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A Model to Determine the Effect of Pore Pressure and Fracture Gradient on

Stuck Pipe Management
Oriji. A. Boniface, Uniport; N. M. Marcus, IPS Uniport

Copyright 2015, Society of Petroleum Engineers

This paper was prepared for presentation at the Nigeria Annual International Conference and Exhibition held in Lagos, Nigeria, 4 – 6 August 2015.

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 have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect
any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper without the written
consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may
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Estimation of pore pressure and fracture gradient is very important in achieving a successful drilling
operation. With proper estimation of pore pressure and fracture gradient, the drilling engineers can design
accurate mud density that can-balance and stabilize the formation pressure without fracturing the
formation. Proper estimation will minimize washouts, kicks, lost circulation and stuck pipe. This paper is
on a Model developed using Visual Basic and Microsoft excel applications to compute the mud
hydrostatic pressure, pore pressure, overburden gradient, fracture pressure and the overbalance pressure
from a real field drilling data in order to predict the possible depths were stuck pipes could occur. The
results from the analyses showed that at the depths where the pressure difference between the mud
hydrostatic pressure and the formation pore pressure was greater than 500 psi, the pipe would most likely
get stuck while a negative overbalance showed a kick. Also, from the analyses, between 8,100ft to
12,300ft depth, the pipe was freed from sticking and there was no kick because the hydrostatic presssure
between these depths balanced accurately with the pore pressure.(overbalance less than 500psi). But from
12,300ft to 12,700ft, there was a kick because the formation pore pressure was quite higher than the
hydrostatic pressure due to the abnormal pressure zone encountered. This situation could be managed by
increasing the mud weight while maintaining a pressure overbalance less than 500 psi and mud hydrostaic
pressure less than the fracture pressure at the same time. However, from 14,800ft and above, there was
pipe sticking because the pressure overbalance was higher than 500 psi as a result of high mud weight.
This model provides a platform for Well Engineers to detect the zones where kicks are likely to occur and
the zones where the pipe could get stuck thereby effectively reducing losses resulting from down time
caused by stuck pipes and fishing operations.

Differential sticking occurs as a result of the mud hydrostatic pressure being much higher than the
formation pore pressure. This could happens when the drill string rests against the borehole wall, thereby
sinking into the mud cake. The thickness of the filter cake is critical in differential sticking because the
thicker the filter cake, the bigger is the cross sectional area that the formation pressure acts on, meaning
that the differential sticking force is higher when the mud cake is thicker.
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Excessive accumulation of drill-cuttings in the annular space caused by improper hole cleaning can
lead to mechanical pipe sticking, especially in directional-well drilling. The settling of a large amount of
suspended cuttings to the bottom when the pump is shut down, or the downward sliding of a stationary-
formed cuttings bed on the low side of a directional well can pack-off a bottom hole assembly causing pipe
sticking. In directional-well drilling, a stationary cutting beds may most likely be formed on the low side
of the borehole. If this condition exists while tripping out, it is very likely that pipe sticking would occur.
This is why it is a common field practice to circulate bottoms -up several times with the drill bit off bottom
to flush out any cuttings bed that may be present before making a trip. Increase in torque, drag and
sometimes in circulating drill pipe pressure could be indications of large accumulations of cuttings in the
annulus and of potential pipe-sticking problems. Borehole instability is also a very common problem when
drilling particularly through shales. Depending on mud composition and mud weight, shale can slough in
or plastically flow inward which could cause mechanical pipe sticking. In all formation types, the use of
a mud that is too low in weight can lead to the collapse of the hole, which can also cause mechanical pipe
sticking. When drilling through salt that exhibits plastic behavior under overburden pressure, the salt has
the tendency of flowing inward if the mud weight is not sufficient, this can cause mechanical pipe sticking.
Other indications of a potential pipe-sticking problems caused by borehole instability are: a rise in
circulating drill pipe pressure, an increase in torque and no fluid return to surface. Key seating is another
major cause of mechanical pipe sticking. The mechanics of key seating involves wearing a small hole
(groove) into the side of a full-gauge hole. This groove is caused by the drill string rotation with side force
acting on it. This condition is created either in doglegs or in undetected ledges near washouts. That lateral
force that tends to push the pipe against the wall, which causes mechanical erosion and thus creates a key
seat is expresses mathematically as:

F1 ⫽ is the lateral force
T ⫽ is the tension in the drill string just above the key-seat area, and
⌰dl ⫽ is the abrupt change in hole angle (commonly referred to as dogleg angle

Stuck Pipe Management

Naturally over-pressured shale is one with a natural pore pressure greater than the normal hydrostatic
pressure gradient. Naturally over-pressured shale are most commonly caused by geological phenomena
such as under-compaction, naturally removed overburden and uplift. Using insufficient mud weight in
these formations will cause the hole to become unstable and collapse which can lead to stuck pipe. The
preventive action to take in order to avoid the stuck pipe is to ensure that the planned mud weight is
adequate and also to minimize borehole exposure for a long time. Induced over pressure shale occurs
when the shale assumes the hydrostatic pressure of the wellbore fluids after a number of days exposure
to that pressure. When this is followed by no increase or a reduction in hydrostatic pressure in the well
bore, the shale, which now has a higher internal pressure than the wellbore, collapses in a similar manner
to naturally over-pressured shale. Wellbore instability is therefore caused when highly stressed formations
are drilled and there exists a significant differences between the near wellbore stress and the restraining
pressure provided by the drilling fluid density. While differential sticking occurs when a part of the drill
string, casing, or logging tool becomes embedded in the mud filter cake and is held firm by mud pressure
that exceeds the formation pressure. The prevention of stuck pipe through the knowledge of pore pressure
and fracture gradient is very essential in order to reduce downtime and control the well cost which results
from fishing and retrieval of drilling equipment. An improvement on the ability to predict events ahead
of the bit will certainly lead to an easy and problem-free drilling process. The parameters to be computed
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and estimated based on offset data includes: mud hydrostatic pressure, formation pore pressure, overbur-
den gradient, fracture pressure and overbalance pressure.

Basic Pressure Equations

Pore Pressure
The pore pressure is the pressure acting on the fluid in the pore spaces of the rock. The pore pressure can
also be expressed as pore pressure gradient, which is the ratio of the pore pressure with respect to depth
expressed mathematically as:.

Pp ⫽ pore pressure,(psi)
D ⫽ depth(ft).
Hydrostatic Pressure
This is the pressure exerted by the weight of the static column of the fluid.
It is expressed mathematically as;

H ⫽ hydrostatic pressure(psi)
␳ ⫽ mud density(ppg)
D ⫽ depth,(ft)
Overbalance Pressure
This is the amount of pressure when the mud hydrostatic pressure is higher than the formation pressure.
Overbalance drilling is a situation where the mud hydrostatic pressure is higher than the formation

Pob ⫽ overbalance pressure(psi)
Ph ⫽ hydrostatic pressure,(psi)
Pf ⫽ formation pore pressure(psi)
Underbalance Pressure
This is the amount of pressure when the formation pressure is higher than the hydrostatic pressure.

Pub ⫽ under-balance pressure,(psi)
Pf ⫽ formation pore pressure(psi)
Ph ⫽ hydrostatic pressure(psi)
Mud Weight Window
This is the range of mud weight that can be used to drill a well safely and prevent wellbore instability.
The lower bound is the higher value of either the collapse pressure or the pore pressure mud weight that
will prevent any excess wellbore failure. The upper bound is the lower value of either the pore pressure
or collapse pressure mud weight that will prevent any excess wellbore instability. During drilling, a range
of mud weight is always given, when the mud weight is higher than the window, there is all tendency that
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there will be a higher overbalance pressure which could result to lost circulation and ultimately may lead
to stuck pipe. Also, when the mud weight is outside the window, it results to a negative overbalance which
also leads to drilling problems. To drill safely it is advisable to operate within the mud window.
Fracture Gradient
Fracture gradient is the minimum total in situ stress divided by depth. The accurate prediction of fracture
gradient is essential to optimize well design. Formation integrity test is usually carried out during drilling
to estimate the fracture gradient. Fracture gradient is influenced mainly by subsurface stress. The resultant
stress in the rock is resolved into three stress components perpendicular to each other. The stresses are
vertical (␴v) and two horizontal stresses (␴H, ␴h).
For maximum stress relationship,

FG ⫽ fracture gradient(psi/ft)
␳m ⫽ mud density(ppg)
FIT ⫽ maximum test pressure(psi)
D ⫽ true vertical depth(ft)
The minimum stress relationship

␴1 ⫽ effective minimum principal stress (minimum principal stress-pore pressure)
Pf ⫽ pore pressure, psi
FG ⫽ fracture gradient,(psi/ft)
Fracture gradient is a function of the following: Overburden stress, Formation pressure, Relationship
between vertical and horizontal stresses, Fracture pressure gradient

Pf(min) ⫽ maximum fracture pressure gradient(psi/ft)
Pf(max) ⫽ maximum fracture pressure gradient(psi/ft)
D ⫽ depth(ft)
S ⫽ overburden pressure at depth D(psi)
P ⫽ pore pressure(psi)

Model Theories and Equations

Eaton Ratio method
According to Eaton (1975) the formation pressure can be derived from the modified d-exponent, using
the equation

P ⫽ predicted pore pressure (psi)
Po ⫽ overburden pressure (psi)
Pn ⫽ hydrostatic pressure (psi)
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Vn ⫽ normal compacted velocity (ft.sec)

Vi ⫽ observed velocity from seismic data (ft/sc)
Equivalent depth method
Swabrick (2002) shows that formation pore pressure can be computed from the overburden stress,
using the formula:

P ⫽ Pore pressure, Psi
␴ ob ⫽ is the overburden stress at the equivalent depth, Psi/ft
␴ on ⫽ is the normal overburden at the equivalent depth, psi/ft
Pn ⫽ normal pore pressure at depth, psi
Pore Pressure Prediction
While drilling into transition zones of normal and abnormal formation pressure, variation in rock
properties and bit performance often provide many indications of changes in formation pressure (Bour-
goyne et al 1991). To detect this changes, drilling parameters related to bit performance are monitored
continuously and recorded by surface instruments. Also, parameters related to drilling fluids and rock
fragments being circulated from the well are monitored carefully and logged using special mud logging
equipments and personnel.
Estimation of fracture pressure gradient
Volterra and Gaines (1971) stated that the stresses acting tangential to the walls of the wellbore, S, is
termed hoop stresses. The minimum hoop stress, S (compression) occurs where S is parallel to the
minimum in situ stress squeezing the wellbore

Where: Pw is the wellbore pressure (Psi), ␴ 1 and ␴2 are the minimum and maximum in situ stress
acting perpendicular to the wellbore, In a tectonically relaxed environment, ␴1⫽ ␴2 ⫽Sh for a vertical
well, while for a horizontal well, ␴1⫽ sh and ␴2 ⫽ Sv, Where Sh and Sv are the in situ horizontal and
vertical stresses, respectively.
Hubbert and Willis (1957) considered the pressure required to open both short and long Crack, which
implies a fracture gradient of


Pf (Min) ⫽ maximum facture pressure gradient in Psi/ft
Pf (Max) ⫽ maximum fracture pressure gradient in Psi/ft
D ⫽ depth in ft
S ⫽ overburden pressure at the depth D in psi
P ⫽ pore pressure in psi

Result Discussion.
Table 2, depths (8100ft to 12300ft), the pipe was free from sticking and no Kick, this is because the mud
weights (hydrostatic presssure) used between these depths balanced accurately with the pore pressure
(overbalance less than 500psi) and the fracture pressure (hydrostatic pressure less than the fracture
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pressure). This depth range constituted the normal pore pressure zone therefore pressure prediction and
well planning could be easier. Table-3, (12300ft to 12700ft), showed a kick because the formation pore
pressure was quite higher than the mud hydrostatic pressure. This was an abnormal pressure zone and the
mud weight used failed to balance up with the pore pressure. Therefore increasing the mud weight while
maintaining a pressure overbalance less than 500 psi and a mud hydrostaic pressure less than the fracture
pressure at the same time could be a solution. From 14800ft and above there were more pipe sticking
because the pressure overbalances were all higher than 500 psi. This is as a result of drilling with a very
high mud weight, this could be controlled by reducing the mud weight from these depths. With this model,
the well Engineers can detect zones where kicks are likely to be experienced and the zones where the pipe
would likely stuck once when the drilling data are inputed. Thereby effectively minimize losses that would
have resulted from down time due to stuck pipe and kicks.

From the results analysed with the model, the depth where the pressure overbalance was above 500 psi,
the pipe got stuck. Similarly at depths with negative pressure overbalance, there would be a kick. Also at
depths where the hydrostatic pressures were greater than the fracture pressure, the model indicated
formation fracture.
Conclusively, a higher mud weight will likely lead to an excessively high pressure over balance which
in turn causes stuck pipe. When the hydrostatic pressure is lesser than the pore pressure (negative
overbalance), there would be a kick and if not properly controlled will lead to a blow out. Secondly, when
the mud hydrostatic pressure is higher than the fracture pressure, the formation will collapse and this may
lead to stuck pipe.

Bourgoyne, A. T. Jr., Millheim, K. K., Chenevert, M. E., Young, F. S. Jr. (1991): Applied Drilling
Engineering, revised 6, Society of Petroleum Engineers, Textbook Series, v. 5, pp 247–293.
Enrico Volterra, Gaines, J. H. (1971): Advanced Strength of Materials, Prentice-Hall Civil Engineer-
ing and Engineering Mechanics series.
Hayward. J. T. (1937): “Cause and Cure of Frozen Drill Pipe and Casing”, Drilling and Production
Practices, Pp. 8.
Helmick, W. E., Longley A. J. (1957): “Pressure Differential Sticking of Drill Pipe”, Oil and Gas
Journal, Pp. 132
Mathews, W. R., Kelly, J (1967): “How to Predict Formation Pressures and Fracture Gradient from
Electric and Sonic Logs”, Oil and Gas Journal,.
McClendon, M. T., Rehm W. A (1971): “Measurement of Formation Pressure From Drilling Data”,
Presented At Annual Fall Meeting, New Orleans,
Swarbrick, R. E. (2002): “Challenges of porosity-based pore pressure prediction”, CSEG Recorder,
pp. 74.
Terzaghi, K. (1943): Theoretical soil mechanics, John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
Warren, J. E (1940): “Causes, Prevention and Recovery of Stuck Drill Pipe”, Drilling and Production
Practices, pp. 30
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Data Presentation and Result Analysis

Table 1—shows the input data from well -XYZ.

Depth, ft Mud weight, ppg Bulk Density, g/cm3 Poission Ratio Observed mod d-exp Normal mod d-exp Porosity

8100 9.50 2.27 0.45 1.52 1.52 0.290

9000 9.50 2.28 0.45 1.55 1.55 0.287
9600 9.50 2.29 0.45 1.57 1.57 0.286
10100 9.50 2.30 0.45 1.49 1.49 0.285
10400 9.50 2.30 0.45 1.58 1.58 0.280
10700 9.50 2.30 0.45 1.60 1.60 0.275
10900 9.55 2.31 0.45 1.61 1.61 0.270
11100 9.55 2.32 0.45 1.57 1.57 0.255
11300 9.55 2.32 0.46 1.64 1.64 0.250
11500 9.60 2.33 0.46 1.48 1.48 0.245
11600 9.60 2.33 0.46 1.61 1.61 0.245
11800 9.60 2.33 0.46 1.54 1.54 0.240
12100 9.60 2.34 0.46 1.58 1.61 0.240
12200 9.60 2.34 0.46 1.67 1.62 0.235
12300 9.60 2.36 0.46 1.41 1.63 0.233
12700 9.60 2.36 0.46 1.27 1.63 0.230
12900 10.00 2.37 0.46 1.18 1.64 0.225
13000 12.70 2.37 0.46 1.13 1.64 0.220
13200 12.70 2.38 0.46 1.22 1.64 0.210
13400 12.70 2.38 0.46 1.12 1.65 0.210
13500 12.70 2.38 0.46 1.12 1.65 0.210
13600 13.50 2.40 0.46 1.07 1.65 0.210
13700 13.80 2.40 0.47 1.00 1.67 0.200
13800 13.95 2.40 0.47 0.98 1.70 0.200
13900 14.00 2.41 0.47 1.00 1.72 0.200
14000 14.00 2.41 0.47 0.91 1.73 0.195
14200 14.50 2.41 0.47 0.93 1.74 0.192
14400 15.00 2.42 0.47 0.86 1.75 0.191
14600 15.50 2.42 0.47 0.80 1.76 0.185
14800 15.80 2.43 0.47 0.86 1.76 0.180
14900 15.80 2.43 0.47 0.80 1.76 0.175
15000 16.00 2.44 0.48 0.90 1.77 0.170
15200 16.00 2.44 0.48 0.82 1.77 0.160
15300 16.00 2.44 0.48 0.87 1.78 0.150
15400 16.00 2.45 0.48 0.92 1.80 0.120
15500 16.00 2.45 0.48 0.87 1.81 0.100
15700 16.00 2.45 0.48 0.80 1.85 0.095
16200 16.50 2.47 0.48 0.80 1.90 0.099
16800 18.00 2.48 0.48 0.60 1.95 0.098
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Table 2—Results from 8100ft to 12700ft. shows the hydrostatic pressure (psi), overburden gradient (psi/ft), pore pressure (psi),
fracture pressure (psi), overbalance (psi) and the stuck pipe pipe prediction.

Table 3—Results from 12700ft to 14800ft. shows the hydrostatic pressure(psi), overburden gradient (psi/ft), pore pressure (psi), the
fracture pressure (psi), the overbalance (psi) and the stuck pipe prediction.
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Table 4 —Results from 14000ft to 16800ft. shows the hydrostatic pressure (psi), the overburden gradient (psi/ft), the pore pressure
(psi), the fracture pressure (psi), the overbalance (psi), and the stuck pipe prediction.