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SPE/IADC-179188-MS

Managed Pressure, Deep Water Drilling, and Logging Under Continuous


Reservoir Cross Flow Conditions - A Case History
Inam Haq, and Paul Spriggs, Blade Energy Partners; Gary Buyers, and Dave Burton, Rafael Ignacio Garate;
Sebastian Amarilla Paez, and Joseph Gomes, Repsol

Copyright 2016, SPE/IADC Managed Pressure Drilling and Underbalanced Operations Conference and Exhibition

This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE/IADC Managed Pressure Drilling and Underbalanced Operations Conference and Exhibition held in Galveston,
Texas, USA, 12–13 April 2016.

This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE/IADC 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 or the International Association of Drilling Contractors and are subject to
correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers or the International Association of Drilling
Contractors, 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 or the International Association of Drilling Contractors is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words;
illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of SPE/IADC copyright.

Abstract
Managed Pressure Drilling (MPD) and wireline logging under pressure were both successfully
employed while drilling a pre salt, exploration well offshore Angola. The well was drilled with a 6th
generation drillship using an integrated, Below Tension Ring (BTR) MPD package with the drilling
contractor’s Riser Gas Handler (RGH). Drilling exploration wells in pre-salt formations presents a
plethora of challenges, with severe drilling fluid losses, often due to the natural fractures and/or
vugular porosity encountered. This paper discusses the challenges faced drilling the desired hole
section, managing severe losses, a downhole cross flow regime and high surface gas levels. Concern
for exiting the salt section and taking total losses in a possible vugular carbonate is addressed and the
contingent plans developed are discussed. Fluid loss management was critical and discussion is
provided on the remediation methods used to limit losses. The paper describes how considerable gas
was detected, handled and eventually controlled using the available surface equipment and method-
ology for preventing continuous gas influx and prolonged, off bottom circulating for removing the
gas from the wellbore. Extensive wireline logging was completed, both at an intermediate stage and
at total depth (TD). Most of the wireline logging was performed under minimal pressure with a
logging adaptor installed in the rotating control device (RCD), 9 5/8⬙ casing shooting nipple back to
surface and wireline pressure control equipment (WPCE). The paper concludes with a series of key
lessons learned that can be taken from this experience and considered when planning similar deep
water, pre-salt exploration wells with the use of MPD equipment.

Introduction
This paper discusses four key aspects of a deepwater, pre-salt exploration well drilled in 2015,
whereby MPD techniques were successfully employed on a dynamically positioned floating drilling
rig. All aspects were influenced by the project location, logistics and the relatively short time line to
deliver solutions.
2 SPE/IADC-179188-MS

The first aspect considers the potential problems associated with drilling out of a thick, potentially
mobile salt section into a carbonate formation and encountering total losses. Iterations of contingency
plans were worked through to determine how best to manage whichever event that may have occurred.
While total losses did not occur, the challenges faced and calculations undertaken are discussed.
The second and third aspects describe the MPD planning and subsequent integration and deploy-
ment of MPD equipment on the drill ship. After drilling into a severe loss zone, a downhole
cross-flow event; leading to significant and almost permanent gas levels in the wellbore and at
surface, was detected. MPD was used to reduce the wellbore fluid loss rate through manipulation of
the bottom hole pressure (BHP), but this resulted in increased gas ingress into the wellbore. The
closed system, inherent of MPD drilling, allowed this gas to be safely managed and circulated out of
the well. The very hard and abrasive pre-salt formation required multiple bit changes with its
resultant bit trips out of and into the wellbore, with each trip having varied degrees of gas ingress into
the wellbore and mud losses to the formation. A chronological description explains how losses were
initially managed and how efforts were made to cure these losses. These interruptions, along with
repeated closures of the Blow Out Preventer (BOP), resulted in repeated gas slugs in the wellbore and
considerable time spent circulating out this gas. The eventual solution was to allow for greater but
manageable mud losses in order to reduce gas volumes in the wellbore and the time spent to circulate
out the gas.
The final aspect, describes how two separate wireline logging programs were completed in a well
that was statically underbalanced during its drilling. A purpose built shooting nipple was made up to
a logging adapter that was secured into the RCD housing. This allowed multiple wireline runs to be
completed while continually monitoring fluid gains or losses, also allowing for the MPD equipment
to safely and accurately respond to any such gains or losses. The process was further enhanced
through placement of a uniquely designed multi weight mud pill in the riser which kept surface
pressures practically at zero psi while allowing for the correct mud weight to be pumped into the riser
if needed.
The paper concludes with a series of lessons and recommendations that others planning similar type
wells may wish to consider, and possibly improve upon.

Drilling into the pre salt section

Challenge faced.
Drilling the 14 ½⬙ ⫻ 16 ½⬙ hole section through the base of salt (BOS) and into the carbonate formation
posed several challenges. The plan was to drill into the pre-salt formation and set the casing below the salt
thus putting all of the salt formation behind the casing to eliminate future salt creep issues into the
wellbore. This plan was based on offset well information showing a potential layer of competent
formation directly below the salt prior to entering the potentially loss-prone carbonates. Formation
pressure of the carbonate was unknown, having a 1.4 ppge uncertainty range (dependent on formation
fluid) as determined from the Pore Pressure Prediction analysis. The possibility for total drilling fluid
losses also existed. Considerable planning was completed ahead of drilling through the BOS and it
addressed several permutations that considered both logistical and commercial viabilities. Such consid-
erations included:
1. Mud weight in the well when exiting the salt and drilling into the carbonate. The main objective
being to prevent salt creep when drilling the 2,000 m salt column while minimizing the potential
pressure overbalance in the pre-salt should vugular carbonates be encountered prior to reaching
TD.
SPE/IADC-179188-MS 3

2. Mud weight required for the pre-salt section. This was originally 9.4 ppge (aquifer gradient
through the reservoir) to 10.8 ppge (gas gradient) but was subsequently revised to 10.1 – 10.6
ppge.
3. Available mud capacity onboard the drill ship for storing and mixing mud.
4. Local onshore mud mixing capability and the availability of dry bulk and liquid materials to supply
sufficient quantities in the event of severe mud losses and/or pressurized mud cap drilling
(PMCD). This included the ability to supply sufficient base oil to create a low enough mud weight
to balance the well and determine formation pressure.
5. Minimizing the drop in fluid level within the riser, in the event of penetrating the pre-salt
carbonates, due to a negative pressure limitation on the collet connector between the Lower Marine
Riser Package (LMRP) and BOP.
6. Determination of the carbonate formation pressure at salt exit ahead of running the 14⬙ casing.
Thus allowing the correct mud weight to be built off critical path.
Figure 1 shows the well configuration prior to drilling into the pre-salt section. The eventual mud
weight used to drill through the BOS was a 12.4 ppg synthetic based mud (SBM) which equated to
approximately 81% of overburden gradient (OBG) at the top of the salt (TOS) and 77% of OBG at
the BOS. Having set the 14⬙ casing in the 16 ½⬙ hole section, the well plan was to continue drilling
the carbonate with SBM, being aware that drilling immediately into a vugular carbonate could result
in total losses and cause a rapid drop in fluid level within the riser. This would have continued until
the hydrostatic pressure of the mud balanced with the, as yet unknown, formation pressure.
Investigation of the riser negative pressure differential limit revealed a gasket installed in the collet
connection between the rig’s LMRP and BOP had a negative pressure limit of just 300 psi. Due to
the water depth, the consequence could lead to a fluid level drop in the riser resulting in a negative
pressure greater than this limit, and subsequent containment failure of the connector. Figure 2
illustrates resultant riser fluid levels with 12.4 ppg mud in the event of total losses in a formation of
uncertain pressure. The figure considers two formation pressures – 9.4 ppg and 10.8 ppg.
4 SPE/IADC-179188-MS

Figure 1—Well geometry prior to drilling out of the BOS


SPE/IADC-179188-MS 5

Figure 2—Mud level drop in the event of total losses into a formation of either 9.4 or 10.8ppg EMW
6 SPE/IADC-179188-MS

Solutions
Closing the rig’s annular preventer or pipe rams would restrict a dropping fluid level in the riser, but
expecting the BOP equipment to hold pressure from above, could not be guaranteed by the BOP supplier.
The planned solution was to close a pipe ram at such a time so as to hold a fluid level in the riser that
imposed less than 1,500 psi on the now closed BOP and yet maintain a pressure difference with the
external sea water gradient across the collet connector, greater than the negative 300 psi differential. The
1,500 psi limit was deemed a feasible pressure to expect the rams to hold from above.
In a conventional PMCD operation, the procedure in the event of total losses, would be to pump a light
fluid down the riser until fluid returns were gained at surface. Knowing the volume pumped would allow
for calculation of the formation pressure. However, on this well with 2,000 m of salt section exposed,
losses needed to be cured to ensure the 14⬙ casing string could be run to its planned setting depth.
Exposure to a low hydrostatic pressure would have most probably caused salt creep and subsequent casing
running problems.
Recovering from this sudden drop in fluid level would have required determining the formation
pressure. Knowing this pressure would allow for a balanced cement / gunk plug to be pumped to seal
off the losses. The fundamental problem would have been, assuming the fluid had balanced at some
level in the well, that the addition of more fluid would continue to overbalance the well, and force
more 12.4 ppg mud into the formation. Assuming, that with the BOP closed, the 12.4 ppg fluid had
fallen below the BOP, there would not have been any pressure reading on the kill line gauge. The
fluid to be pumped down the kill line would then need to be light enough to displace as minimal
amount of 12.4 ppg SBM into the formation as possible. The ⬙top up⬙ fluid pumped would then
eventually rise up the kill line and provide a hydrostatic pressure reading on the kill line gauge.
Knowing the volume of ⬙top up⬙ fluid pumped would then define the interface depth between the 12.4
ppg SBM and the oil based ⬙top up⬙ fluid.
The eventual procedure for managing total losses is summarized in the steps below;
1. Total losses would be confirmed from numerous sources including no flow through the Coriolis
flow meter and no applied surface back pressure (SBP) at the MPD choke manifold.
2. Stop pumping down the drill string but continue boosting the riser.
3. Pick up the drill pipe and space out to close the upper pipe ram (UPR). The UPR was chosen since
closing the annular would leave the collet connector exposed to a possible differential pressure of
greater than 300 psi had the fluid in the well dropped low enough.
4. Open the kill side fail safe valves and record a static BOP pressure (if available)
5. Use the static BOP pressure to determine the formation pressure. If there was no pressure reading,
then pump 9.3 ppg SBM down the kill line until a pressure was registered on the BOP gauge.
Calculate the height of the column of 9.3 ppg SBM and thus determine the formation pressure.
6. Continue to pump 9.3 ppg SBM down the kill line until filled back to surface.
7. Monitor the well at surface while displacing the riser over to the 9.3 ppg SBM. Thus recovering
the 12.4 ppg SBM.
8. Once fully displaced, open the UPR, move the drill pipe to confirm it is free and pump a pre-built
loss circulation mud (LCM) pill to seal off the formation.
9. Placing the pill would require displacing more 12.4 ppg SBM into the formation, thus putting the
well underbalanced. The well would then be balanced by spotting a 14.5 ppg cement based LCM
pill.
However, while drilling the 16 1/2⬙ hole section on the well, no losses occurred after exiting the BOS
and entering into the pre-salt so casing was run and the salt section isolated from the well.
SPE/IADC-179188-MS 7

The anticipated condition discussed above can occur, and be valid, for future deep water, pre salt
exploration wells.

MPD Approach in Carbonate

Introduction
Drilling carbonates can present special drilling challenges if they are vugular due to weathering or if they
are naturally fractured. Carbonates can have flow paths through fractures, wormholes, vugs, caverns, etc.,
that are large enough to freely encourage mud losses. In fractured carbonates, it is no longer necessary to
exceed the fracture pressure of the formation to lose returns. Pore pressure, and the pressure at which
returns are lost, can be essentially the same. The severity of the problem depends on the extent of the
fracturing. If the fractures are small and/or of limited extent, then loss rates may be low or mud losses
manageable and allow for plugging conventionally with drill cuttings or LCM. However if the fractures
are large, then even a slight overbalance can result in total loss of circulation and a slight underbalance
can result in an influx of formation fluid – i.e. there is no drilling window and the formation cannot be
drilled conventionally.
The MPD equipment used for this well was designed around the already existing drilling contractor’s
RGH system. Since the RGH manifold was available at the rig floor, it was deemed appropriate to convert
it into the MPD manifold through installation of two 3⬙ chokes, a Coriolis flow meter loop and custom
built Intelligent Central Unit (ICU), thus preventing the need for a separate manifold skid at a considerable
distance from the rig floor complete with associated pipework. Additional lines were added to accom-
modate mud pump injection upstream of MPD manifold, a bleed line between the RGH and BTR RCD
and a surface pressure relief valve for the MPD system.
Due to pore pressure uncertainty and a potentially small pressure window (⬍ 0.5 ppge) between
pore and fracture pressure, a hydrostatically underbalanced mud weight was selected for the MPD
drilling of the reservoir section using the Constant Bottom Hole Pressure Method to ⬙walk the line⬙
through the narrow margin. Although the surface back pressure (SBP) discussed in the engineering
analysis is well within the RCD limitation, a safety factor was taken into account. Also considered
was the RGH over pressure protection valve which was set at 1,400psi. Figure 3 shows the MPD flow
path and basic rig up configuration. The below tension ring RCD was rigged up above the RGH.
During conventional drilling sections, the RCD bearing was not installed hence providing the normal
flow path back to rig’s flow line and shakers. On MPD sections, once the RCD bearing was installed,
flow was diverted through the RGH flow spool to the MPD manifold. Although the MPD equipment
performed well, even with flow rates of up to 1,400 gpm, constant choke plugging proved to be an
issue while drilling the 14⬙ shoe. While drilling the section, rubber from the RGH annular was also
retrieved from the MPD chokes. A junk catcher upstream of the MPD choke manifold in this situation
would have proven valuable.
8 SPE/IADC-179188-MS

Figure 3—MPD Configuration / Process Flow Diagram


SPE/IADC-179188-MS 9

Figure 4 —Moon pool layout

Pore pressure uncertainty and Engineering analysis


Choosing a mud weight for MPD that is hydrostatically underbalanced compared to the formation pressure
requires critical analysis. Figure 5 shows the well schematic. Due to uncertainty in the pore pressure, and the
fact that a hydrosticailly underbalanced mud weight was selected, the 14⬙ shoe had to be drilled utilizing the
MPD system (to prevent an influx upon drill out of the shoe). This increased the risk of plugging the MPD
chokes and complicating the operation. It was decided to use one choke at a time, since the MPD choke
manifold comprised of two 3⬙ chokes. A mud pump rate of 900 gpm was selected with a riser boost pump rate
of 300 gpm. These rates satisfied the hole cleaning and other MPD design constraints. Engineering analysis
showed that it was logical to maintain the anchor point at the 14⬙ shoe. The anchor point is defined as the point
10 SPE/IADC-179188-MS

in the wellbore where the BHP is maintained constant. Typically, on wells drilled using MPD technology, the
BHP is maintained constant at the bit. Analyzing the pore pressure and fracture pressure window, as shown in
Figure 6, since they were showing a regression trend (as is typical in carbonate reservoirs), it was thought best
to maintain 10.70 ppg eBHP at the 14⬙ shoe. Analysis showed that SBP between 560-900psi was required to
maintain an anchor point of 10.70 ppge BHP at the 14⬙ shoe. During connections or any planned / unplanned
mud pump shut down event, it was agreed to maintain circulation with the booster pump. This would ensure
that BHP was maintained constant at the anchor point at all times.

Figure 5—Well Schematic


SPE/IADC-179188-MS 11

Figure 6a—Pore and Fracture pressure profiles

Figure 6b—Anchor point at 14ⴖ Shoe


12 SPE/IADC-179188-MS

Figure 7—PMCD Definition diagram

Most often the engineering analysis is conducted at the front end engineering phase of the well and
procedures developed accordingly. Since these analyses were revised while drilling the salt section on the
well, it was essential that a detailed, yet simple to understand, plan was developed. Table 1 shows the
approach established to relay the information to the operational staff. Results indicated that while drilling
the 14⬙ shoe, SBP of ⫹/⫺ 560 psi to ⫹/⫺ 900 psi would be required to maintain BHP of 10.70 ppge.
Additionally, a simple step down chart shown in

Table 1—Pressure management strategy


Depth (m) ECD (ppg) Drilling (psi) Connection (psi) Comment

From To SBP SBP

Drilling cement and shoe 10.70 ⫹/⫺ 560 ⫹/⫺ 900 By-pass Coriolis flow meter
5660 6025 10.70 ⫹/⫺ 560 ⫹/⫺ 900 Anchor point at 14⬙ shoe

Table 2 was developed to ensure that BHP is maintained at 10.70 ppge in the event where the mud
pump rates were to be varied or when the pumps were turned off.
SPE/IADC-179188-MS 13

Table 2—Pump rate vs. SBP ramp chart


Pump rate (gpm) SBP (psi) eBHP at 14ⴖ Shoe (ppg)

900 560 10.7


675 645 10.7
450 730 10.7
225 815 10.7
0 900 10.7

PMCD Strategy
Dewar and Halket (1993) discussed one of the early techniques used in drilling deepwater (830-1000m)
carbonate formations, and ways to minimize severe lost circulation and avoid formation influx from
entering the wellbore. The article discussed the procedure for quickly closing the BOP and monitoring the
fluid level to determine if the hydrostatic pressure drop due to loss of circulation had allowed any influx
into the wellbore. Since these wells were drilled with water base mud (WBM), it was critical to avoid any
influx from reaching the BOPs and forming hydrates. The fluid level in the riser was determined through
the kill line with a lighter fluid such as diesel or base oil and monitoring the kill line gauge pressure. The
fluid level was then calculated based on the U-tube calculation and accounting for the fluid gradient
differential between the drilling fluid in the wellbore and the lighter fluid in the kill line. A decision could
then be made whether or not to bullhead the influx back into the formation if it were determined that an
influx had entered the wellbore. Dewar and Halket also discussed several methods considered for healing
lost circulation, i.e. LCM pill, gunk and cement plugs as well as their placement procedures.
During the planning stages, it was assumed that carbonate present in the basin could be vugular in
nature. Hence for drilling the section, it was imperative that a constructive PMCD strategy and procedures
were developed, if required.
PMCD is also called light annular mud cap drilling (MCD). It is a closed-circulation drilling system,
usually at surface through a RCD. It is used with an annular fluid density below the lowest formation
equivalent density in the well formation (light annular mud or LAM), resulting in the observation of a
positive pressure when the RCD is in place. The maximum anticipated surface pressure should be
designed based on surface equipment pressure limitations and the RCD plays an important role in deciding
this decision. This maximum surface pressure can be controlled by adjusting the density of the LAM.
Having said that, if there is uncertainty with the formation pressures, the lowest possible LAM mud weight
could be selected and once formation pressure is known, LAM density at surface can be adjusted
according to a safe and manageable surface pressure on the RCD. This surface pressure is the difference
between the formation pressure and the pressure created by the LAM at the depth of interest, plus a margin
to cater for the event of formation fluid gas migration.
Choosing a LAM while drilling with PMCD is important and can be influenced by commercial,
logistical, lithology, required mud density, temperature and geological variables. A synthetic based LAM
was chosen based on the following:
● Fluid and chemical availability (no chemicals or onshore WBM plant available)
● Reduced volume requirements due to lower migration rates in SBM
● Significantly reduce / eliminate the risk of hydrate formation
● Reduction in demanding logistics
● Wellbore stabilization of calcareous shales
Based on the PMCD engineering analysis performed, preference was given to the flush cycle method
compared to continuous bullheading method for tackling gas migration. Since the bubble point of the reservoir
was expected to be below reservoir pressure, gas would most likely be saturated and without a gas cap. If SBM
14 SPE/IADC-179188-MS

were to be used, the saturated gas migrating would be due to a density difference as opposed to a bubble rising
in the annulus, thus reducing the migration rate. As a result, pressure increase on surface would most likely be
less dramatic when compared to using a water based mud (WBM). Figure 8 shows the decision tree that was
developed in case there was a need to drill the section using PMCD drilling technique.

Figure 8 —PMCD Decision Tree


SPE/IADC-179188-MS 15

Challenges while drilling Carbonate Section


Choosing a static mud weight that is hydrostatically underbalanced against the formation presented a
plethora of challenges. Due to the uncertainty in the pore and fracture pressures, as discussed earlier, the
14⬙ shoe had to be drilled using the MPD flow path. On one hand, while MPD assisted in maintaining the
BHP constant while drilling the shoe, cement and other debris posed a risk of plugging the MPD chokes
and other piping downstream of the chokes. The grave concern was plugging of the Coriolis flow meter.
The decision was taken to bypass the flow meter and rely on a single pit mud system to monitor the well
while drilling the 14⬙ shoe. It was also decided to circulate through one MPD choke as shown in Figure
9. To mitigate the risk of chokes getting plugged, it was decided to swap the flow from choke A to choke
B frequently and not to wait for plugging to occur. Swapping the chokes while drilling the shoe was a
delicate task and required experienced personnel. While drilling the shoe, the chokes were swapped
several times ensuring that the BHP was maintained at 10.70 ppge. Figure 10 explains how MPD chokes
were swapped during operations.

Figure 9 —MPD manifold and flow meter

Figure 10 —Swapping MPD choke

Since the rig was equipped with two independent BOP stacks, the auxiliary BOP on surface required
mandatory testing during normal drilling operations. This included BOP pressure testing. The manifold
supplying hydraulic fluid for functioning the auxiliary BOP could be linked to the hydraulic supply of the
RGH.
16 SPE/IADC-179188-MS

To drill the 14⬙ shoe the MPD chokes were set to maintain the required BHP in automatic mode. On
one occasion while drilling, a sudden decease in SBP was observed while the MPD choke started to close
to try and maintain the BHP constant. The well was then shut in at the MPD chokes to try and pin point
the issue. It was noticed that the hydraulic supply to the RGH was showing low hydraulic pressure
warning on the panel. On investigation it was revealed that the hydraulic supply to the RGH was low due
to the fact that it was being used to function the standby BOP and therefore it automatically closed the
over pressure protection and flow line valves on the RGH resulting in no hydraulic flow to the MPD
chokes. Since there was no hydraulic flow at the MPD chokes the chokes started closing to maintain the
required SBP to maintain BHP constant. This was a major event and resulted in the well dead headed
against the MPD chokes for a short period of time until the Driller shut down the pumps. This scenario
was already covered in the HAZOP and one of the safe guards against such event was utilizing a surface
pressure relief valve in the return line from the well to MPD chokes. The other significant cause of this
event was the fact that the RGH flow line valves were ⬙FAIL CLOSED⬙ instead of FAIL OPEN or FAIL
AS-IS. This was highlighted as well during the HAZOP as a design flaw but couldn’t be modified due to
time constraints.
Another challenge with drilling the shoe with the static mud weight that is hydrostatically underbal-
anced compared to the formation pressure is to conduct formation integrity test (FIT). Conventionally, a
FIT/LOT is carried out using a mud weight that is always hydrostatically overbalanced against the
formation.
A strategy was developed to ensure the FIT was carried out while holding the BHP constant. Once the
shoe and new formation was drilled, the MPD chokes were closed while applying adequate SBP to
maintain a constant BHP. After rigging up the necessary equipment for conducting the FIT, and having
closed the BOP annular, pressure was applied at surface through both the drill pipe and kill line. After a
successful FIT surface pressure was bled off down to the same value that was being held on the MPD
chokes. This ensured the BHP remained constant throughout the procedure.
While drilling ahead slight losses were observed around 5,859m MD as shown in Figure 11. MPD
provided a quick opportunity to acquire a new drilling window. SBP was reduced in 25psi steps to acquire
loss free equivalent circulating density (ECD) –i.e. exactly as had been intended. After drilling further,
another loss zone was observed around 5,871m MD.

Figure 11—Losses and cross flow while drilling carbonate section


SPE/IADC-179188-MS 17

The same procedure was implemented to acquire a loss free ECD. The new ECD was close to the pore
pressure higher up the well or around the 14⬙ shoe. This resulted in top down cross flow scenario where the
bottom of the well was taking mud while higher up the ECD was very close or equal to the pore pressure. This
resulted in circulating gas that entered the wellbore through the MPD system. Since SBP was applied and the
fact that the BHP was higher than the reservoir fluid bubble point, gas was breaking out of solution almost at
surface. PMCD drilling techniques could have been implemented, but it required assurance that the formation
would have been suitable for significant fluid injection. Therefore, several loss circulation material (LCM) pills
were used during the process to try and assess if the fractures were able to be plugged. This also provided
information on the formation that indicated that the formation may not be suitable for PMCD. Some LCM pills
were successful in plugging the loss zone partially. The next section, ⬙Gas management while Drilling and
Tripping⬙, discusses how the gas was handled not only in the riser but at surface as well.
Tripping with gas in t he wellbore was challenging. To minimize the amount of gas in the wellbore,
the well was placed on a manageable loss rate. This ensured any gas entering the wellbore from cross flow
zone was pushed back into the loss zone. Holding a certain BHP under these situations presented another
challenge. While stripping out the bit, SBP had to be such that it would accommodate for swab pressures
and at the same time minimize the losses to an acceptable level. It was also noticed that the SBP, while
the drill pipe was being pulled, had to be different than SBP that was applied while the stand was being
racked back (static). Figure 12 and Figure 13 show the surface volume and SBP against bit depth. It can
be seen in Figure 13 how SBP was adjusted while the bit was being pulled and while the string was
stationary while racking back the stand. This showed the narrow margin that existed between the loss and
flowing zone. Once the bit was above the subsea BOP, the blind shear rams were closed and the well was
lined up through the choke line to monitor the well at surface by reading the choke line gauge.

Figure 12—Stripping out of hole against SBP and losses


18 SPE/IADC-179188-MS

Figure 13—Two hour window - stripping out of hole against SBP and losses

While stripping to surface, the returns were initially lined up from the mud bucket to the active pits.
Consequently, it was taking a long time to register any volume change. While the fluid was traveling to
the active pit, the next stand of drill pipe was already being pulled and drained using the mud bucket. This
resulted in an assumption that the well was not taking the correct volume of fluid. To eliminate this,
returns from mud bucket were lined up to the trip tank. The smaller trip tank capacity allowed for
improved monitoring of pipe displacement.
A tapered drillstring was used to drill the carbonate section of the well. This presented an issue as the
transition point occurred with the bit still below the BOPs. As a result, the RCD bearing had to be replaced
with a new rubber size to accommodate the smaller OD drill pipe. Since changing the RCD bearing on
a deepwater drillship can be time consuming, it was decided to try and use the bearing that had
accommodated the larger OD drill pipe to be used on smaller OD drill pipe. This worked well and saved
quite a bit of valuable time and reduced the cost.
With the drillstring and bit out of the hole, the choke line was lined up at surface to monitor wellbore
pressures. Figure 14 shows various pressure trends over time. It can be seen that the choke line pressure
increased very little over time. The data showed that it only increased around 20 psi over 10 hours which
proved that gas migration in the SBM was very low. The riser pressure and trip tank were also monitored
to ensure that the BSR on the BOP was not leaking as it was used to trip out of the hole.
SPE/IADC-179188-MS 19

Figure 14 —Pressure data while the BHA is out of the hole

Gas Management while drilling and tripping


Challenges faced.
Due to the hard and abrasive nature of the formation, eight bits were required to drill a total of 665 m of
12 ¼⬙ hole. Losses to and gas ingress from the formation were seen after having drilled 390 m into the
carbonate (two thirds of BHA#9). Up to this point, there had been minimal background gas observed (⬍
2% with the mud gas separator bypassed) on the well. A drilling break was followed by initial losses of
25-50 bbl/hr, but by reducing the SBP, and thus reducing BHP by 0.4 ppg, the loss rate reduced to ⫹-1.0
bbl/hr. Drilling continued until a second, more prolific, loss zone was encountered and where losses
increased to ⫹-250 bbl/hr. A further minor reduction in SBP reduced ECD by 0.07 ppg. Efforts to reduce
ECD below this point resulted in gains registered by the Coriolis flow meter. These gains were coming
from gas entering the wellbore above the loss zones. The condition was now one of cross flow downwards
into the formation that had less resistance to taking fluid, and gas ingress into the wellbore from higher
up the well. The apparent margin between gains and losses was just 40 psi with a BHP while drilling of
10,247 psi.
Compounding this challenge was the surface equipment constraints. Circulation rates, and thus time
required to circulate gas out of well, were bound by surface equipment limitations. The rig was equipped
with a MI SWACO Super Mud Gas Separator (SMGS) which, under normal conditions, is a large
separator for conventional well control. Specifications for the SMGS are provided in Table 3. This SMGS
was also sized for use with the rig´s integrated RGH.
20 SPE/IADC-179188-MS

Table 3—SMGS Specifications and Capacities (based on mud weight used).


Gas capacity, mmscf/d (lpm) 37 (1,327) Vessel Diameter, in (m) 72 (1.8)
Fluid capacity, gpm (lpm) 1,310 (4,958) Vent line nom.diam, in (m) 12 (0.31)
MAWP (psi at degF) 150 psi at 250F Equiv. vent line length, ft (m) 526 (160)
Rupture disc rating, psi (kPa) 70 (482) U tube height, ft (m) 19 (5.8)

Additionally, the 6⬙ Coriolis flow meter immediately downstream of the MPD choke manifold
produced erroneous flow readings when gas percentage, by volume in mud, was too high. To limit this
effect, a 6⬙ globe valve was installed immediately downstream of the Coriolis meter. Closing the globe
valve imposed an increased back pressure across the Coriolis meter, resulting in an increase in the gas
percentage threshold at which the meter would continue to accurately read. This valve had to be manned
full time. A pressure gauge downstream of the MPD chokes and upstream of the globe valve was installed
to continuously monitor this pressure. This was important since this pressure had to be kept below the
pressure being controlled by the MPD chokes.
A final factor dictating circulation rates was the residual gas break-out at the shakers and in the
pit room. Circulation rates were reduced and back pressure applied to minimize the low explosive
limit (LEL) levels in the pit room. Reducing the circulating rate increases the fluid retention time
through the SMGS, which in turn, encourages more gas to break out prior to fluid returning to the
shakers and pit room.
Note that gas percentages stated are those recorded downstream of the SMGS, and are percentages
of the total gas being measured (air and hydrocarbon). These values remain relative, but do not
represent the total hydrocarbon gas in the mud returns since an undefined percentage separates out
in the SMGS.
The challenge was therefore; how to reach TD and gain vital wireline log information on a wildcat,
exploration well while managing losses and limiting gas ingress into the wellbore.
Methods used to manage continual gas ingress into the wellbore.
This section discusses the methods adopted and changes observed for each bit run completed during
the 12 ¼⬙ hole section.
The first bit run with BHA#9 gave a bottoms up gas peak of 26% from the first loss zone. Initial
indications of significant gas in the riser came from erratic Coriolis meter readings. Mud returns were
directed to the SMGS and the de-gasser was continuously run on the active system to expel out of
the mud returns, as much entrained gas as possible. For this bit run, efforts were focused on reducing
losses by reducing the SBP. Gas content in the mud returns after the SMGS varied between 20-25%.
Prior to pulling out of hole (POOH) with BHA#9, 50 bbls of a 120 ppb pill of mixed size, ground,
marble based was pumped through the BHA to stem the losses. The pill had no apparent affect. Losses
remained at 50 bbl/hr, therefore a further 200 bbls of a 210 ppb pill was pumped through the circulating
sub and squeezed into the formation. Losses reduced to ⫹-12 bbl/hr and gas levels reduced to 2%,
however losses quickly increased back to ⫹-23 bbl/hr. Then, a 30 bbls, 18 ppg, barite plug was pumped
through the BHA. It was later deemed that this pill was too small in volume and displaced too high above
the loss zone to be effective. The LCM pills and barite plug assisted in reducing the losses, but did not
cure them. BHA #9 was stripped out of the well with periodic stops to complete dynamic flow checks on
the well. Gas ingress into the wellbore appeared to be subdued.
While running in hole with BHA#10, the operation was interrupted at two depths (3,547 m &
4,473 m) to circulate bottoms up with the purpose of gauging gas migration rates up the wellbore.
Respective gas peaks of 0.16% and 0.144% were registered, indicating slow gas migration since gas
would have remained in solution deeper in the well. Washing down from 200 m off bottom produced
SPE/IADC-179188-MS 21

a maximum gas peak of 18%. To limit any potential high gas peaks, washing down was limited to
ten minutes per stand with the objective of dispersing the gas throughout the mud returns (cutting gas
volume by a ratio of 10:1 while washing down). While drilling with pump rates downhole of between
800 - 850 gpm and 300 - 350 gpm on the boost line, gas peaks of 20% were measured. The SBP was
continually being adjusted in efforts to reduce mud losses. Such peaks again caused the Coriolis
meter to produce erroneous readings.
BHA #11 was stripped in as per normal by managing SBP with the MPD choke and monitoring the
well on a single active pit system. The boost pump was kept running to allow the MPD choke to operate
in an ideal position. The BHA was washed to bottom allowing any entrained gas to better disperse
throughout the mud returns. Gas returns for this run were continually high, resulting in several occasions
of needing to close-in the well on the MPD choke, and then closing the rig’s annular preventer. This
allowed just the riser to be circulated until gas levels in the mud were reduced. The well was continually
monitored below the closed annular to detect any possible pressure build up. Circulation rates through the
riser were restricted by the SMGS capacity and residual gas breakout in the pit room. Predefined gas
percentages at the shakers dictated reductions in circulation rates. The annular was opened once gas levels
dropped below 5%.
Approximately 40 m were drilled with BHA #11. While drilling, losses increased and BHP could
not be reduced any further without allowing more gas in to the wellbore. A fibrous LCM pill was
prepared, pumped through a circulation sub and squeezed into the formation. However, considerable
time had been spent preparing the pill. During this time, the well had been shut-in and circulation had
been interrupted. The pill was squeezed, and an increase in pump pressure noted, inferring some
success had been achieved in sealing off the loss zone. Immediately after squeezing the pill, drilling
resumed and gas peaks were again seen resulting in the need to close the annular and circulate just
the riser. During this circulation, mud returns dropped to zero on four occasions as only gas flowed
back through the flow line and into the SMGS. The active system dropped 184 bbls as the booster
pump filled the riser. This provided a clear indication on how much the gas had expanded within the
riser as it was being circulated out under applied back pressure. Having opened the annular and
resumed circulation, the loss rate had significantly reduced inferring the fibrous LCM pill (100 bbl)
had helped reduce the losses.
While POOH, several bullheading cycles were performed where 20 bbls of SBM were bullheaded into
the formation at 2 bbl/minute. Doing this provided a quantifiable means of measuring the pressure drop
per barrel pumped and verified clean mud was replacing gas in the open hole section (See Figure 15).
These trends were not as definitive as those commonly observed when bullheading light annular mud
during PMCD operations, but still served to reduce surface pressure. Concern did exist with regards
possibly bullheading away the fibrous LCM pill but no conclusion was drawn.
22 SPE/IADC-179188-MS

Figure 15—Bullheading gas back into the formation to establish a gas free SICP

For BHA#11, it took 30 hours to trip approximately 6,000 m of drill pipe out of the well. The average
mud loss rate was 30 bbl/hr, but this was necessary to reduce gas ingress into the wellbore. Mud losses
for the period can be clearly seen on the 17th and 18th April in Figure 16.
SPE/IADC-179188-MS 23

Figure 16 —Mud losses, BHA runs and depth drilled vs time for the carbonate section
24 SPE/IADC-179188-MS

BHA #12 was run in hole (RIH) to TD with limited regard for surge and greater emphasis on managing
the total losses. While surge obviously creates losses, the applied surface back pressure and the reduced
time to reach TD was having a greater influence on minimizing total losses. More importantly, the more
time spent off bottom (BHA not at TD) and not circulating, the more gas entered the wellbore and the
more time would be spent circulating the gas out.
The drill string was washed down for the final 400 m to TD. The running speed again limited to ten
minutes per stand to liquid cut the gas. Bottoms up gas reached surface quicker than calculated, with initial
gas percentages exceeding 40%. It took 36 hours to wash to bottom and resume drilling. The bulk of this
time involved three closures of the subsea BOP annular to circulate just the riser. Rapid gains (8 bpm) in
the active system and erratic Coriolis meter readings served as the indicator for closing the annular and
circulating the riser. Once again, active pit level drops of 140 bbls and 180 bbls were noted, as mud
replaced the expanding gas in the riser. Back pressures between 280-380psi were applied while circulating
the riser at 600 gpm. The bit was effectively staged into the open hole as sections of gas entrained mud
were circulated out of the well.
Further time was spent squeezing a 100 bbl LCM pill into the formation. Repeat closures of the annular
and time spent pumping LCM pills, resulted in repeated interruptions in circulation. Such interruptions
allowed more gas into the well despite efforts to apply back pressure and maintain a constant BHP.
Closing the annular was necessary though, to circulate all gas out of the riser.
Time on bottom drilling became a function of the time taken for gas to reach surface. As gas levels
got too high, the well would again be closed in on the annular and the riser circulated clean. Repeated
efforts to bullhead gas back into the formation proved limited, dictating that a different approach be
adopted. It was deemed prudent from a cost and safety standpoint, to increase the SBP and thus
increase the loss rate and decrease gas levels (as opposed to minimizing losses and trying to manage
higher gas levels). The loss rate was allowed to increase from 25-80 bbl/hr up to 120-180 bbl/hr by
increasing SBP. Corresponding gas readings at surface reduced to 1-3%. Additionally, mud weight
in and out was being measured with a non-pressurized mud balance to better monitor relative changes
in gas cut mud.
It took 46 hours to strip out of hole with BHA#12. Some of this time was attributable to breaking out
over torqued connections, but a considerable amount of time was associated with wellbore gas manage-
ment. Methods to reduce gas ingress into the wellbore included putting the well on a manageable loss rate
of approximately 30 bbl/hr and stopping to perform periodic bottoms up circulations.
Once the bit was above the BOP, SBM was bullheaded down the choke line to establish a shut in casing
pressure (SICP) with no gas in the well (statically underbalanced mud). This was done to calculate the
mud weight required in the riser for the pending intermediate wireline logging program. The well was
monitored at surface, and several logging runs were completed. No gas was seen at surface while logging
and any increases in casing pressure at the MPD choke was, if necessary, overcome by bullheading
drilling mud down the choke line and into the formation until the original SICP was achieved (Refer to
Figure 19). Figure 16 shows the high mud loss rate on the 27th April. This was a combination of excessive
gas in the riser and the decision to adopt the approach of placing the well on increased losses to reduce
the gas ingress into the wellbore.
BHA#13 was RIH to 5,600 m in 10 hours. Surface pressures were manipulated to allow for a loss rate
of 1 bbl/stand. Just inside the casing shoe, 120 bbls of SBM was bullheaded into the formation. This
equated to 125% of the open hole volume between the casing shoe and the base of the cross flow zone.
After this, the BHA was washed down with an established loss rate of 40 bbl/hr. The approach aimed to
force as much gas back into the formation as possible as opposed to spending hours circulating gas out
of the well. When washing down, the booster pump was shut down in order to reduce total fluid returns
and allow more fluid retention time in the SMGS. Eventually gas was seen at surface and additional
pressure was required across the Coriolis meter to maintain a flow out reading. It should be noted that,
SPE/IADC-179188-MS 25

by this stage, standpipe pressures were being continually referenced along with the MWD annular
pressure sub to maintain the desired BHP. Total circulation time was reduced to 8 ½ hours before drilling
resumed. While drilling, the MPD choke was continually manipulated both while circulating, and on
connections, in order to maintain a loss rate of between 30-40 bbl/hr. This was less than that experienced
with BHA #12, which was 120-150 bbl/hr. Gas still came to surface and, assisted by the low ROP in the
hard and abrasive formation, it was possible to either reduce or shut down the booster pump, thus allowing
greater fluid retention time in the SMGS. It took 28 hours to POOH with BHA #13 with a managed loss
rate of 4-6 bbl/hr.
Gas migration for the final three drilling BHAs was more benign. The same approach was adopted for
RIH whereby the BHA was RIH with the well on minimal losses (0.5-1.0 bbl/std) as controlled by the
MPD choke. Just inside the casing shoe, the well was bullheaded with between 120-150 bbls of SBM. The
BHA was then washed down through the open hole section with the booster pump off. Gas peaks and
circulating durations progressively reduced for the final three BHA runs. It is unclear how much credit can
be assigned to bullheading cycles versus the overall adoption of increasing the loss rate with SBP while
drilling and tripping. Gas peaks were still seen at surface from the initial bottoms up, but continuous
readings dropped significantly after such peaks. While drilling, lower than previously experienced loss
rates were managed with a higher BHP (0.2 - 0.3 ppg higher). This change may be attributed to some of
the earlier squeezed LCM pills, although this was never confirmed. ROP remained low, and so the booster
pump remained either off, or at a low circulating rate. The bottom hole annular pressure had been
increased by about 0.2 ppg (approx. 200psi) by applying greater SBP. This may be attributable to the
almost non-existent gas ingress into the wellbore while drilling.
Figure 16 shows the mud losses, BHA runs and relative footage drilled for the complete 12 ¼⬙ hole
section. It shows the period where intermediate logging took place.
The RCD and its rubber / polyurethane elements performed well for this hole section. There were
occasions while drilling the 12 ¼⬙ section where the elements were starting to leak while POOH. To
change the bearing would have been both time consuming and possibly allow more gas to enter the
wellbore. A method was adopted that allowed the leak rate to be measured on the rigs trip tank while still
imposing a controlled loss rate to the formation. This method was both accurate and safe since, as long
as fluid was being lost to the well, a minor leak rate through the RCD bearing was inconsequential. The
key to this technique was to find a balance point for the SBP. As SBP was increased, the RCD elements
sealed better but losses to the formation increased. Through trial and error, a balance pressure was
achieved, and the BHA was pulled out of hole very successfully saving a possible bearing change (eight
hours’ time savings).
The above account demonstrates the value to drilling such wells with a closed in riser and having the
ability to manipulate pressures using the MPD choke. Mud losses and gas ingress did appear to change
while drilling and tripping through this hole section. It is unclear what influence the LCM pills had on
these characteristics, or whether there was a general change in the formation itself (gas depletion).
Continual interruptions to circulating the well definitely allowed more gas into the well despite efforts to
maintain a constant BHP. Eventually, placing the well on greater losses and reducing gas ingress into the
wellbore proved the better option, and in turn, the loss rate was reduced even when imposing a greater
SBP.
Logging
Conventional wireline logging from a drill ship would normally be completed with an overbalanced mud
weight in the well. Since this well was drilled with a statically underbalanced mud, wireline pressure
control equipment (WPCE) was required to run open hole wireline logs.
The WPCE comprised of a logging adapter that latched into the RCD housing, 48.5 m below the rotary
table (with the bearing removed) and then a selection of 9 5⁄8⬙ casing joints / pups to provide a shooting
26 SPE/IADC-179188-MS

nipple up through the rig floor. A single wireline BOP ram and dual pack off assembly were installed at
the top. The WPCE was made up and run as two sections with the lower section comprising of the logging
adapter and casing joints, sufficient in length to provide a stick up at the rig floor. The upper section
comprised of more casing joints, the wireline BOP ram and dual packoff. Figure 17 shows the
configuration. The logging adapter had the same profile as the RCD bearing assembly and, when latched,
provided the same external seal rating.

Figure 17—Logging adapter and shooting nipple to rig floor - Upper and Lower Assembly
SPE/IADC-179188-MS 27

The length of casing joints was configured such that the lower section with the logging adapter could
be run below the rig floor and suspended just short of the RCD housing. Suspending the lower section in
the rotary table kept the opening (connection point) stationary relative to the rig floor – i.e. to remove the
effect of rig heave for making up and running the wireline tool string. The space out was such that any
heave would prevent the adapter clashing with the RCD housing.
The logging tools were run through the lower section and hung off on the casing stick up using a C
clamp. The logging head was fed through the upper section of the shooting nipple and connected to the
top of the wireline tools. The upper section was then picked up and made up to the lower section with the
logging tools inside. The complete assembly was then landed off in the RCD housing and suspended from
the top drive. The average rig up time was five hours, and rig down time about six hours.
While all components of the WPCE were rated to meet possible surface pressures, the riser was
displaced over to a multi weight pill comprising of four mud weights and high viscosity pills. No two
adjacent fluids had a weight difference greater than 2.5 ppg, so as to avoid fluid swapping. Logging was
performed at an intermediate depth and at TD. Pills were displaced into the riser for both events through
the bit positioned above the closed blind shear rams (BSR). Figure 18 shows the pill configuration in the
riser as well as the pressure plot generated as the logging tools passed through the riser. The blue line
represents initial placement of the pill. The red line shows the pressure profile a week later. The latter line
illustrating the pill had started to co-mingle over time.

Figure 18 —Intermediate logging mud pill in the riser


28 SPE/IADC-179188-MS

The reason for using a multi fluid pill as opposed to a single weight pill was to control the pill interface
and provide better control on the well. Heavier fluids were placed higher up in the riser, with an adequate
column of 9.8 ppg mud positioned at the BOP and base of the riser in order to prevent any heavier fluid
dropping below the BOP. Had this happened, the well would go onto slight losses until the heavy fluid
entered the casing with increased losses due to the reduced internal diameter (I.D.) of the casing.
While logging, the well was monitored from surface using the MPD equipment. A 9.8 ppg mud was
effectively pumped across the well directly below the RGH. Any gain or loss of fluid in the well would
be registered on both the active pit and the Coriolis meter. If mud were needed to be bullheaded back into
the well, pumping could continue, and the MPD choke could be used to force mud back into the well just
below the RGH.
Had a leak in the shooting nipple occurred, it would have filled the slip joint and be recorded by a gain
in the trip tank. See Figure 19 for details of the flow path and monitoring configuration.

Figure 19 —Well monitoring configuration for the wireline operations


SPE/IADC-179188-MS 29

Figure 20 —Heavy pill in riser - Initial and final placements

Due to the need to later run logging tools with slightly larger O.D.’s than the shooting nipple would
allow, it was necessary to modify the procedure for running the tools. The OD of certain components was
greater than the shooting nipple casing I.D. and as such, the tools had to be run and hung off on the rig
floor with the lower section of shooting nipple installed over the tools. This was a more challenging
method, and the ideal choice would have been the use of a larger I.D. casing shooting nipple and
associated crossovers.
A further challenge faced, was expansion of the elastomeric packers on certain logging tools. CO2 gas
was becoming entrained in the elastomers resulting in explosive decompression of the packers. This meant
the uniform O.D. of the tools was becoming distorted.
Logging data provided a valuable insight on the loss zone show and cross flow in Figure 21. It is
evident how losses occurred after drilling the 14⬙ shoe. It was initially thought that the losses occurred due
to a couple of loss zones, but the logs provided a unique insight and showed that the single loss zone span
over 200ft in length.
30 SPE/IADC-179188-MS

Figure 21—Logging data showing the loss zones

Conclusions and Recommendations


1. MPD with a BTR RCD was successfully used to drill a wild cat exploration well with simulta-
neous severe mud losses and gas ingress into the wellbore. It is debatable as to whether such a well
could have been drilled conventionally (without MPD) with the same level of control, safety and
number of casing strings.
2. Integration of the BTR RCD with the RGH proved successful however, the size of the RGH prevented
it from being run through the rotary table, and thus added further time to rig up and install.
3. Installation of the BTR RCD improved from well to well (this was the last in a series of wells).
Installation time was reduced from 22.5 hours down to a final 7.5 hours. However, there is still
room for improving the rig up time for this equipment, and some of these gains may only come
through changes in engineering design.
4. Greater attention and planning with regards to fluid supply and materials for the BOS exit strategy
would have proved to be beneficial. As with many locations around the world, the supply of base
oil and materials at short notice is often difficult. Contingency planning may consider the
availability of more appropriate mud weight. This became a moot point when total losses did not
occur.
SPE/IADC-179188-MS 31

5. The use of SBM as a drilling fluid, while more expensive to lose, was still the preferred option
when considering the alternative consequences of a water based mud with high gas levels and
extended shut in periods increasing the risks of hydrate formation. .
6. Closer review of every aspect of the equipment being used during MPD Operations. Hindsight
showed the need to analyze in more detail, the seals used in the BOP and the pressure relief valve
(PRV) installed for the riser over pressure protection as being variable as opposed to fixed.
7. The SMGS would be considered a large SMGS in most applications, but the industry is
considering and installing larger vessels on drill ships planning to drill wells with MPD. The
capacity of the SMGS on this well did limit circulation rates.
8. High levels of gas entrained in the mud can affect the performance of a single phase Coriolis
meter. This has been a well understood fact for many years now. Several approaches can be used
to manage this condition. Insertion of the Coriolis meter upstream of the MPD choke often requires
a meter with a higher pressure rating and thus higher cost. The meter then becomes prone to
plugging and the need for a junk catcher becomes almost imperative. Unplugging a Coriolis meter
is not a simple task, and may require the complete change out of such a meter. If the meter remains
downstream of the MPD choke, then plugging becomes less likely, but gas expansion associated
with the pressure drop across the choke means a lower threshold before the meter becomes
erroneous. Application of a secondary back pressure device through use of a globe valve proved
beneficial, but from a process standpoint, an automated back pressure valve similar to the principle
used for controlling gas pressure in a separator, would be a preferred option. This would allow
such a valve to throttle the flow until a flow reading was achieved, but could, at the same time,
have thresholds set allowing it to fully open to avoid over pressuring the meter.
9. Operationally, the final approach of drilling with increased losses and reduced gas ingress into the
wellbore proved beneficial from a time and cost perspective. Only changes in mud cost/bbl or
means of circulating gas out of the well quicker would likely change this approach.
10. Bullheading large volumes of mud into the formation ahead of washing down / stripping in the
last few stands reduced the time spent circulating entrained gas out of the well. Again, while
costly from a mud consumption standpoint, the overall time saved was both safer and of a cost
benefit.
11. Drilling with a tapered string initially meant the use of two RCD element sizes (4 7⁄8⬙ and 5 3⁄8⬙).
This added about eight hours to the tripping process as the bearing was changed ahead of the
transition in pipe diameter (5 7⁄8⬙ and 6 5⁄8⬙ respectively). Eventually the 5 3⁄8⬙ element was installed
to accommodate both drillpipe diameters and was capable of providing an adequate seal. This
approach saved time associated with the additional bearing change. Alternate solutions to this
problem would be avoidance, if possible, of a tapered string, or development of a bearing better
suited to accommodate both dill pipe OD’s and their respective tool joints.
12. Weighted pills in the riser during logging worked well to relieve surface pressures required to
maintain constant BHP conditions. However in the presence of losses, keeping the pills in place
would be imperative since, if it moved down in the casing, it would impose an increased
hydrostatic pressure within the smaller O.D. casing and thus complicate the situation with
increased mud losses.
13. The logging adapter I.D. proved to be too small for some of the preferred logging tools. The
chosen size was influenced by time and availability constraints and thus hindered the adapter’s
functionality. A larger I.D. adapter would have allowed all logging tools and their respective
packing elements and standoffs to fit inside the adapter hence greatly enhancing safety and
simplifying wireline rig ups.
32 SPE/IADC-179188-MS

Acknowledgements
The authors thank Repsol and Blade-Energy Partners for their permission to present this paper and also
all who contributed to the success of this project.

Nomenclature
Abbreviation
bbl/hr barrels per hour
gpm gallons per minute
in inches
kPa kilo Pascals
lpm liters per minute
m meters
mmscf/d million standard cubic feet per day
ppg pounds per gallon
ppge pounds per gallon equivalent
psi pounds per square inch

References
1. Email showing Logging data and the loss zone
2. Modeling for carbonate section
3. R. Ho, D. Moore, D. Pirie, Marathon Oil Company ⬙Drilling DeepWater Carbonates using MPD on a Dyn Pos
Drillship⬙ SPE-167995-MS
4. Andre Alonso Fernandes, Danilo Signorini Gozzi, Emmanuel Franco Nogueria, Felipe de Souza Terra, Guilherme
Sirqueria Vanni, Rafael Schettini Frazao Filho, Petrobras ⬙MPD/MCD Offshore Application on a Dynamic Position-
ing Rig⬙ SPE-173825-MS
5. Repsol End of Well Report, Rev 0, September 2015