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Optimal Fluid Systems for Perforating

Recent developments in perforating fluids are helping operators clean up, both literally
and financially. When combined with advances in perforation-gun performance and
dynamic underbalanced-perforating technology, these new fluids yield significant
improvements in well productivity.

Larry Behrmann Cleaning up after any well operation is critical. properly oriented; second, debris from the
Ian C. Walton In drilling, rock is loosened by the impact of a perforation tunnels must be effectively removed;
Rosharon, Texas, USA drill bit and the hydraulic energy of a drilling and third, formation damage must be minimized
fluid. Drilling mud carries this rock debris to the during the process. Debris includes not only
Frank F. Chang surface. Even before the circulating mud loose material in the perforation tunnel, but
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
removes the loose drilling debris, the formation more importantly, crushed sand grains that line
has been exposed to foreign solids, liquids and the tunnel and constitute what is known as
Alfredo Fayard
Houston, Texas chemicals in solution that sometimes damage perforation damage.
reservoir rock by reducing near-wellbore In reservoirs with a potential for sand
Chee Kin Khong permeability. This reduction is often referred to production, perforation orientation is critical to
Shekou, Shenzhen City, China as formation damage, one of the components of sustained production. This is particularly true in
skin damage. deviated and horizontal boreholes. Excessive
Bjørn Langseth Similarly, in perforating, a high-energy jet from sand production is a common problem that
Stavanger, Norway an explosive shaped charge shoots through casing erodes downhole equipment, plugs the wellbore
and cement, and pierces the formation, creating a and ultimately chokes off fluid flow. In 2001, BP
Stephen Mason conductive path deep into the reservoir rock. noted that 60% of its worldwide production, or
Sugar Land, Texas Immediately after gun detonation, fluid from the around 2 million barrels [317,800 m3] of oil
borehole fills the perforation tunnel. As in drilling, equivalent per day, came from fields requiring
Anne-Mette Mathisen
Hydro this initial contact between the wellbore fluid and some level of sand management.1 Numbers like
Bergen, Norway formation may cause an additional reduction in this reinforce the need for an optimized
permeability and a decrease in perforation perforating strategy to ensure that perforations
Italo Pizzolante efficiency. This is particularly true in over- are placed at the proper orientation and phasing
Tian Xiang balanced perforating, a condition in which to minimize sand flow and maximize
CACT Operations Group wellbore hydrostatic pressure is greater than hydrocarbon production.2
Shekou, Shenzhen City formation pressure. A properly designed perfor- After perforating, tunnel debris must be
ating fluid can help avoid this damage and removed. Long perforation tunnels and those in
Grete Svanes substantially improve well productivity. hard, low-permeability formations can be difficult
MI-SWACO Although many technologies are involved in to clean. Underbalanced perforating is sometimes
Bergen, Norway
modern perforating, three fundamental elements used to help clear these tunnels of debris and
For help in preparation of this article, thanks to are critical to maximizing hydrocarbon recovery. minimize perforation damage.3 However, more
Nils Kågeson-Loe, MI-SWACO, Stavanger; and Charlie Svoboda, Together, they form the basis for an optimized recently, engineers have recognized that
MI-SWACO, Houston.
perforation strategy. First, perforations must be generating a dynamic underbalance just moments
PLT (Production Logging Tool), PURE and SPAN (Schlumberger
perforating analysis) are marks of Schlumberger. CLEANPERF
is a mark of MI-SWACO.

14 Oilfield Review
after perforating-gun detonation may actually
1. Morton N: “Screening Out Sand,” BP Frontiers, issue 2 3. For more on underbalanced perforating: Bakker E,
promote better perforation cleanup than under- (December 2001): 18–22. Veeken K, Behrmann L, Milton P, Stirton G, Salsman A,
balanced perforating, and in some cases, is better 2. For more on perforation orientation: Bersås K, Walton I, Stutz L and Underdown D: “The New Dynamics
Stenhaug M, Doornbosch F, Langseth B, Fimreite H and of Underbalanced Perforating,” Oilfield Review 15, no. 4
suited to the completion design and well Parrott B: “Perforations on Target,” Oilfield Review 16, (Winter 2003/2004): 54–67.
conditions.4 A dynamic underbalance can no. 1 (Spring 2004): 28–37. 4. Chang FF, Kågeson-Loe NM, Walton IC, Mathisen AM
Acock A, ORourke T, Shirmboh D, Alexander J, and Svanes GS: “Perforating in Overbalance—Is It
generally be created from an initial state that is Really Sinful?,” paper SPE 82203, SPE Drilling &
Andersen G, Kaneko T, Venkitaraman A, López-de-
either under- or overbalanced. Cárdenas J, Nishi M, Numasawa M, Yoshioka K, Roy A, Completion 19, no. 3 (September 2004): 173–180.
Wilson A and Twynam A: “Practical Approaches to Sand
Management,” Oilfield Review 16, no. 1 (Spring 2004):

Spring 2007 15
2,500 The PURE perforating system for clean
2,000 perforations generates a dynamic, or transient,

Overbalance, psi
underbalance pressure immediately after the
creation of the perforation tunnel.5 This
instantaneous decompression of reservoir fluids
500 around a perforation assists in removal of the
0 crushed material from the perforation tunnel
while the rest of the well may be in a static
Underbalance, psi

overbalanced condition (left). In most cases,

–1,000 the PURE technique produces a lower skin
–1,500 than that observed after conventional under-
–2,000 balanced perforating.
Once the guns have detonated at the required
0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 1.0 orientation and a dynamic underbalance has
Time, s helped clean the perforation tunnels, the
> PURE pressure dynamics. Within 0.1 s of perforating gun detonation, hydrostatic pressure in the perforations returns to
pressure (blue) in and around the perforation decreases dramatically. In a that of the wellbore. If the initial wellbore state is
wellbore open to the surface, pressure recovers to that of the hydrostatic underbalanced, then there is little opportunity for
load at around 0.15 s. This action helps clear the perforation of shattered wellbore fluids to infiltrate the formation through
formation debris and improves production efficiency. To minimize perforation
damage as hydrostatic pressure recovers, the perforating fluid must quickly the perforation tunnel. However, depending on the
generate a competent filtercake, or seal, over the newly exposed formation. well configuration and formation characteristics,
when perforating overbalanced, fluid from the
wellbore may rush to fill the perforation tunnels,
providing an increased potential for further
damage to the formation.
Engineers recognize that perforating with an
initial overbalance is potentially damaging and
Undamaged formation
sometimes unavoidable. However, overbalanced
Low-permeability zone and perforation debris
expelled by surge of formation fluid perforating is often the most economical and
efficient process, particularly when the operator
Internal filtercake Filtration needs to remove the gun assembly from the
wellbore after perforating. The operator
essentially has three options:
• Drop the guns immediately after perforating.
This requires a special connector called a drop
sub, sufficient wellbore depth below the com-
pletion, a wellbore deviation less than about
60 degrees and prior installation of the upper
Perforation tunnel

completion. In these circumstances, the well

can be perforated with an initial underbalance,
damage the guns dropped and the well immediately
from drilling placed on production. This is the least damag-
Liquid- ing of the three choices.
invasion zone
Cement • Perforate with an initial underbalance and
External filtercake
Casing then retrieve the guns through a wellhead
adapter that allows tools to be pulled through
> Filtration at the formation face. In an overbalanced condition, when the the wellhead while under pressure. This
wellbore hydrostatic pressure is greater than formation pressure, the method causes little damage to the formation,
formation face within the perforation acts as a filter. As the fluid in the but the use of these specialized tools is not
wellbore is pushed into the formation by the pressure differential, solids are
always a practical or cost-effective option.
filtered out at the rock face leaving only the liquid and fine particulates to
migrate back into the permeable rock (inset). The size of the particles allowed • Perforate overbalanced so that the guns can
past the initial filtration zone is, for the most part, a function of the rock’s be safely retrieved and the upper completion
pore-throat size and the dimensions and characteristics of the solid-phase installed with the well under control. In this
materials contained within the fluid. Typically, solid materials are deposited
case, the perforating fluid, often a solids-laden
just inside the formation and across the surface forming an internal and
external filtercake. The depth, thickness, elasticity and other mechanical kill pill, is generally circulated out of the well-
characteristics of the cake determine its ease of removal during production. bore before the well is placed on production.

16 Oilfield Review
In this article, we focus on the third element As leakoff occurs within the perforation tunnel, fluids typically used for overbalanced perfor-
of an optimized perforating strategy, the perfora- the solid and liquid phases of these fluids ating. Initial fluid formulations were designed in
ting fluid. We describe extensive laboratory separate as they are filtered across the formation close collaboration between Hydro Oil & Energy
tests that form the foundation for development face (previous page, bottom). and MI-SWACO at Hydro’s laboratory in Bergen,
of a new perforating-fluid system. Then, we Fluid leakoff into the formation can reduce Norway. The test fluids were blended and
show how one operator in the South China Sea permeability through several mechanisms. The shipped to the MI-SWACO laboratory in Houston
utilized these theoretical concepts to improve substances contained in the leakoff fluid may for verification of the fluid properties. Then,
production efficiency. react with clays in the formation-pore throats samples were taken to the Schlumberger
causing them to swell or mobilize, thus reducing Reservoir Completions Technology Center (SRC)
Evaluating Fluids for effective permeability. Compounds such as in Rosharon, Texas, where the perforation tests
Overbalanced Perforating surfactants and polymers migrating into the were conducted.
As fluid leaks off into a formation after reservoir can change pore-throat wettability and At the Rosharon facility, six fluid types were
perforating, it may cause permeability damage effective diameter, thus altering frictional evaluated in a test cell using various configura-
radially away from the perforation. The extent of pressures and possibly limiting hydrocarbon flow. tions (below). Since zinc-cased shaped charges
radial permeability damage is determined by As the liquid phase leaks off into the have been shown to be incompatible with certain
numerous factors including the initial formation formation, solids and polymers in the perforating water-base completion fluids, several of the test
permeability, the pressure differential between fluid are deposited within the perforation tunnel fluids were evaluated with both zinc and steel
the wellbore and reservoir, the amount and type and formation, forming a low-permeability filter- casing materials.7 The first round of tests was
of clay and other debris present within the cake, or seal, between the tunnel wall and the conducted using Castlegate sandstone cores with
formation pore throats, the liquid-phase chemical formation. In permeable rock, the speed with permeabilities that ranged from 600
components, and the solid-phase chemical and which this seal builds, along with the charac- to 1,000 mD.
physical characteristics. teristics of the sealing materials, determines the In the laboratory, engineers dried the test
The most commonly used wellbore fluid for leakoff rate, the total fluid volume lost into the cores at 300°F [149°C] for 16 hours. These cores
perforating is completion brine. When losses of reservoir rock, and inevitably, the level of were evacuated and saturated with kerosene, and
completion brine are significant, based either on postperforation formation damage.
fluid volume or cost of the fluid being lost, a Realizing the importance of minimizing 5. For more on PURE technology: Bruyere F, Clark D,
Stirton G, Kusumadjaja A, Manalu D, Sobirin M, Martin A,
secondary fluid system typically referred to as a formation damage created during leakoff, Hydro, Robertson DI and Stenhouse A: “New Practices to
fluid-loss control pill (FLCP), or kill pill, is Schlumberger and MI-SWACO engineers began Enhance Perforating Results,” Oilfield Review 18, no. 3
(Autumn 2006): 18–35.
placed across the perforated interval to seal the research in 2001 aimed at developing an 6. Chang et al, reference 4.
perforations against further losses. Most often, optimized perforating fluid to help minimize 7. Javora PH, Ali SA and Miller R: “Controlled Debris
these postperforation FLCPs contain a mix of postperforation formation damage in over- Perforating Systems: Prevention of an Unexpected
Source of Formation Damage,” paper SPE 58758,
liquids and solids, the solids being polymers and balanced environments.6 To establish a baseline presented at the SPE International Symposium on
particulates such as calcium carbonate [CaCO3] for perforation-fluid damage, engineers first Formation Damage Control, Lafayette, Louisiana, USA,
February 23–24, 2000.
sized to minimize fluid loss to the formation. evaluated water-base and oil-base completion

Fluid Base fluid Weighting agent gravity, g/cm3 Solids

Oil-base mud Oil-external Barite 1.65 Barite


Cesium formate, low- Oil-external Cesium formate/ 1.67 Calcium

solids, oil-base mud emulsion calcium carbonate carbonate

Calcium bromide, low- Oil-external Calcium bromide/ 1.34 Calcium

solids, oil-base mud emulsion calcium carbonate carbonate

Potassium formate Potassium formate Potassium formate/ 1.63 Calcium

kill pill calcium carbonate carbonate

Potassium-cesium Potassium-cesium Potassium formate/cesium 1.63 Calcium

formate kill pill formate formate/calcium carbonate carbonate

Calcium bromide Calcium bromide Calcium bromide/ 1.65 Calcium

kill pill calcium carbonate carbonate

> Testing perforating-fluid types. Fluids in the first test series included oil-base fluids and perforating fluids built from
completion brines. The density of each was nearly the same, with most being weighted with calcium carbonate [CaCO3].

Spring 2007 17
an initial porosity was measured. Technicians
established permeability in both axial- and
diametral-flow geometries under ambient
temperature and pressure to simulate overburden
pressure. The core was then loaded into the
perforating vessel with casing and a cement plate
attached to the face of the core (left).
Overburden stress was applied to the core, the
gun assembly installed and the simulated
wellbore filled with the test fluid. Most of the
tests involved rotating the test cell so that the
guns fired vertically to simulate oriented
perforating in a horizontal well. Once the test
cell reached the desired reservoir temperature,
pore pressure, overburden stress and wellbore
pressure were applied to create an overbalance
Perforating fluid Core
of 450 psi [3.1 MPa]. Once all pressures had
stabilized, engineers fired the guns, and allowed
Perforation wellbore- and pore-pressure readings to restabilize.
Technicians shut in the system and maintained
Steel to simulate Cement an overbalanced condition for three days.
casing On some tests, leakoff continued during the
shut-in period, causing the wellbore pressure to
decrease and approach reservoir pressure (next
page, top left). If the pressure dropped to a
predetermined level, technicians increased the
pressure to maintain a 450-psi overbalance. This
procedure simulates field operations in which
the hydrostatic column in the wellbore is topped
off periodically to maintain hydrostatic pressure.
In some of the tests, this pump-up and leakoff
cycle occurred several times throughout the
Micrometer valve
Wellbore-pore shut-in period as a function of the perforating
pressure differential fluid’s ability to control fluid loss.
Wellbore pressure After three days, the system was allowed to
Shooting plate simulating cool and pressure was reduced to atmospheric
casing and cement levels. Postperforating productivity was measured
Shooting Gun with shaped charge at ambient temperature by flowing kerosene
Core sample through the core in the axial direction. Starting
from a low flow rate, production continued until
Simulated wellbore steady-state flow was established. Then, the flow
Confining chamber rate was increased to measure the incremental
cleanup as a function of flow rate.
Wellbore pressure data

30-gallon accumulator
To compare the loss-control characteristics of
5-gallon accumulator
the various fluids tested, engineers determined
Confining pressure data

connected to wellbore
the rate at which the filtercake builds, which can
also be interpreted as a leakoff rate (next page,
top right). Technicians also captured data from
conventional high-pressure, high-temperature,
Simulated reservoir core samples (HPHT) fluid-loss tests. The volume of filtrate
captured during the first minute of the test, or
spurt loss, also helped in comparing the
> Full-scale perforating test instrumentation. The test cell (top left) is shown with the core enclosed filtercake-building characteristics of the
in an elastomer sleeve. Once the instrument is sealed, pressure and temperatures are controlled at different fluids (next page, bottom).
simulated downhole conditions. Small and large accumulators provide far-field, or hydrostatic,
pressures (bottom diagram). During tests, the perforating gun (red) is fired through a steel plate
backed by cement into the formation core, thus simulating wellbore conditions (inset).

18 Oilfield Review
6,000 100

Pressure differential (Pwellbore – Ppore), psi

Pressure, psi

3,000 5,000
4,000 20

0 0
0 12 24 36 48 60 72 0 5 10 15 20
Time, h Square root of time, s1/2
> Typical shut-in pressure profile. A wellbore-pressure profile was > Fluid leakoff rate. The pressure differential between wellbore-
acquired during a 72-hour shut-in period. The pressure spikes hydrostatic pressure and pore pressure just after wellbore pressure
occurred when technicians increased the simulated hydrostatic has stabilized is plotted against the square root of time. Normalized
pressure to account for fluid leaking off into the core. The rate of for variations in the surface area of the perforation-tunnel wall, the
fluid leakoff is derived from the slope of the leakoff curve (inset). slope of the line indicates the rate at which the filtercake builds.
This value can also be interpreted as the leakoff rate, indicating the
volume of fluid leaking into, or through, the core over time.

Test Initial permeability, mD Core Wellbore fluid, Perforating HPHT leakoff Leakoff rate,
number Axial Diametral porosity, % specific gravity, g/cm3 direction (charge) at 1 min, mL psi/s1/2/in.2 CFE NPPR

1 550 450 24.8 Oil-base mud (1.65) Horizontal (zinc) 0.2 0.32 0.67 51.70
2 768 510 25.7 Oil-base mud (1.65) Up (zinc) 0.2 0.22 0.90 1,150.00
3 750 500 24.9 Calcium bromide, low-solids oil-base mud (1.34) Up (zinc) 4.0 0.38 0.82 169.00
4 575 675 24.9 Cesium formate, low-solids oil-base mud (1.67) Up (zinc) 3.5 0.62 0.52 0.67
5 1,030 715 24.6 Calcium bromide kill pill (1.65) Up (zinc) 2.1 0.65 0.55 1.10
6 1,040 720 25.0 Calcium bromide kill pill (1.65) Up (steel) 2.1 0.46 0.57 1.90
7 600 530 24.4 Cesium formate kill pill (1.63) Up (zinc) 0.7 0.39 0.74 22.00
8 990 680 24.7 Cesium formate kill pill (1.63) Up (steel) 0.7 0.09 0.53 7.85
9 940 670 24.1 Potassium-cesium formate kill pill (1.63) Up (zinc) 1.3 0.25 0.47 4.42
10 920 720 24.6 Potassium-cesium formate kill pill (1.63) Horizontal (zinc) 1.3 0.28 0.54 7.40

2.5 1.0

Test 2
2.0 Zinc 0.8

Test 3
Steel 0.7
Test 7
Test 1

1.5 0.6
Test 6

Test 5
Test 10
Test 8
Test 4
Test 9

1.0 0.4
0.5 0.2
0.0 0.0










Spurt Leakoff CFE NPPR

> Initial results from the first series of 10 tests (top). Tests 1 and 2 compared perforations shot using oil-base perforating fluids with perforations shot in
the horizontal and vertical directions. A significant improvement in core-flow efficiency (CFE) was seen with the guns oriented vertically. In Tests 5 and 6,
fluids built from calcium bromide [CaBr2] were tested with steel- and zinc-cased charges, confirming the negative impact of bromine and zinc in solution
(bottom left). The normalized perforation/permeability ratio (NPPR) was improved with steel-cased charges. Also of note is the CFE comparison between
water- and oil-base fluids. With the exception of Test 4, perforating in oil-base fluids produced the least damage (bottom right). Engineers suspect that the
low-solids, oil-base mud used for Test 4 suffered a broken emulsion and therefore produced poor CFE values relative to the other oil-base fluids tested.
The high CFE produced in Test 7 with water-base fluid is not completely understood. Because water-base CFE values this high are inconsistent with all
other water-base tests, engineers considered this test an anomaly.

Spring 2007 19
Data from the test series indicated that Zinc-Cased Charge
most of the fluids slowed the egress of filtrate
into the core. However, calcium bromide [CaBr2] 5,000
brine and low-solids oil-base mud (LSOBM)
formulated with cesium formate [CsCOOH] brine 4,000

Pressure, psi
were exceptions.
Previous tests had shown that a chemical
reaction occurs between the zinc debris and 2,000
calcium-containing brine during perforating with Wellbore pressure
zinc-cased charges. This typically causes the 1,000 Far-pore pressure
CaBr2 perforating fluid to lose its fluid-loss Near-pore pressure
control capability as illustrated by the immediate 0 12 24 36 48 60 72
equalization between wellbore and pore Time, h
pressures (right).8 However, fluid-loss control is
maintained when steel-cased charges are used. Steel-Cased Charge
The CsCOOH-base LSOBM demonstrated less
fluid-loss control capability. A high initial fluid 5,000
loss was observed, and more fluid entered the
formation, particularly during the initial spurt- 4,000
loss phase. Pressure, psi
When examining the cores after the tests, the
research team noted that the perforation tunnels 2,000
were filled with material, and in some cases, Wellbore pressure
tightly packed with solids from the perforating 1,000 Far-pore pressure
fluid and formation sand grains. This material in Near-pore pressure
the tunnel may have acted as a porous medium 0 12 24 36 48 60 72
within a tunnel of otherwise nearly infinite Time, h
conductivity. To further understand the cleanup > Charge-casing interference with fluid-loss additives. Engineers suspect
potential of the various fluids, engineers that powderized zinc from the zinc-cased charges reacts with salts in brine-
calculated a perforation permeability that takes base perforating fluids. These reaction products negatively affect polymers
used for fluid-loss control in perforating and kill fluids. Leakoff-pressure data
into account the packing of filtercake material demonstrate the lack of fluid-loss control with zinc-shaped charges (top);
within the perforation tunnel. wellbore (green), near- (blue) and far-pore (orange) pressures are equal,
The team used a numerical simulator to indicating the absence of a filtercake and fluid-loss control. With steel-cased
charges (bottom), the fluid is able to build a filtercake; wellbore (green) and
calculate perforation permeability based on
pore (orange and blue) pressures are easily differentiated.
measured productivity and perforation-tunnel
dimensions. Once perforation permeability was
obtained, a normalized perforation/permeability
ratio (NPPR) was defined by dividing the
perforation permeability by the root-mean- damage it will create; this is particularly true of permeability, as long as the oil-base fluids are
square of core axial and diametral permeability.9 water-base fluids. stable and maintain their oil-external emulsions
The NPPR provides a measure of how In general, the greater the volume of fluid lost throughout the perforating process.
permeable the perforation is in comparison with to the formation, the more concentrated and The ability to measure simulated wellbore
the original rock permeability. The measurement dehydrated the internal and external filtercake and formation pressures helped engineers
is independent of the length and diameter of the becomes. Thus, the filtercake is more difficult to understand the fluid dynamics of leakoff, and the
perforation tunnel. Data from the NPPR remove during production and causes more potential damage caused by perforating. Results
calculations confirmed that using oil-base damage to the perforation tunnels. When water- of this first series of tests indicate that, with
perforating fluids results in cleaner perforations base perforating fluids are used, the NPPR either water- or oil-base perforating fluids, the
(next page). It also provided a tool to help declines log-linearly with the leakoff rate, key to minimizing permeability damage is rapidly
evaluate the cleanup efficiency of the water- demonstrating the inefficiency of filtercake building a high-quality filtercake across the
base perforating fluids not otherwise defined by removal as well as the adverse relative perforation-tunnel formation face. Although oil-
core-flow efficiency (CFE) calculations.10 The permeability effect caused by water-base fluids. base perforating fluids demonstrate superiority
data further demonstrated the direct The LSOBM fluid tests showed higher leakoff to water-base fluids in reducing formation
relationship between fluid-loss control and volumes that could be expected to impair damage, minimizing fluid loss should still help
productivity impairment. The less effectively a productivity. However, despite their higher reduce productivity impairment.
perforating fluid builds filtercake, the more leakoff rate and higher HPHT values, the LSOBM
fluids tested do not significantly impair

20 Oilfield Review
in a clear completion fluid. After perforating, the
OBM clear fluid was displaced by a kill fluid similar to
CaBr2 kill pill (KP) the perforating fluids used in the previous tests.
KCOOH KP The weight of the kill fluid effectively bull-
1,000 headed, or forced under pressure, the clear fluid
CaBr2 LSOBM into the formation until the kill fluid reached the
100 CsCOOH LSOBM perforation to build a filtercake.
Engineers simulated these processes in the

laboratory. Fluid accumulators with gas caps

Trend line for water-base fluids
acted as the hydrostatic column that provided
far-field pressure effects above the perforated
1 zone. A large accumulator volume represented
perforating in an open well so that sufficient
0.1 wellbore fluid and energy were available to
0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 replenish the pressure deficit around the
Leakoff rate, psi/s1/2/in.2 perforated section after the guns were fired.
Conversely, a small accumulator volume
represented perforating in an isolated wellbore;
it extended the dynamic underbalance period
because there was insufficient energy to
replenish the pressure deficit immediately after
charge penetration.
In the “kill-later” test, a clear completion
fluid was added to the test cell. A piston
accumulator filled with the kill fluid was
connected to the test cell, but isolated by a valve
in the closed position. The accumulator pressure
was increased to the wellbore pressure so that
there was no pressure loss in the test cell when
the valve was opened; this procedure immedi-
> Calculation of perforation permeability. The normalized perforation/permeability ratio (NPPR) helps ately established an overbalanced condition.
engineers compare true formation permeability with that of the rock after perforating. It is also useful in Once the guns were fired, the wellbore
differentiating the various fluids tested. The goal is to achieve a high NPPR. Oil-base fluids (blue diamond, pressure and pore pressure reached equilibrium.
red square and brown triangle) show a distinct advantage over the water-base fluids evaluated.
The valve between the kill-fluid accumulator and
the test cell was opened, and an overbalance was
applied to displace the clear fluid through the
core sample. Once a filtercake built up, the
leakoff ceased and a stable overbalance was
Simulating Field Conditions in an isolated wellbore, and with a clear fluid.11 maintained. During the kill process, a large
Although the first test series clarified the In the first, the “quick-kill” process, a wellbore volume of clear perforating fluid was pushed into
efficacy of various fluids in the laboratory, there open to the surface was perforated while filled the core, causing the pore pressure to increase. A
were unanswered questions about perforating with a specially designed solids-laden perfor- bleed-off valve on the back side of the core
strategies in the field. Since perforating ating fluid. Simulated hydrostatic pressure from allowed technicians to maintain a relatively
procedures vary from one project to the next, is the far-field wellbore fluid provided the energy constant pore pressure.
simply using a low fluid-loss perforating fluid all source to quickly increase downhole pressure to
8. Chang et al, reference 4.
that is necessary to ensure minimal permeability the desired overbalanced state.
damage? Should wells be perforated in clear In the second scenario, the “slow-kill” 9. NPPR = where k = permeability.
brine or a fit-for-purpose perforating fluid? process, a wellbore was perforated overbalanced,
Should isolation packers be used to help but isolated below packers. After perforating, the 10. Core-flow efficiency (CFE) is defined by the ratio of the
optimize dynamic underbalanced conditions? To dynamic pressure effect of gun firing measured productivity index (PI) (after the core is
penetrated by a shaped charge) to a theoretical ideal PI
answer these questions, researchers designed a immediately reduced the wellbore pressure after (as if the perforation tunnel and surrounding formation
second series of tests to evaluate the charge penetration. Without access to the full were free of any perforation damage).
11. Chang FF, Mathisen AM, Kågeson-Loe N, Walton IC,
performance of water- and oil-base perforating hydrostatic column, however, the isolated section Svane G, Midtbø RE, Bakken I, Rykkje J and Nedrebø O:
fluids under varying simulated field conditions. of the wellbore cannot return to an overbalanced “Recommended Practice for Overbalanced Perforating
in Long Horizontal Wells,” paper SPE 94596, presented
Several simulation scenarios were designed state until the packers are manually unset. Last, at the SPE European Formation Damage Conference,
to replicate conditions that might exist in the in a variation called “kill later,” the test cell was Scheveningen, The Netherlands, May 25–27, 2005.
field—for example, perforating in an open well, configured to simulate overbalanced perforating

Spring 2007 21
Quick Kill CFE
6,000 1.2

5,000 1.0

CFE, PImeasured /PIideal

4,000 0.8
Pressure, psi

3,000 0.6

2,000 0.4

1,000 0.2

0 0
0 12 24 36 48 60 72 Quick Kill Slow Kill Kill Later
Time, h

Slow Kill CFE calculations for each perforating

strategy indicated that the lower the fluid loss
during the shut-in period as shown by the shut-in
pressure behaviors, the higher the CFE (left and
4,000 above). An appropriately designed perforation in
Pressure, psi

a well open to hydrostatic pressure would be

3,000 expected to cause less formation damage than a
perforation with the same fluid in a wellbore
2,000 isolated from hydrostatic pressure. Further,
perforating with clear brine and then displacing
1,000 to a heavier fluid capable of killing the well, often
called a kill pill, appears to cause the most
0 12 24 36 48 60 72
damage, probably due to excessive brine loss into
Time, h the formation.
Engineers conducted similar tests using
Castlegate sandstone to evaluate the perfor-
Kill Later
6,000 mance of oil-base perforating fluids. When
compared with the water-base fluids, the oil-base
5,000 fluids showed generally the same trend but with
higher CFEs, indicating less formation damage.
4,000 The data show that perforating with an oil-base
Pressure, psi

fluid in a well open to the surface produces the

3,000 least damage of all the fluids and methodologies
tested. Engineers noted that perforating in oil
2,000 then later killing the well caused more damage,
again demonstrating that rapid filtercake
development is necessary to minimize invasion of
damaging solids and fluids into the formation.
0 12 24 36 48 60 72 For all tests, there was a consistent trend
Time, h showing that perforating pressure dynamics
influence fluid-loss control behavior for all types
> Core-flow efficiencies. Castlegate sandstone was perforated using the
quick-kill, slow-kill and kill-later processes. For quick- and slow-kill tests, the of kill fluids. The shut-in pressure profile for
gun was fired with oil-base perforating fluid in the test cell. For the kill-later perforating an open well showed good filtercake
process, firing occurred with clear kerosene in the cell that was later competency. The shut-in pressure profile in an
displaced with oil-base kill fluid. The pressure (green) for quick-kill shows a isolated wellbore showed less filtercake
low leakoff rate and a minimum number of pump-up cycles (top left). The
slow-kill process required more frequent pressure adjustments (middle), while competency, as indicated by the need to replenish
in the kill-later process, fluid-loss control could not be achieved until the clear pressure more often during shut-in. When the
kerosene fluid was displaced by an oil-base kill pill (bottom). Core-flow simulated wellbore was perforated with a clear
efficiency (CFE) calculations show that the quick-kill process using oil-base fluid and then killed later, poor fluid-loss control
perforating fluid causes the least amount of permeability damage (top right).
was observed. Finally, during tests of perforating
without dynamic underbalance, the fluid-loss

22 Oilfield Review
No Underbalance No Underbalance Shot with Underbalance
Overbalance and underbalance pressure, psi
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0
Time, s

No Underbalance
> The importance of underbalance. In this test, Castlegate sandstone
5,000 was perforated without achieving a dynamic underbalance
(top left). Although the leakoff-pressure profile (bottom left) shows
wellbore pressure (green) well above pore pressure (orange),
indicating good fluid-loss control, the low leakoff rate is attributed
Pressure, psi

to failure to clear perforation debris from the tunnel after

3,000 perforating. Computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan images
(above) show a solid, high-density mass (white) in the perforation
2,000 tunnel. For comparison, a similar core was perforated using the
same fluid design, but dynamic underbalance was achieved with
a higher core-flow efficiency (above right). The gray coloring in
the perforation tunnel indicates that significantly less debris is left
in the tunnel.
0 12 24 36 48 60 72
Time, h

control was achieved by debris plugging.

BR7-25-11 BR7-18-12 BR7-22-12
Although adequate fluid-loss control was
obtained without dynamic underbalance, the BR7-18-7 BR7-33-8
BR7-25-4 BR7-18-2
return permeability suffered from the debris left BR7-22-2
in the perforation tunnel (above).
Once all tests were complete, engineers and
scientists at the Hydro Oil & Energy Research
Center in Bergen performed petrographic
studies on thin-section samples of the cores and
observed the changes in grain and pore
structures between the crushed zone near the ORSPR07_Don_ThinSec_1
perforation tunnel and the undisturbed
sandstone matrix away from the perforation
tunnel. In addition, they studied polished epoxy-
impregnated samples by scanning electron
A. Slow kill B. Quick kill C. No underbalance achieved
microscope (SEM) and analyzed micrographs of
backscattered images. > Changes in porosity. Image sets A, B and C (bottom) are thin-section samples cut from low-
The thin-section images from the rock permeability Berea sandstone cores (top). The cores were perforated using oil-base fluids. Images A
adjacent to the perforation-tunnel wall revealed and B show a low content of fine material compared with Image C, indicating that the crushed zone
the effect of pressure dynamics on perforation was removed by the dynamic underbalance achieved in the perforation process. Sample A shows
higher damage due to higher fluid loss resulting from the slow-kill process. Sample B shows slightly
cleanup (right). It was apparent that the shaped more fine material in the thin section; however the quick-kill process helped clear the perforation
charges created a crushed zone near the tunnel. Image C shows a high content of fine material and no removal of the crushed zone from the
perforation-tunnel wall. For both the quick- and perforation tunnel because dynamic underbalance was not achieved. Results of these tests were
consistent with those performed on higher permeability Castlegate sandstone.

Spring 2007 23
Castlegate Sandstone In the Field with a Quick-Kill
1.2 Perforating Fluid
China National Offshore Oil Corporation
1.0 (CNOOC), Chevron and Eni, the field operator,
CFE, PImeasured /PIideal are partners in the development of the HZ oil and
gas fields, operating as the CACT Operators
Group in the South China Sea. The HZ fields
primarily consist of stacked, thin sandstones in
0.4 which sufficient single-well productivity can be
achieved by commingling production from
0.2 multiple sandstones, by drilling horizontal wells,
or both.
0 Traditionally, tubing-conveyed perforation
KP KP KP Salt Salt (TCP) has been preferred for thick production
zones. However, CACT engineers found that
Berea Sandstone Quick kill with dynamic underbalance wireline-conveyed casing guns are an economic
0.9 Slow kill with dynamic underbalance alternative for thinner production zones that are
0.8 Kill later with dynamic underbalance spread over a large interval.12 In these wells,
No dynamic underbalance
0.7 multiple wireline-conveyed casing-gun operations
are usually performed slightly overbalanced
CFE, PImeasured /PIideal

because it is operationally easier and safer.
0.5 Previous perforating operations using tubing-
0.4 conveyed underbalanced-perforation methods
0.3 and static underbalanced wellbore pressures
have required additional rig time, and operations
have been complicated. In many instances, static
0.1 underbalanced perforating has delivered
0 underperforming wells, probably because the
OBM OBM OBM Sized Salt Sized Salt
perforation-induced skin has not been
> Choosing a perforating fluid. Core-flow efficiency for each fluid tested is
adequately removed. Further, when TCP is used,
shown by process and sorted by core-flow efficiency (CFE). In Castlegate
sandstone (top) and Berea sandstone (bottom), an oil-base perforating fluid unless sufficient rathole is drilled to allow
combined with the quick-kill process (purple) and dynamic underbalance dropping the guns to the bottom of the wellbore,
produced the most favorable results; higher CFE values indicate the least the well must be killed to retrieve them, creating
amount of perforation damage. The kill-later process (blue) and tests in which the risk of postperforation completion-fluid
dynamic underbalance was not achieved (yellow) were the most damaging.
invasion damage. To minimize cost, simplify
operations and minimize perforation damage,
CACT elected to perforate most new wells and
slow-kill cases, dynamic underbalance was than trying to create the cleanest perforation, reperforate existing wells overbalanced using
achieved and the crushed zone was removed. possibly resulting in more filtrate loss to the wireline casing guns.
Laboratory studies showed little difference in formation. Examination of polished epoxy- After studying candidate wells, the CACT
grain sizes in the two cases. However, in the slow- impregnated SEM samples provided further reservoir and production department, working
kill case, the higher fluid-loss levels may have evidence that achieving a dynamic underbalance with Schlumberger and MI-SWACO engineers,
caused the increased level of observed damage. during overbalanced perforating is necessary to elected to test two new completion technologies
In the case with no dynamic underbalance, minimize permeability damage. for overbalanced perforating: the PURE system
the crushed zone was not removed. The result Data from these extensive studies show that and the CLEANPERF fluid, a noninvasive
was retention of a significant amount of fine- during overbalance, the characteristics of the perforating fluid. These technologies were
grained material in the perforation tunnel, thus perforating fluid, the method used to kill and expected to improve well-completion efficiency.
reducing CFE. isolate the perforation zone and success in To test the new perforating system design,
Based on the collected data and petrographic achieving dynamic underbalance during the engineers planned to compare the recompletion
observations, the research team concluded that perforation process strongly influence final well results on reference Well 1 with those obtained
there is a delicate balance between the degree of productivity (above). An optimized strategy for from the newly completed Well 6. Pressure-
cleanup in the perforation and the susceptibility overbalanced perforating must include an buildup data were not available from reference
of the perforation to perforating-fluid invasion. appropriate perforating fluid capable of rapidly Well 1, so the productivity index (PI) was
Creating a perforation tunnel that is sufficiently building a filtercake, while achieving dynamic analyzed to estimate its completion skin factor. A
clean to allow effective filtercake to build may be underbalance during the process. PLT Production Logging Tool was run in the well
more beneficial to overall damage prevention after completion to determine the flow rates of

24 Oilfield Review
all the layers when water cut was lowest. PLT Reference Well 1 Well 6
evaluation of the reference well for the four 0

layers perforated using wireline-conveyed guns –0.2

and the PURE system at an overbalance of about –0.4
1.3 MPa [188 psi] indicated permeabilities from
–0.6 Modeled optimal results

Completion skin value

9.4 to 1,605 mD, and skin factors from 0 to –0.97.
–0.8 Actual field results
Although reference Well 1 and Well 6 were
perforated using the PURE system, each was –1.0
shot using a different perforating fluid. In –1.2
reference Well 1, engineers used CLEANPERF
–1.4 48%
fluid system, while Well 6 was perforated using
a typical polymer kill pill. –1.6
M-I SWACO designed the CLEANPERF fluid –1.8
system for use with the Schlumberger PURE –2.0
perforating system, primarily in overbalanced
> Improving skin with a fit-for-purpose perforating fluid. Data from field test and
perforating situations. The perforating fluid PI calculations show that for reference Well 1 perforated with CLEANPERF fluid,
provides a low-permeability barrier that limits the actual results (purple) matched planning estimates (green). By comparison,
deep invasion of solids and fluids into the results from Well 6, perforated with a conventional kill fluid, were 48% below
reservoir along the perforation tunnel modeled optimal results.
immediately after perforating. To further help
minimize postperforating damage, the system
readily flows back without a remedial treatment
during production.
CLEANPERF fluids are designed for each In the field, engineers perforated Well 1 The Third Element of Perforation Design
specific application based on several criteria using the PURE system and the CLEANPERF Although field data are still somewhat limited,
including formation characteristics and fluid, and then compared perforation efficiency the research presented in this article suggests
expected pressure differentials. Critical to each results with those in Well 6. Measured that engineers now have the necessary tools to
design are providing adequate density for the completion skins were evaluated against formulate an optimized perforation strategy. As
required overbalance; quickly establishing a completion skin values modeled using the SPAN with many E&P activities, the man-made fluids
thin, low-permeability seal across the formation Schlumberger perforating analysis software. The present in the borehole during completion
face; allowing development of minimal adhesive benchmark was set at the technical limit for operations have a direct effect on ultimate
and cohesive forces within the seal to promote perforation efficiency defined by modeling the efficiency and productivity.
uniform release from the formation and removal perforation-completion skin of a fully cleaned Properly designed, fit-for-purpose perfora-
during flowback; maintaining thermal stability crushed zone. Engineers compared the ting fluids show great promise in helping
for the period of time in which the system is in measured completion skin for reference Well 1 operators improve the return on their
the wellbore prior to production; and being from the PI equation with that of Well 6 from perforating investments. There is little doubt
chemically compatible with perforation charges. multilayered reservoir testing. The modeled that the elements of an optimized perforating
Data from thin-section analyses of core ideal completion skin value for reference Well 1 strategy—optimal perforation-gun orientation,
material provided by CACT helped engineers was approximately –1.38, while the simulated dynamic underbalanced perforating and new
design an appropriate blend of bridging agents to completion skin based on field results was perforating fluids—will grow in time. But for
effectively seal the full range of pores present in –1.37; this was close to ideal. The modeled now, the addition of fit-for-purpose perforation
the formation. Engineers elected to use a water- ideal completion skin for Well 6 (Layer A – 40) fluids provides an easily adoptable step-change
base CLEANPERF system for Well 1. The perfor- was approximately –1.85, while the simulated in the design and execution of modern
ating fluid was formulated using 4.21% by volume completion skin based on field results was –0.97, perforating techniques. —DW
of sized bridging agents and two different clay- indicating that the completion skin was 48%
inhibition additives. To assist with filtercake below the modeled optimal results (above).
cleanup, chemicals were added to reduce the Data from both wells were carefully sorted
adhesion of the filtercake to the wall of the and analyzed. Taking into account the
perforation tunnel. The fluid also contained a significance of laboratory data (discussed earlier
biopolymer viscosifier, a starch-based filtration- in this article), engineers concluded that since
control additive, and stabilizers for pH and both wells were perforated using the PURE
microbial activity. system and all other parameters were relatively
equal, there was a strong likelihood that the
12. Pizzolante I, Grinham S, Xiang T, Lian J, Khong CK,
Behrmann LA and Mason S: “Overbalanced Perforating
improved completion efficiency of Well 1 was
Yields Negative Skin Values in Layered Reservoir,” paper due to use of the noninvasive CLEANPERF
SPE 104099, presented at the SPE International Oil & Gas
Conference and Exhibition in China, Beijing,
perforating fluid.
December 5–7, 2006.

Spring 2007 25