could have been killed with confidence by removing the riser
at the BOP and rigging up high pressure equipment to pump at high pressure without risk of
breaching the 18 and 16 liners and there would be no issues regarding compromising or breaching
the integrity of those shallower string casings.
Investigators are now seeking answers to many questions, including why was the decision made
to use a 9 in long string to complete the well instead of an inherently more secure tie-back liner?
On this issue the record speaks clearly time and money.7
A review of the events that occurred during the drilling of the Macondo well reveals that
incidents and gas-kicks were encountered and well control was problematic before the catastrophe
occurred. Various deficiencies in casing seats exacerbated well bore instability events and
complicated equivalent circulating density (ECD) control, making it difficult to manage from the
18 in casing downward. This inability to manage ECD may have contributed to the decision to
nitrify the cement a typical procedure used to minimize ECD management in the very narrow
annuli between casings. Nitrified cement is less dense, therefore lighter and has less resistance to
friction forces while circulating. However, it should be noted that using this type of cement is rare
for these kinds of operations as it also has lower yield strength. The risk of using the nitrogen
foamed cement has been highlighted in the investigation into the Macondo blowout as different
mixtures of the nitrogen foamed cement failed several tests before it was ultimately used to cement
the final casing in the well.8

Deepwater Horizon Study Group Working Paper


The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk

Figure 2.1 The difference between long casing and liner: the 13 in liner.iv

A summary of the several key factors are highlighted in the following six graphics (Figure 2.2,
Figure 2.3, Figure 2.4, Figure 2.5, Figure 2.6, and Figure 2.7) published in the Times Picayune, New
Orleans, LA.9 These illustrate the string of six major mistakes that culminated in the well blowout:
fewer barriers to gas flow were used than was prudent,
fewer centralizers that are necessary to keep the cement distributed around the
casing were placed,
no bond log was taken to measure the integrity of the cement,
the well pressure test results were misinterpreted as acceptable when not,
the mud in the well and riser was removed early and enabled gas to uplift, and
the blowout preventer failed to close the well.
Additional details on the Macondo well drilling design plan and additional risk-exacerbating
decisions are described in The Macondo Well by Paul Parsons.10

iv

Acona Wellpro, http://www.aconawellpro.com/@api/deki/files/251/=MiniSeminar_Macondo_August_2010.pdf,


17.

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The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk

Figure 2.2 First mistake, fewer barriers to gas flow.v

David Hammer, 6 Fateful Missteps, The Times Picayune, New Orleans, LA, September 5, 2010.

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The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk

Figure 3.3 Second mistake,, fewer centralizers to evenly distribute the cement. vi

Figure 2.4 Third mistake, a bond log was dismissed as being unnecessary.vii

vi
vii

Hammer, op. cit.


Hammer, op. cit.

Deepwater Horizon Study Group Working Paper


The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk

Figure 2.5 Fourth mistake, the pressure test results were misinterpreted.viii

viii

Hammer, op. cit.

Deepwater Horizon Study Group Working Paper


The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk

Figure 2.6 Fifth mistake, the mud barrier to well pressure was removed early.ix

ix

Hammer, op. cit.

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The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk

Figure 2.7 Sixth mistake, the blowout preventer failed to close the well.x

Hammer, op. cit.

10

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The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk

3. The Rig Schedule and Compromised Designs A Design


Example
With respect to ECD Management, delineates many of the problems encountered in the drilling
of the Macondo well and illustrates many failures in regard to ECD management, most notably fluid
losses and kicks (well control). The failure to fully honor the pore pressure fracture gradient
relationship in this well resulted in a exceptional amount of casing strings and actually intensified the
drilling risks and mechanical difficulties of dealing with small hole and casing diameters, and narrow
annuli at the extraordinary depths associated with deepwater operations.

Figure 3.1 Acona WellPro Macondo mini seminar, August 2010.xi

Increased risk stemming from liner and cementing decisions results from increasingly high ECD,
which exacerbates the ability to obtain viable cement integrity. The management of ECD is critical
and the failure to do so has resulted in an excessive amount of Non-Productive Time (NPT) and
caused unsafe incidents. In addition11, there are many wells that simply fail to meet technical
objectives and are abandoned. Such wells never become part of the drilling database that is used to
measure drilling performance, thus the industry metrics are worse than reported.
Failure to maximize leak off tolerance12 with each casing string against the overburden gradient
renders successive hole sections more difficult to manage, shortens the hole section and reduces well
control capabilities. This problem is compounded with each successive casing string. The net result
is that casing sizes are ineffective and diminishes the ability to manage ECD top to bottom,
negatively impacts wellbore stability, and causes other operational issues such as cementing integrity.
In the GOM deepwater environment, wells are ranked by the James K. Dodson & Company
from data supplied the operators. A summary of the ranking is shown in Table 3.1.
xi

Acona Wellpro, op. cit., 14.

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The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk

Table 3.1 Summary table for the Dodson deepwater Mechanical Risk Indexxii

Key Well Factors - Median

WD
ft ss
(ocean depth)
3,200

4,300

23,000

72

4,400

28,000

5.5

81

6,000

29,500

85

6,700

30,000

7.5

100

Complexity
Level

Well Depth
ft KBxiii

Number of
Casing Strings

Percent of Population
penetrating salt

19,000

78

The following example in Figure 3.2 portrays estimated pressures and fracture gradient
(overburden) profiles from a typical deepwater well. This well is not the Macondo and in fact is
much more complex than the Macondo but nonetheless highlights design gaps based on rig
incapability. This example well would represent the highest degree of complexity (Dodson MRI 5)
encountered in current deepwater drilling operations. A rig suitability evaluation follows using the
data provided in Table 3.2.

Figure 3.2 Type Dodson MRI 5 deepwater well.xiv


xii
xiii

The Mechanical Risk Index is an algorithm developed and owned by the James K. Dodson Company.
Kelly Bushing, The heavy bushing at the rotary table, through which the Kelly passes, which transmits the rotary
motion of the rotary table to the drill pipe. The top of the bushing is often taken as a depth datum.

12

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The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk

Table 3.2 A caption from a deepwater well program.

Reach objective casing point of 15,000 to set 16 as deep as possible with respect to hookload
limitations of the drilling rig
Rig Capabilities:
Derrick:
Draw works:
Pumps:

Rated Depth: 8,000 ft and 35,000 ft drilling depth


1,500,000 lbs.
3000 HP
3 at 2200 HP each

Question 1: How can this rig be rated for 35,000 ft when the actual safe margin load requires
much more hookload capacity? This design rating also does not apply a safety factor, and usually
that is 80% of load, or 1,200,000 lb.
Answer 1: It cannot. This rating is overstated for this example well, and more than likely many
of the more complex wells (Dodson MRIs 3-5).
The hookload requirements for the safest possible well design which honors the complete
uncertainty of the drilling margin is not possible with this rig: the 16 in casing is not deep enough
and the rig is incapable of hoisting deeper loads of 16 in or the 13 in, that is unless the design is
compromised. (Note the planned depth of 15,000 ft.)
Question 2: Is this rating compromised for the most complex of deepwater of wells?
Answer 2: Most probably, depending on the pore pressure and fracture gradient relationship
which determines the safe drilling margin. At the minimum, this rating denies the capability of
managing risk by failing to enable optimization of all casing string depths to bottom. (Note: this is
not the fault of the contractor, rather the operator must ensure that all design criteria are met and
aligned with the capacity of the rig.)
One of the problems with the current design philosophy is that acceptance of P50 pore pressure
criteria (See Figure 3.2) only has chance of becoming the actual well condition and does not honor
the outer boundary of risk and well control. If in fact the P50 pore pressure midpoint noted in
Figure 3.2 for design calculations is exceeded, which is entirely possible, this design is inadequate
and unsafe regarding kick tolerance, burst, and safe load requirements.

4. What Are the Solutions to the Rig Schedule Dilemma?


First, the rig schedule should not drive front end loading or the design, especially if it is deemed
necessary to utilize an under-rated rig just to meet the schedule. This is clearly an organizational
issue and requires objectives alignment from the onset.

xiv

Mechanical Risk Index defined by GOM Dodson Data Base.

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The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk

Second, the design itself (See Figure 3.2) must recognize the outer boundary of drilling margin
uncertainty, which at its worst case scenario is equivalent to the overburden gradient itself. This can
be either in pore pressure prediction or stress, which acts like pore pressure in that it requires mud
weight to counter. Stress can be no greater than overburden itself. Recognizing the maximum outer
boundary of the drilling margin relationship honors the greatest risk possible and that is where risk
management begins.
Third, casing seats design must not be compromised in: 1) seat designs which honor the
maximum uncertainties and 2) casing string weights or grades, again just to accommodate an
underrated rig.
Fourth, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE)
could consider modifying lease expiration criteria to accommodate operators sincere efforts to meet
the terms of leases.

5. What Are the Options for the Rig Schedule Dilemma?


If the rig schedule cannot be met for the safe and necessary design, then the well should be moved off the schedule
without compromise. Failure to do so violates the essence of risk management.
Another solution that might be considered is to batch-set all casing strings down to salt with rigs
of lesser capacity and completing the drilling operation by later moving in a large capacity rig as
available.
In fact, this option could have an industry advantage as over time as it would optimize the
available fleet, especially since development drilling will become more common place. Rigs of lesser
capacity can be used for shallower batch setting and the more capable rigs used for the deeper and
more complex environments.

6. More On Casing Seat Depth Fundamentals


The current practice of seawater jetting in the first string of casing, usually 250 to 300 ft below
the mud line, results in a casing seat set too shallow. This does not supply enough leak-off tolerance
for the drilling of the next hole section due to the very soft formations where there is little strength
or competency for fracture resistance. This first string of casing is commonly referred to as the
structural or Conductor string. Its design purpose is to support the weight of subsequent casing
strings and wellhead and supply resistance for bending moment of riser loading. However, in reality,
its ability to support much of an axial load is limited and it really does not supply much axial or
bending moment resistance until it is coupled to the subsequent casing strings. The first structural
string in current well designs does not take advantage of the growth of the fracture gradient and this
negatively impacts the overall well design by wasting casing diameters. The current well design
then sets additional casing strings above every anticipated drilling hazard which further reduces the
casing diameters and hole sizes available for well depths that routinely exceed 30,000 ft measured
depth. Figure 6.1 illustrates the current approach for the shallow casing setting depths in the
riser-less sections of current deepwater wells.

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The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk

Figure 6.1 Typical deepwater riserless casing seat rationale.

Casing seat optimization requires that the first string of casing to not only provide the structural
integrity necessary to support the axial loading the second string of casing, but also takes advantage
of the growth of the fracture gradient below the mud line. This affects leak-off tolerance to continue
drilling for the subsequent drilling and installation of the second string of casing. This rationale
extends to each casing seat to total depth (TD). Figure 6.2 illustrates the rational of setting the casing
seats as a function of the fracture gradient.

Figure 6.2 Fundamentals of casing seat optimization.

The design begins with the premise that casing seat placements must all meet not only pore
pressure and fracture gradient leak off requirements, specifically providing an acceptable leak-off for
15

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The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk

all subsequent casing string drilling operations, but must also meet structural requirements beginning
with the first casing string.

7. How Did Casing Seats Influence the Completion of the


Macondo Well A Story Not Heard
In order to successfully design such a composite or telescopic string of casings for minimizing
the number of casing strings to obtain the improved well design, the reality is that the first casing
string must provide for, and take advantage of, the natural progressive grow of the fracture gradient.
Therefore, the design of the first string provides both structural integrity as well as leak-off integrity
for the drilling and subsequent placement of next casing, the second casing string. This is a key and
critical design difference of this proposal versus the current practice of simply jetting in the first
casing string and using the first casing string for structural integrity only.
It has already been established by BP that the setting of the 16 in casing was too shallow.

Figure 7.1 Acona WellPro Macondo mini seminar, August 2010.xv

It is not possible to determine the exact cause of this shallow setting depth (other than wellbore
instability while drilling), and the data is not available to evaluate the exact cause. The events of
wellbore instability and ballooning (Section 9.1) are not unique in any of these complex wells.
Table 7.1 below details such an example (from another operator) where instability, and the
misinterpretation of ballooning, not only caused the early setting of casing string but also resulted in
the failure to execute the objectives of the well. This of course resulted in a shallow set of the
13 in and the 11 in. It is not physically possible to be any other way from an engineering

xv

Acona Wellpro, op. cit., 14.,

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The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk

perspective as each section can only be drilled as deep as the prior hole-section kick tolerance will
allow.
Table 7.1 Deepwater well example.
Drilling Record
Drill 7060-8548
Drill 8548-9145

Static
ECD
Comments
MW
Drill 26 hole: Riserless
11
NR
DKD
13
DKD, 9.729.6
9.78
MW

Potential Mitigants and other


DHM Comments

Set and cement 20 casing for riser


Drill and open 18 hole secttion
Run in hole (RIH) with a 18 1/8 x 21
Bottom Hole Assembly (BHA) below
The previous hole section was
Blow Out Preventer (BOP) test assembly.
finished with 9.65 ppg MW. Why
Test BOPs. Pull out of the hole (POH)
10.60
NR was this increased a full 1.0 ppg
before drill out? A leak-off test
was not conducted.
RIH w/ 18 1/8 X 21 BHA to 9012.
Drill float shoe to 9100. Wash & ream to
9145. Drill 10 to 9155. Formation 10.90
Interval Test on 22 to 11.31 ppg. Drill
9155 -9265 with shakers blinding off.
Circulate and condition (C&C) to clear
shaker loading due to heavy Gumbo.
Increase mud weight (MW) to 10.92 ppg.
Control drill 9405 -9723
10.83

Drill 9723 9781, Equivalent Circulating


Density (ECD) 10.97 -11.0ppg. Drill
9781 10053, weight up to 10.8 ppg due
to increase in background gas, ECD 11.1
ppg. Drill 10053 -10163 reported flow
flowed back 11.5 bbls in 31 min, no
shut in pressure, C&C and monitor no 10.80
flow or pressure.

Continue to monitor no flow. C&C


with ECD down to 11.08 ppg. Drill
10,205 10,230. ECD 11.02 11.04 ppg.
Flow check no flow. ECD 11.02 10.80
11.07 ppg
Drill to 10,360, ECD 11.05-11.09 ppg.
C&C due to high gas at Kelly down. 11.00
Continue drilling to 10400, ECD 11.06

The mud weight was raised again

Heavy gumbo due to shale


hydration. Raising the mud weight
increases the ionic rate of
hydration, making gumbo worse.
10.97- Control drilling improves the
10.98 ability for the rig equipment to
clean the gumbo but keeps the
hydrated shale in the hole longer
as the hole is continues to slough
while drilling.

11.00

ECD of 11.o is ballooning the


formation. This is a balloon event.

ECD is varying and rising.


11.08- Circulation to remove gas is
11.02 necessary to avoid re-cycling the
gas.
11.06- Drag indicates the hole is swelling
11.07 in the presence of shale. The over
while displacement indicates that the

17

Consider drilling out with the same


mud weight and do not raise the
mud weight until hole conditions
dictate. A leak-off test is important
to determine the true casing seat
integrity and establish the maximum
ECD for the next hole section.
Don not raise mud weight unless
hole conditions dictate
Do not raise the mud weight unless
hole conditions dictate. Doing so
can increase the potential for
ballooning and fluid losses.
Consider improving mud inhibitive
properties, improve rig fluids
cleaning and handling capacity.
Know the cuttings characteristics:
fluffy, sticky shale is indicative of
wetting,
versus
cuttings
characterization of underbalanced
shale: splintered, concave and solid.
Mud weight was increased due to
an increase in background gas.
Background gas will always increase
in shale and no amount of mud
weight will mitigate this condition.
Always consider the totality of
drilling data before raising the mud
weight. Inducing a ballooning
condition can actually become
dangerous if the formation or shoe
(which was not tested,) breaks
down. This is also an unsafe drilling
scenario and not a good practice.
Manage ECD better and maintain a
low solids mud. Circulating to
condition is always a good practice,
but again, the mud weight was too
high to begin with compounding
the shale wetting, solids and gumbo
problems.
Hole section mitigants: Keep mud
weight at the shoe for drill out the
same as prior casing seat. Conduct a

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The New Domain in Deepwater Drilling: Applied Engineering and Organizational Impacts on Uncertainties and Risk
Drilling Record
11.07 ppg. Pump and sweep, raise MW to
10.9 ppg. Flow check, no flow. Pump 50
bbls sweep 13.0 ppg. ECD 11.2 -11.4
ppg. Large amount of cuttings. Cont.
cC&C w/ sweeps, ECD 11.ww ppg.
Pump and spot 60 bbls, 16 ppg pill. Flow
check OK POOH. 17 bbls over
displacement required. Had 40K drag at
10300 -10400.

Static
Potential Mitigants and other
ECD
Comments
MW
DHM Comments
drilling, formation was overbalanced, yet leak-off test. Do not raise mud
11.4 mud weight was raised again.
weight until hole conditions dictate.
maxim
Keep solids low. Circulate more to
um.
avoid re-cycling gas, or improve
surface gas separation capabilities.
Improve rig cleaning capabilities.
Improve
mud
inhibition
characteristics. Conduct rig training
to understand ballooning vs. flow
events.

POOH. Run 18 casing.


Note Cemented liner w/full returns
Hole section mitigants: Maintain the same mud weight at the shoe for drill out as was the prior casing seat. Conduct a leak-off test.
Due not raise mud weight until hole conditions dictate: background gas alone is not a reason to raise mud weight and can be unsafe.
Keep mud solids low. Circulate more to avoid re-cycling gas, or alternatively improve surface gas separation. Improve rig cleaning
capabilities. Improve the mud inhibition characteristics. Know the cuttings characteristics: fluffy, sticky shale is indicative of wetting,
versus cuttings characterization of underbalanced shale: splintered, concave and solid. Conduct rig crew training to understand
ballooning vs. flow events. The inordinately high mud weight through this section resulted in failure to get the section deep enough
and created ballooning and fluids loss events. The hole section was compromised: the section was not optimized. Furthermore,
without a leak-off test, this section was essentially drilled blind with no knowledge of the safe tolerance for the seat if a real well
control event had occurred.
16.5 hole section
Run in Hole (RIH) w/ 16 X 19
BHA. Raise MW to 11.4 ppg, tag and drill
cement and shoe track. Wash & Ream
The mud weight at the base of the
Again, mud weight is too high, and
(W&R) to 10,400 ECD 11.78 ppg. Drill
11.78- shoe was proven too high as losses
11.40
there was not a leak-off test
to 10410. ECD 11.72 ppg. C&C, reduce
11.63 were induced, yet was raised again
conducted.
ECD to 11.63 ppg. Flow check. OK.
prior to drill out to 11.4 ppg.
Perform FIT 12.13 ppg. W&R 10375
10410. EDC 11.7 11.74 ppg.
Drill 10,506 11407. ECD 11.76 ppg.
C&C due to high gas a Kelly down. Drill
11.50 11.76
11,407 11416. C&C at 11,438 due to
high gas.
Drill 11,416 11,438. ECD 11.75 ppg.
C&C, flow check 1.5 bbl back. C&C
raising mud weight to 11.6 ppg @
With the mud weight so high,
11,438. Flow Check, gain 3.3 bbls and
mere circulating is ballooning the
This is non-productive time (NPT).
then static. C&C, ECD 11.81 ppg. Flow
wellbore. On the trip for the drill
11.75 It is also wasted time, or for future
Check, gained 9.4 bbls, then static. Pump 11.60
pipe screen and to reconfigure the
11.81
operations, Removable Lost Time
350 bbls of 14 ppg and spot. Flow Check,
BHA, losses are incurred. This is
(RLT).
gained 3.7 bbls, then static. Had to make
further evidence that the mud
partial trip to 6109 to retrieve a broken
weight was too high.
Drill Pipe screen. Displacement was 5
bbls over. POH to re-configure BHA.
The mitigants are the same as
above: Keep the mud weight low as
hole conditions dictate. The
problem is that once the mud
Trip in Hole (TIH), W&R f/10,359
Reaming indicates that the hole is
11.9 weight is raised too high, this
11,629, ECD 11.9 ppg. W&R to bottom, 11.60
swelling. This is to be expected in
11.93
creates an irresolvable problem in
ECD 11.93 ppg.
these shale sections.
that it increases ion exchange,
exacerbates creating gumbo by
wetting the shale more, and fosters
associated hole problems.
C&C to reduce the ECD to 11.88 ppg.
This was not a flow event, rather a
W&R to 11,363. C&C to reduce ECD.
ballooning event. The gas was
It is critical for the rig team to
W&R to 11,438 ppg. FC static. Drill
11.88 increasing as a result of the
11.70
understand the difference between
11,438 11,529. FC gain 3,8 bbls then
11.83 balloon surge back. Raised the
well control and ballooning.
flow rate dropped to zero, Monitor no
mud weight again. Why would
Drill Pipe or csg pressure. Open annular,
well control be initiated with zero

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Drilling Record

Static
ECD
MW

Comments

Potential Mitigants and other


DHM Comments

C&C, ECD 11.86 ppg and dropped to


pressure on annulus and drill pipe?
11.83 ppg. Gas levels increasing during
C&C.. Shut in drill pipe pressure, 0 PSIG.
Start well kill operations w/ 11.7 ppg.
Continue circulating and increasing MW
to 11.8 ppg due to gas levels. While
raising the mud weigh during well
Heavy gas is from the cumulative
control, had fluid losses. Lowered circ
reaction of ballooning the shale
rate starting pumped LCM. Lost 323 bbls
section, then flow back of all of
during well kill, heavy gas cut mud to 11.1 11.80
the gas entrained in the cuttings of
Pump LCM in sweeps. Had excess torque
swelled gumbo. This hazard was
at 11, 475 11,529. C&C work tight
induced.
spots, gas down to 150 units, mud cut to
11.6 ppg. FC OK. Continue C&C at
reduced flow rate.
Continued C&C w/319 bbls losses. POH
to 10323, 15 bbls over displacement. FC
static. RIH on trip tank, 35 bbls over.
W&R to 11,505, set down 20K. W&R to
11,529. C&C, loss of 82 bbls. Pump 440 11.80
bbls 14 ppg pill and spot. No losses.
POH to 10343;, displaced OK. C&C and
FC at shoe OK. Pump 100 bbls LCM,
spot at shoe, total loss 102 bbls. POH.
Continued to Pull Out of Hole (POH).
These mud losses are sever and
Ran 16 casing total mud losses, 2474
created by high mud weight too
11.80
bbls. Run & cement casing. No returns
high from the beginning of the
while cementing
hole section.
Hole section mitigants: The mitigants for this hole section are much the same as the above hole section. Furthermore, well control
was initiated for all the wrong reasons resulting in fracturing the wellbore.
14.75 hole section
Formation interval tests are not
RIH w/ 14 X 17 BHA. Drill shoe
accurate and are always higher than
track. FC static. Cleaned up rat hole to
a leak-off test giving a false sense of
11,529. Drill 11,529 11,530. Pump 50
security. All this does is pump mud
bbl Loss Circulation Material (LCM)
solids against the formation, so it
sweep. C&C. FIT to 12.67 ppg, 401 psi,
will show a higher result than a
When a mud weight of 11.8 in the
pumped 15 bbls, bled back 5 bbls. Pump
leak-off test. This is not save and is
prior hole section resulting in
to 12,85 ppg (no bleed back shown on
inadequate for a casing seat test.
12.21 - fracturing the wellbore, why was it
report). Drill 11,472 11,539. FIT 12.67 12.00
Given that there were not returns
12.25 raised to 12.0 ppg? Again, there
ppg. Torque 2-8k, ECD 12.21 12.25
while cementing and that the
was no leak-off test, but there was
ppg. Drill to 11,663. Att. To open reamer
wellbore had obviously been at the
a formation interval test.
with hole packing off, and working pipe.
minimum compromised or at the
Had to work with 100k over pull. W&R,
worst fractured there is also no
excess torque and stalling. Working pipe
clear evidence that the cement had
to 125k over. Weight up to 12.1 ppg.
any integrity. This relegates this
Open hole to 11,539.
hole section to little more than
unsafe blind drilling.
ECD 12.26 ppg. Reduced to 12.4 ppg.
D/11,663 11,843, ECD 12.26 12.42
The pack-off condition could be a
ppg. Drill 11,843 11967, ECD 12.55
result of hole collapse or simply
ppg. Raise MW to 12.3 Drill 11,967
gumbo exacerbated
by
the
12,024, ECD 12.6 ppg. Hole packing off.
extraordinary high mud weight. The
Continuing to raise the mud
Back ream to 11,930. At. To wash down
fact that losses were severe and
weight with the hole packing off.
to 11,930 with total loss of returns.
continuing is clear evidence that
Pump out of hole, at 11,900, pipe pulled
underbalanced was not the
free with 100 K lb over. Continue
problem. The shale are being
pumping out with 197 bbls losses at 26
wetted and the hole fracturing.
Strokes Per Minute (SPM).
W&R 11,665 12,024 ECD 12.72 ppg.
Well control for ballooning Well control for the wrong reasons
Pump 100 bbls sweep, C&C. Flow check
response, even in the presence of and no indications that there was

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Drilling Record

Static
ECD
MW

Comments

Potential Mitigants and other


DHM Comments
a well control event.

no flow. Pump 100 bbls sweep, ECD


sever losses.
12.72 ppg. Drill 12,063 12,075, ECD
12.63 ppg. Stuck pipe. Work pipe 200klb
over, had 10 bbl gain. Shut in., 0 on csg,
DP 58 psi bled DP to zero with no
flow. Well control. Pump 12.3 ppg with
LCM sweeps. Pumped 861 bbls, lost 506
bbls.
Monitor. Pump 234 bbls. Well static, pipe
stuck. Work stuck pipe on jars, 6 up, one
down, with 315Klb over. Pulling to
11,470. Started well control and pumping
into well. Shut in. Bled 1 bbl into tank.
Boost riser cap w/ 235 bbls of 16 ppg to
C&C to 12.3 ppg. Performed bleed backs
Continue well control procedures.
Stabilized well, pull out of hole (POH)
for BHA change 11,470 to 9470. Flow
Check bled 1 bbl. POH to 975. Fill up
OK. Change BHA. RIH.
RIH w/ 14 X 17 BHA to 11,504.
Close annular and displace riser cap. Mud
cut to 11.9 ppg+. Flow 9.6 bbls in 5
minutes. SI. With no pressure. C&C. 12.30 12.65
W&R to 11,820. Mud cut to 11.9 ppg+,
ECD 12.6 ppg. W&R at 11,880 and
attempting to manage ECD.
W&R 11,820 11,924; Tight spots. Hole
stated packing, pipe free w/110Klb over.
W&R to 11,951. C&C to reduce ECD to
12.30 12.68
12.68 ppg. W&R to 12,075, ECD 12.65
ppg. Bit stalling and packing off. Had to
jar up 3 times, free w/200 K lb over.
Pump 75 bbls 14.3 ppg sweep. C&C.
W&R to 12,077 ECD 12.65 ppg. Packing
off, pulled free w/ 138 Klb over. ECD
12.74 ppg. Pump 75 bbls sweep, W&R to
bottom and packed off at 12,071
The failure to execute this well was primarily a result of inordinately high mud weight, from the initiation of the first casing sections
below installation of the riser. These problems compounded with each hole section. Furthermore, for the last hole section, a case
could be built for blind drilling without knowledge of the integrity of the prior casing seat. This is a dangerous practice. DHM
summary: Proper mud weight with improved inhibition and raise the mud weight only when the totality of hole conditions dictate,
have good gas removal and cleaning equipment at the surface as all shale has entrained gas and higher mud weight will not mitigate
this condition. Practice well listening techniques and proper well control, including a leak-off test at each casing seat. Ballooning was
a major issue and induced hazards. Train rig teams to avoid ballooning, and this begins with recognizing the difference between
ballooning and well control which was initiated with no indicators of a well control event. Failure to optimize the drilling margin for
each hole section resulted in wasted casing and burned casing diameters. The net effect was that drilling margins were not optimized,
rather compromised and the well ran out of casting options early objectives were not met and the well junked.
Plug and abandon well

For the Macondo, the net result was a string of 11 in casing set 2000 ft above the reservoir.
The following should be considered as a conclusion given we do not have pore pressure (PP) or
fracture strength (FG) data, but with at least 14.6 ppg mud weight (MW):
There was a pressure regression into reservoir of 12.8 (not uncommon in this
earth model environment
This is a differential of 1.8 lb/gal (ppg): up to 1800 psi across the cement into a
highly porous and permeable reservoir
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Did this compromise yielding of the cement?


Did gas then mitigate from above cement and honey comb? Who knows? Did it
at least exacerbate?
According to BP, this influenced their decision to use nitrified cement.

Figure 7.2 Hydrocarbon Zones and Potential Flow Paths.xvi

xvi

BP, Deepwater Horizon Accident Investigation Report, September 8, 2010, 54.

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Figure 7.3 BP knew they had a tight margin.xvii

Recommendations as possible design mitigates include:


Case-off ramp reversal demands minimum casing strings and this begins at top
hole. Do not burn casing string due to tight margin and failure to honor the
outer boundary of fracture gradient from top hole down.
Management of Change (MOC): we do not know drilling conditions of 11 in
cased section but was this an early set?
If so, under MOC, why was an oversized shoe not considered on 11 in
section? It is possibly expandable if the collapse strength is OK through negative
ramp. The purpose is to conserve hole size and eliminate the lower ECD of
nitrified cement.
In summary, conclusions and questions remaining from this analysis are:
Early casing sets exacerbated drilling in all deeper hole sections so a case can be
made that this also created sidetrack event in 13 in section.

xvii

BP, Deepwater Horizon Investigation presentation, September 8, 2010, 7.


http://www.bp.com/liveassets/bp_internet/globalbp/globalbp_uk_english/incident_response/STAGING/local_ass
ets/downloads_pdfs/Deepwater_Horizon_Accident_Investigation_static_presentation.pdf.

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Early sets including 11 in failed to protect up to 1.8 ppg of pressure ramp


reversal into reservoir.
This also begs the question of what was the correct drill out weight below 11 in. Was it 14.6
ppg? This was probably too high.
Other questions in the execution process remain as well. What was the stable mud weight
immediately prior to setting the 11 in casing? Was this 14.6 ppg applied mud weight an arbitrary
weight? Why were drilling conditions not used to determine an at balance weight? Would a
mitigating technology be Controlled Pressure Drilling on choke to enable correct mud weight
applications?
The 14.6 ppg mud weight created unavoidable differential across the cement a minimum of
1800 psi while curing. Consequently, we cannot discount that honey-combed cement exacerbated
creating micro-annulus resulting in a flow path for nitrogen separation.

8. Understanding Wellbore Instability Well Listening and the


Rig Team Interactive Factors
Although not an exhaustive list of drilling hazards, the following discussion does represent a
major portion of nonproductive time (NPT) in drilling operations.
Best practices used while drilling is a fundamental principle of ensuring wellbore stability. Some
drilling hazards can be induced by failure to recognize or misinterpreting the dynamics of the drilling
margin.
Well listening engages the human factor and requires considerable skill and training to
understand what drilling operations related to the well conditions are communicating.
Understanding these basic drilling conditions are critical to safe and successful operations.
Table 7.1 lists several key indicators of well drilling state that the driller must track, interpret,
and respond to in order to maintain well control.
Table 8.1 Interpretive well listening: the human factors.

Indicators for Mud Weight (ECD)xviii Too Low


Unexpected high ROPxix
Torque/Drag Increase
Cavings Particularly "concave" or splintered
Flow rate increase
Shut in drilling pipe pressure + Well control
Drilling Break gas failing to "fallout" after circulating
Equivalent Circulating Density (ECD)
Rate of Penetration (ROP)

xviii
xix

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BHA drift (principles stress vectors)


Hole fill-up (sloughing or collapsing hole)
Indicators for Mud Weight (ECD) Too High
Unexpected low ROP.
High Bit Wear.
"Over wet" shale, lessen chemical inhibitive effectiveness and increases shale stress due
to fluid penetration.
Creates unnecessary fluid losses, differential sticking, and risk of fracturing softer
formations.
Increase opportunities for "Ballooning," possibly creating unsafe drilling conditions.
Other Hazard Indicators
D exponents: Changing drillable trends (analogue of mud weight, ROP, and WOBxx)
Pinched bits, elliptical hole ( principle stress vectors)
Fluffy, wetted shale (chemical instability)

9. Discussion of Key Hazards Leading to Wellbore Instability


Misinterpreting any of the dynamic factors listed in Table 7.1 can result from simple fluid losses
to catastrophic failure. Singular interpretation of conditions from any of these dynamics can be
counterproductive to maintaining a safe and stable wellbore and result in actually inducing hazards.
The following is an abbreviated discussion of key hazards leading to wellbore instability. The
reason why understanding these hazards is so crucial is that any event of wellbore instability has a
high likelihood of becoming a well control event.
The following discussions regarding drilling hazards are not meant to comprise an exhaustive
list. These hazards are the primary precursors of wellbore instability. However, through good drilling
practices such as outlined, these hazards can be recognized, understood, managed, and either
avoided or effectively mitigated.

9.1

Ballooning or Wellbore Charging

Ballooning is a phenomenon and consequence associated with high ECD. Resultant flowback
can often be confused with influx due to a pore pressure greater than mud balance. This
interpretation is often further complicated by gas entrained in shale, common especially in mottled
shale, with the operator weighting up the mud to counter the shale gas. This further complicates
ballooning. Arbitrarily increasing mud weight in the presence of shale gas alone can result in
fracturing the formation below or at the shoe. The consequence can be catastrophic.13

xx

Weight on Bit (WOB)

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Failure to recognize ballooning versus well control is a common mistake made in drilling
operations. It is one of the leading causes of unnecessarily expending casing strings in narrow
margin drilling operations.
Table 8.1 represents an actual deepwater example where high ECD resulted in ballooning and
raising the mud weight resulted in fracturing the formation. The higher ECD further complicating
correct wellbore stability conditions by increasing the cyclic bleed offs. Ultimately, the mud weight
was increased to where fracturing occurred and massive and unsafe losses were sustained before
regaining control of the well. The misinterpretation of ballooning required setting casings before
their time.
Table 9.1 Deepwater ballooning case history.
16.5 hole section
Run in Hole (RIH) w/ 16 x 19 BHA.
Raise MW to 11.4 ppg, tag and drill cement
and shoe track. Wash & Ream (W&R) to
10,400 ECD 11.78 ppg. Drill to 10410. ECD
11.72 ppg. C&C, reduce ECD to 11/63 ppg.
Flow check. OK. Perform FIT 12.13 ppg.
W&R 10375 -103=410. Drill 10410
10740.ECD 11.7 0 11.74 ppg.
Drill 10,506 -113407. ECD 11.76 ppg. C&C
due to high gas at Kelly down. Drill 11,407 11416. C&C at 11,438 due to high gas.
Drill 11,416 11,438. ECD 11.75 ppg. C&C,
flow check 1.5 bbl back. C&C raising mud
weight to 11.6 ppg @ 11,438. Flow Check,
gain 3.3 bbls and then static. C&C, ECD 11.81
ppg. Flow Check, gained 9.4 bbls, then static.
Pump 350 bbls of 14 ppg and spot. Flow
Check, gained 3.7 bbls, then static. Had to
make partial trip to 6109 to retrieve a broken
Drill Pipe screen. Displacement was 5 bbls
over. POH to re-configure BHA.

Trip in Hole (TIH), W&R f/10,359 11,629,


ECD 11.9 ppg, W&R to bottom, ECD 11.93
ppg.

Static
MW

ECD

The mud weight at the


base of the shoe was
proven too high as
losses were induced, yet
was raised again prior to
drill out to 11.4 ppg.

Again, mud weight is


too high, and there was
not a leak-off test
conducted

With the mud weight so


high, mere circulating is
ballooning the wellbore.
On the trip for the drill
pipe screen and to
reconfigure the BHA,
losses are incurred. This
is further evidence that
the mud weight was too
high

This is non-productive
time. It is also wasted
time, or for future
operations, Removable
Lost Time.

11.9 11.93

Reaming indicate that


the hole is swelling. This
is to be expected in
these shale sections.

The mitigating factors


are the same as above:
Keep the mud weight
low as hole conditions
dictate. The problem is
that once the mud
weight is raised too
high, this creates an unresolvable problem in
that it increased ion
exchange, exacerbates
wets the shale more
creating gumbo and
associated
hole
problems.

11.8811.83

This was not a flow


event,
rather
a
ballooning event. The
gas was increasing as a
result of the balloon

It is critical for the rig


team to understand the
difference between well
control and ballooning.

11.40

11.7811.63

11.50

11.76

11.60

11.60

C&C to reduce the ECD to 11.88 ppg. W&R


to 11,363. C&C to reduce ECD. W&R to
11,438 ppg. FC static. Drill 11,438 11,529. 11.70
FC gain 3,8 bbls then flow rate dropped to
zero, Monitor no Drill Pipe or csg pressure.

11.7511.81

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16.5 hole section

Static
MW

ECD

Open annular, C&C, ECD 11.86 ppg and


dropped to 11.83 ppg. Gas levels increasing
during C&C. Shut in drill pipe pressure, 0
PSIG. Start well kill operations w/ 11.7 ppg.

surge back. Raised the


mud weight again. Why
would well control be
initiated
with
zero
pressure on annulus and
drill pipe?

Continue circulating and increasing MW to


11.8 ppg due to gas levels. While raising the
mud weigh during well control, had fluid
losses. Lowered circ rate starting pumped
LCM. Lost 323 bbls during well kill, heavy gas
11.80
cut mud to 11.1 Pump LCM in sweep. Had
excess torque at 11,475 11,529. C&C work
tight spots, gas down to 150 units, mud cut to
11.6 ppg. FC OK. Continue C&C at reduced
flow rate.
Continued C&C w/ 319 bbls losses. POH to
10323, 15 bbls over displacement. FC static.
RIH on trip tank, 35 bbls over. W&R to
11,505. Set down 20K. W&R to 11,529. CYC,
loss of 82 bbls. Pump 440 bbls 14 ppg pill and 11.80
spot. No losses. POH to 10343, displaced
OK. C&C and FC at shoe OK. Pump 100
bbls LCM, spot at shoe, total loss 102 bbls.
POH.

Heavy gas is from the


cumulative reaction of
ballooning the shale
section, then flow back
of all of the gas
entrained in the cuttings
of swelled gumbo. This
hazard was induced.

These mud losses are


sever and created by
high mud weight too
high from the beginning
of the hole section.
Hole section mitigants: The risk mitigation for these hole sections are much the same as the above. Furthermore,
well control was initiated for all the wrong reasons resulting in fracturing of the wellbore.
Continued to Pull Out of Hole (POH). Ran
16 casing total mud losses, 2474 bbls. Run 11.80
& cement casing. No returns while cementing.

When ballooning is recognized, care must be taken to avoid unnecessarily weighting up.
Bleeding back trapped pressure as a result of ballooning is critical.
Best Practice
The best practice revolves around "well listening" and integrating all drilling dynamic factors to
make the correct hazard management and avoidance decisions. Interpreting ballooning is crucial to
narrow margin drilling operations and ensuring safe and efficient drilling operations.

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Figure 9.1 Downhole pressure during fluid feedback from formation.

9.2

Fluids Losses: Lost Circulation and Stuck Pipe

Fluid losses can range from slight to catastrophic and result in wellbore failure or well-control
events. The primary cause of fluid loss is exceeding the outer boundary of the drilling margin
depicted in Figure 8.1. This can be the result of ballooning, or in porous formations, merely the
result of applying an unnecessarily high mud weight and resultant ECDs. Maintaining an ECD low
enough to ensure fluid volume integrity and uncompromised drilling barrier, while high enough to
exceed the lower boundary necessary for wellbore integrity, is critical. Applying well listening
techniques is a rig team interactive predecessor to making correct decisions driven by drilling
conditions.
Best Practice
The best practice and first line of defense is to avoid overweighting the hole and avoiding
ballooning events. Typical fluid-loss, decision-tree processes can and should be created.

9.3

Stuck Pipe

Stuck pipe is a drilling hazard that can be associated with ballooning and fluid losses. Generally,
stuck pipe is avoidable if drilling margins are honored.
Primary Causes:
Differential sticking - most common
Key seating and hole geometry
Pack-off / bridging
Reactive formations (swelling shale)
Secondary Causes:
Coal sections
Tar
Under gauge hole and pseudo stresses.
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Permeable sections, high fluid loss


Cuttings buildup
Salt creep
Collapsed casing
Junk
Green cement
Recognition and avoidance of stuck pipe requires some of the same well listening techniques:
Geometry or volume of shaker cuttings, trends in mud properties,
or drilling parameters
Out-of-balance mud weight or high ECD
Hole caving
Splintered cuttings
Concave-shaped cuttings
Sloughing shale, chemical shale wetting, and instability
Tectonic or pseudo-induced stresses
Best Practice
The best practices to avoid stuck pipe are much the same as ballooning and fluids loss, that is,
recognizing the conditions within the drilling margins and events and reacting correctly. In addition,
other factors such as Bottom Hole Assembly (BHA)xxi and drill string configuration and the
inhibitive characteristics of the formations being drilled should be considered.

10. Analyzing the Risk of Deepwater Drilling The Metrics of


Wellbore Instability
To further analyze the metrics of wellbore instability related events, Table 10.1 and Figure 10.1
summarize time spent on Deepwater wells in less than 600 ft of water, the wells in non-subsalt wells
in water depths greater than 3000 ft and subsalt wells greater than 3000 ft water depth.

xxi

Toolstring on coiled tubing or drill pipe.

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Table 10.1 Days of wellbore instability as a percent of total time (exclusive of weather).
Events related to
General Populations: 263
65 subsalt wells:
99 non subsalt
Wellbore Instability
wellbores< 600 ft of water
WD > 3000 ft
wells WD > 3000 ft

Stuck pipe
Wellbore stability
Loss circulation
Kick
Total (%)
Total
Wellbore
Instability (days)
Total NPT Days
Instability % of NPT Days
Average Days to Drill
Kick Days

2.20%
0.70%
2.30%
1.20%
6.40%
2.24 days

2.90%
2.90%
2.40%
1.90%
10.10%
9.797 days

4
56.00%
35
0.42

29
33.78%
97
1.843

0.70%
0.90%
2.00%
0.80%
4.40%
2.376 days
9
26.40%
54
0.432

Figure 10.1 Graphic of total days of wellbore instability.

Over four times as much time is spent on the more complex wells combating wellbore instability
events. Even more revealing is that over four times as much time is also spent on the blowout
preventer (BOP) combating kicks.

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Figure 10.2 NPT for 263 wells drilled in less than 600 ft of water.xxii

Figure 10.3 NPT for 99 non-subsalt wells drilled in greater than 3000 ft of water.xxiii

xxii
xxiii

James K. Dodson Company


Dodson, op. cit.

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Figure 10.4 NPT for 65 wells subsalt wells drilled in greater than 3000 ft of water.xxiv

Any event of wellbore instability has the potential of becoming a well control event.

11. Conclusion
The BP tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) has clearly revealed two major categories of the
consequences of risk the incident itself and the resultant environmental disaster. These risk
consequences are quite obvious. Risk in any endeavor cannot be eliminated entirely, but it can be
successfully managed if it is recognized and the consequences are fully understood.
In order to have a meaningful outcome for future deepwater drilling, the mindsets identified by
Andrew Hopkins must be addressed, and one must first understand that there is a problem, and
then focus on solving the problem.
This paper offers design improvement suggestions through applied engineering, considering risk
as the first step towards developing a safer and more reliable deepwater drilling environment. This
begins with recognizing the metrics of drilling operations and looking at the common denominator
of failures: the design itself in regard to how casing seats are determined and the consequential
hazards of failing to adequately determine casing seats.
This design weakness begins with the very first Conductor string and is compounded with
depth. If kick tolerance is not maximized at each casing seat, by definition it cannot be maximized in
the next hole section and subsequent casing seat. This in and of itself leads to many direct well
control events and execution failures, including deeper ECD management and subsequent
operations such as cementing liners or casing..
xxiv

Dodson, op. cit.

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Industry efforts to tweak execution systems include enlarging the well hole, fluids
improvements, and efforts to improve critical issues like ECD management in these difficult narrow
margin drilling environments. Although some industry professionals will disagree with how risk
should be managed, the failure to recognize the design as critical to the facts of the metrics denies
what a high-performance, high-reliability organization should represent.
Avoiding a repeat of the current situation and changing the climate of denial can be achieved
with a dose of common sense. Solutions must consider and actively apply the following:
look at the facts of the metrics in context of well complexity,
work together and collaborate as an industry,
recognize where the problems really are and address them from a risk
management perspective, and
focus on solving those problems and work with regulators to focus on the
solutions.
The current design model must be challenged. Sound and unbiased engineering design is the
fundamental precursor to safety, sustained success and full life cycle reliability. If we solve the
problem wells, then by definition of risk management, the rest of the well population is mitigated.

12. Acronyms and Definitions


Table 12.1 Key drilling acronyms.

Acronym

Definition

AFE

Approved for Expenditure

ALARP

As Low As Reasonably Practical

BHA

Bottom Hole Assembly

BOP

Blow Out Preventer

BOD

Basis of Design

BUR

Build up Rate

CBT

Computer Based Training

CBU

Circulating "Bottoms Up"

CCI

Cutting Carrying Index

DHM

Drilling Hazards Management

DWOP

Drill the Well on Paper

ECD

Equivalent Circulating Density

EOW (R)

End of Well (Report)

HAZOP

Hazardous Operation (assessment session)

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Acronym

Definition

HES

Health, Environment, Safety

HPHT

High Pressure, High Temperature

ILT

Invisible Lost Time

JSA

Job Safety Analysis

KOP

Kick Off Point

LCM

Lost Circulation Material

LWD

Logging While Drilling

M&E

Mechanical and Efficiency

MOC

Management of Change

MPD

Managed Pressure Drilling

MWD

Measurement While Drilling

NPT

Non Productive Time

PDC

Polycrystalline Diamond Compact (bit)

PT

Productive Time

PWD

Pressure While Drilling

RA

Risk Assessment

RLT

Removable Lost Time

ROP

Rate of Penetration

TVD

True Vertical Depth

UE

Unscheduled Events

VSP

Velocity Seismic Profile

WT

Wasted Time

Table 12.2 Key drilling definitions.

Term

Definition

Basis of Design

The technical details, information and procedures


necessary to plan and execute a well

Consequence

Consequence is the result of a failure to prevent a


risk event. There can be several consequences for any
given risk of occurrence

Critical Path of

The planned execution sequential path of drilling

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Term
Drilling Operations

Definition
and completion operations with the steps necessary to
successfully drill and complete an oil and gas well

Drilling Hazard

A drilling hazard is any rotating or flat time incident


that causes a deviation from the critical operating path

Drilling Hazards
Management

Engaging the designs, practices, or technologies


necessary to mitigate the risks of drilling operations

Drilling Margin

The boundaries for the safe application of


Equivalent Circulating Density between in situ pore
pressure and/or stress equivalence, and the fracture
gradient resulting from the overburden at true vertical
depth.

Drill the Well On


Paper

A detailed exercise to communicate and vet the


Basis of Design with stakeholders

Equivalent
Circulating Density

The effective mud density expressed in pounds per


square inch (or similar units such as metrics) per true
vertical foot of well depth (psi/foot) exhibited by a
circulating fluid at a certain circulating rate in gallons
per minute (or similar units such as metrics) against the
formation that takes into account the pressure drop in
the annulus above the point of circulation due to
friction and hydrostatic pressure

Fracture Gradient

The amount of pressure, expressed in pounds per


square inch (or similar units such as metrics) per true
vertical foot of well depth (psi/foot) that is required to
induce fractures in rock at a given true vertical depth

Kick Tolerance

The maximum kick volume of fluid that can be


taken into the wellbore and circulated out without
fracturing the formation at a weak point (shoe), thereby
exceeding the leak-off, given a difference between the
pore pressure and equivalent circulating mud density in
use

Leak Off

The amount of pressure, expressed in pounds per


square inch (or similar units such as metrics) per true
vertical foot of well depth (psi/foot) that is exerted by
a column of drilling fluid on the formation being drilled
whereby fluid will continue to enter the formation, or
leak off. This is the maximum pressure of equivalent
circulating density mud density that may be applied to
the well during drilling operations

Management of
Change

A process that is designed to manage changes to:


approved well objectives, Basis of Design, program, or
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Term

Definition
procedure

Mitigant

A mitigant is any proactive use of best practices


and/or technologies which reduces the risk of
occurrence the hazard with an improved risk profile
and risk adjusted cost benefits to the drilling operation.
For the purpose of a risk assessment, mitigants are
relegated to what is currently being done in an
operation

Morning Report

The daily report summary of prior day operations

New Mitigant

The risk event is represented by any added or new


mitigation which reduces the probability or likelihood
of occurrence of any indicated risk and corresponding
consequence, or the risk event

Overburden

The amount of pressure or stress, expressed in


pounds per square inch (or similar units such as
metrics) per true vertical foot of well depth below the
ocean floor mud line (psi/foot) imposed on a layer of
soil or rock by the weight of overlying material

Pore Pressure

The amount of pressure or stress, expressed in


pounds per square inch (or similar units such as
metrics) per true vertical foot of well depth (psi/foot)
transmitted through the interstitial fluid of a soil or
rock mass

Risk

Any event or condition if it occurs has a positive or


negative effect on well objectives

Risk Event

Since each risk can have several consequences, a


risk event is the risk evaluated by each discrete
consequence. Considering the individual consequence
of each risk is the only way a risk can be fully ranked,
evaluated, and then managed

Risk Mitigation

Risk mitigation is the implementation of any new


mitigant to reduce the likelihood of the identified risk
event. New mitigants could include changes in well
design, equipment, technology, training, personnel,
practices and procedures. Risk mitigation procedures
and safeguards should be reflected in the execution
programs

Risk Register

Represents the collective identified risks and


associated consequences

Stakeholders

Any person or group that is impacted by or has

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Term

Definition
influence on an opportunity or decision

Sucrosic

The pore spaces within sand grains like sugar


as a comparison.

Toolbox Meeting

Routine meetings with rig crews and service


provider t discuss forward activities.

Tripping

The practice of removing drilling tools from the


hole to the surface and back

Uncertainty

Any unknown as it relates to the well construction


process

Vuggy

Large pore spaces in limestone typically leached


over time.

13. References
1. David Pritchard and Kenneth Kotow, Deepwater Well Complexity: The New Domain,
DHSG White Paper, Successful Energy Practices International, LLC, September 2010.
2. Andrew Hopkins, biography, http://www.professorandrewhopkins.com/biography.
3. J.C. Cunha, Drilling Management, Society of Petroleum Engineers, JPT, September 2010, 72.,
4. David M. Pritchard, et al., Drilling Hazard Management: Excellent performance begins with
planning, World Oil, August 2010.
5. David Hammer, 5 key human errors, colossal mechanical failure led to fatal Gulf oil rig
blowout, The Times Picayune, September 5, 2010.
6. Totte Lager and Terje Magnussen, The Deepwater Horizon accident on well Macondo #1,
Acona Wellpro, Mini Seminar, August, 2010,
http://www.aconawellpro.com/@api/deki/files/251/=MiniSeminar_Macondo_August_2010.p
df.
7. Wikipedia, Deepwater Horizon Explosion,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepwater_Horizon_explosion.
8. Ben Casselman and Siobhan Hughes, Contractor Accused of Flawed Job on Rig, Wall Street
Journal, October 29, 2010,
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303362404575580420328930294.html?mod=I
TP_pageone_0#project%3DOILRIGS1004%26articleTabs%3Darticle.
9. David Hammer, 6 Fateful Missteps, The Times Picayune, New Orleans, LA, September 5,
2010.
10. Paul Parsons, The Macondo Well, Energy Training Resources, LLC, July 15, 2010,
https://www.energytrainingresources.com/data/default/content/Macondo.pdf.
11. Pritchard, Kotow, op. cit.
12. Kenneth Kotow and David Pritchard, Casing Optimization and Riserless Drilling, OTC, May
2009.
13. B. W. Swanson, et al., Measurement of Hydrostatic and Hydraulic Pressure Changes During
HPHT Drilling on Erskine Field, Society of Petroleum Engineers, Offshore Europe,
September 9-12, 1997.
36