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Thirty-third Annual Convention & Exhibition, May 2009



Anwar Assal*
Jeremie Fould*
Tim O’Rourke*
Ibrahim Refai**
Muhammad Habib Haque**
Nawaf Sayed Akram**

ABSTRACT WORKOVER No. 1: Cement was drilled out and

well cleaned to 6563' (PBTD).
A number of wells reached their economic
production limit and were consequently abandoned The reservoir was perforated with 4-1/2" TCP Guns
or mothballed until viable solutions became selectively from 6264' to 6392'. The well was
available. completed with a new ESP with bypass assembly
ran on 3-1/2" EUE x 4-1/2" tubing.
Existing wells in the same area are standard 9-5/8”
vertical cased wells with perforations at the WORKOVER No. 2: The ESP was pulled out and
producing interval with electrical submersible the hole cleaned out to 6563' (PBTD). The lower set
pumps (ESPs) ESP set in the same casing. A work- of perforation were plugged by performing a
over program was initiated by Saudi Aramco in the cement squeeze operation and the reservoir was re-
late 90s to re-complete these wells as horizontal peforated with 4-1/2" TCP gun selectively from
producers using various sand control techniques. 6264' to 6373'. A new ESP was run to re-complete
While converting from vertical, cased and the well (59 stage and 63 HP motor) with a by-pass
perforated wells to single horizontal producers has assembly on 3-1/2" EUE x 4-1/2" VAM tubing.
helped to improve production, multilateral wells are
needed in this area to achieve and maintain WORKOVER No. 3: was completed after an ESP
economical production rates. In addition sand failure. The bottom set of perforations were plugged
control solutions are required to safely deploy again (6367’ – 6373’) following the same cement
several branches off one main vertical well. squeeze procedure below a bridge plug (6360’).
Drill out and clean out procedures followed to
This paper will describe the history of the well X-1 6563’. The ESP was changed for a different system
and workover’s performed during its life span. It (116 stages, hardened pump and 50 HP motor) with
will also discuss the latest achievement deploying a by-pass assembly on 3-1/2” EUE x 4-1/2" VAM
Saudi Aramco’s first Technology Advancement tubing.
Multi-Laterals (TAML) Level 3 multilateral
completion of a tri-lateral well. WORKOVER No. 4: was completed after another
ESP failure. The well was cleaned all the way
INTRODUCTION through the perforations (6563’) which were then
plugged following a cement squeeze procedure. A
Well X-1 was drilled to a total depth of 6,662' and sump packer is then set at 6355’ and the reservoir
completed as a vertical cased and unperforated oil was selectively overbalanced perforated with 4-1/2”
producer. The well was then suspended with cement TCP guns (6264'-6293', 6304'-6321', 6330' -6340').
plugs and the wellhead blind flanged. The 7" liner A cased hole gravel pack is then run to limit the
was run and cemented from 6661’ to 4907’ with sand production ESP failures. The well was then re-
100% circulation. completed with a similar ESP and by-pass assembly
run on 3-1/2” EUE x 4-1/2” VAM tubing.
* Schlumberger
** Saudi Aramco
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WORKOVER No. 5: was completed to replace the • Log and collect samples from the new well bore
faulty ESP pump. to define properly the water-oil contact and to
define the various targets to reach during the
DE-COMPLETING WORKOVER: Well X-1 following workover operations
was prepared for sidetrack: the well was de- • Plug back the pilot hole and sidetrack (open
completed and cement was squeezed through all the hole) from the pilot hole to drill 8-1/2” curved
perforations. The well was suspended with cement section to the top of reservoir
plugs and ready to be sidetracked. • Run and cement 7” liner across the curved
Through this history it is clear that the sand control
method chosen in this reservoir is critical to avoid • Drill +/- 1,500’ of horizontal hole in the
sand production and ESP failure. Several methods reservoir and run expandable sand screens
have already been tested in this field, but now the
challenge was to implement the same basics sand • Sidetrack from the 7” liner inside the anhydrite
control techniques, while increasing the reservoir formation (hard and consolidated formation,
exposure by drilling several branches off of the new KHFF), drill 6-1/8 section to the reservoir and
sidetracked main bore. continue drilling in the reservoir +/- 1,500’ of
horizontal section
Objective • Complete the well with stand alone screen and
Multilateral Level 3 completion
Well X-1, a vertical oil producer had been
mothballed since 2004 due to low oil production • Repeat above to drill and complete the third leg
rate and high water cut. A main deviated side track
of the well
was planned for the well, from which several
horizontal branches were going to be drilled to
• Re-complete the well with a new ESP set in the
allow drainage of unswept oil from the top of the
9-5/8 casing with a by-pass assembly run on 3-
reservoir at this location in the field. Technology
1/2” EUE x 4-1/2” VAM tubing
Advancement Multi-Laterals (TAML) Level 3
Junctions were selected to provide increased
reservoir contact for increased production and
Multilateral Objectives and Specifications
effective deployment of expandable and standalone
screens for sand control.
The 9-5/8” casing was exited with a standard 1 trip
permanent whipstock system and 7” liner was run
Either a TAML level 2 or a level 3 completion
and cemented in the anhydrite formation, above the
could be applied for X-1. As formation throughout
reservoir. This hard and tight anhydrite formation
the 7” liner was tight sand, there were concerns that
was selected for casing exit as it usually eases the
it could eventually collapse under high draw down
milling operation by maintaining the mill assembly
or during shut off of the well, this is why a TAML
stability on the whipface to cut a long and straight
level 3 junction was preferred to ensure that each
window, which will then ease of drilling operation
zone will produce during the entire life of the well.
as well as facilitating the running of the sandface
This was important as the main objective of this
completions. A hard and tight formation at the
trial was to optimize the reservoir exposure from an
TAML Level 3 junction provides hole stability
existing well bore, which seems to have become the
through the drilling and completion processes, as
only viable sustaining solution for this mature field.
well as during the life of the well and eliminate the
Another concern was selecting the right multilateral
requirement of sand control at the junction.
system as to lower risk and cost of any down time.
Description of a TAML Level 3
Workover program
A Level 3 junction (see Figure 1), as defined by
the TAML forum, must have the main bore cased
• Sidetrack the well in the 9-5/8 casing in the
and cemented, the lateral cased and not necessarily
SUDR formation above KHFF and drill a 8-
cemented. The lateral liner must be anchored to the
1/2” pilot hole across the reservoir
main bore.
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Multilateral system chosen To remedy to these two main problems a different

approach was taken. First a permanent packer is run
Multilateral applications have been historically on tubing and set on depth. This packer is run with
constrained by complex construction processes and the above-described ceramic disk proving the
deemed risky by many operators. In some instances, required zonal isolation. Cautious needs to be taken
current economics have outweighed these risks and when running a plugged packer in a wellbore as the
newer technology deem more acceptable. To element could swab and in some cases lead to
construct this multilateral, in a re-entered hole, a mechanically pre-setting the packer at an
milling assembly picked up and run into the well undesirable depth. A second trip with a MWD and
bore and a 15’ +/- oblong shape window/hole is cut dummy anchor latch system is run to determine the
into the side of the casing. Drilling assemblies are orientation of the packer. Further improvements of
then run into the well bore and the lateral drilled. the system will combine these two runs to limit the
This can be challenging for well control issues even rig time required to deploy this solution. And third
in a case where the field is depleted and where the the whipstock is run with a debris retainer and latch
well will not be producing by methods on its own. mechanism to land inside the anchor packer.
Many times isolation of one zone while drilling the
other one is required and preferred. Fishing To achieve the desired orientation, the whipstock
operations can also lead to issues where debris are and latch are aligned at surface on location,
deliberately added to the well bore and then depending on the orientation of the anchor packer
completion operations can be cumbersome/difficult defined during the second run. Running the
where proper alignment is required after the milling whipstock this way will ease the fishing operation,
operation. as the packer does not need to come out of the hole.
In addition, the debris barrier run below the
Isolation system: minimum risks were associated whipstock will prevent debris from falling between
in this plan as the well will not produce by itself. the packer and whipstock latch, which could lead to
Mature fields are known to incur losses, and drilling sticking problems.
this soft and unconsolidated formation requires a
very good mud control system to prevent the Completion operations: as the packer stays
formation from collapsing either on the drilling downhole, the reference point required to run the
BHA or on the completion string. In addition to completion remains at the exact same spot as the
these two parameters, the economics called for a casing exit, and there is no need to rely on a bent
safe and cheap device. It was decided to use a sub or other device that will make the sand face
ceramic disk, providing tubing isolation in both completion run unnecessarily risky. In this
directions below a casing packer. application, a production deflector is used to guide
the completion string outside the casing
Fishing operations: In most multilateral exit/window and to commingle the flow from the
applications, a whipstock needs to be run to create lower and upper zones at the window.
the casing exit and to perform the drilling operation
but it also needs to be retrieved without
compromising the lower main well bore and lower Sand Control solution chosen
laterals’ sandface completion. A standard whipstock
system are run with an anchor device that will Stand alone and expandable sand screens are chosen
isolate the lower zone and will position the for the sand face completion of the three legs. The
Whipstock where required and towards the proper lower zone which should be the major producer, as
orientation. Retrieving such a system brings two set in the best part of the reservoir, was completed
major problems: with expandable sand screens, solution that was
proven to be efficient in this same field during
• The reference point and alignment are lost and single horizontal workover of other declining
re-entering the window with the completion producer wells. Stand alone screens are run the two
string can become difficult if not impossible upper legs due to equipment availabilities and as the
targets did not justify an expensive expandable sand
• The packer fish features an OD close to the screen completion.
casing ID and will be fished after several days
of drilling (inducing debris). It is frequent that Soft and unconsolidated sands in the formation, lead
this operation leads to issues and can lead to to extreme care when drilling these wells. Any
more than one fishing trip sticky point or high dog leg must be properly fixed
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by running proper clean out and reamer BHA. This The whipstock was than picked up and run into the
is time consuming as another run has to be well. Using a similar latch as the one used to define
performed but it is necessary to guarantee that the the packer orientation; the whipstock was aligned,
liner will go properly to bottom. As a way of on surface relatively to the latch key and the desired
isolation, between the reservoir (sandy) and the exit azimuth. In this case the whipstock was aligned
anhydrite formation where the casing exit is 30 degrees left of high side. A debris sub is run
performed, a 10’ long swellable packer is run below the whipstock to limit the amount of debris
outside the milled window. This is critical to avoid (during milling and drilling) falling between the
sand migration from the reservoir to the main bore packer and the latch. To guarantee easy operations
casing. And thus, it is critical to be able to run the after this one, the milling parameters were kept
screens to bottom or the swell packer could remain extremely conservative as not to rush the job and
in the main bore casing and plug the lower zone not to prematurely exit the casing, thus creating a
(main producer). shorten window. This operation, although a bit
longer and time consuming, was proven to be
Once the hole is properly reamed and the wiper trip extremely profitable for the rest of the operation as
is performed without any problem, the mud system no drag whatsoever was seen with any of the
is swapped to solid free mud compatible with the drilling BHA of the sand face completion.
sand screens selection and all the required flow
through tests were performed on surface prior to Once the lateral was drilled, a reaming assembly
running the sandface completion. was used to guarantee a proper hole condition with
minimum dog legs. Once confirmed, the mud in the
ML System Deployment (Figure 2) well bore was displaced to a solid free system. The
whipstock is then retrieved using a hook type tool
Once the lower sandface completion (expandable as well as an MWD to limit the fishing time on
sand system) was run as per standard procedures, bottom. Again, this proved to be extremely
the anchor packer with ceramic disk was deployed efficient. Once the whip face was out of the hole
on tubing. The run of this hydraulic set packer is and analyzed, milling marks down the whip face
similar to any standard permanent packer, however confirmed that the mills did ride along the entire
as the packer is plugged, running speed in the 7” whip face, proving that the window was long and
liner must be carefully controlled and all shock straight as required.
avoided in attempt to eliminate any non-desired
scenario (tools run and lower formation damages). The next operation was a clean out operation on
Once on depth the packer was set as per standard tubing, smaller size tubing with a no-go was run on
procedure. depth to open the isolation device and to clean out
the packer of any potential debris. This is a critical
The second run used a MWD system scribed up to operation at this moment as the lower formation
an anchor latch to accurately determine the could have experienced losses and it is very
downhole orientation of the packer. Run with a important to have fluid available at this stage to
circulation sub the anchor latch features an aligning compensate any losses as not to reduce the
key that will be oriented on top of the packer hydrostatic head on the formation. Cases have been
orientation scoop head (similar design as a UBHO seen when the losses are so important that the
sub). The latch will only latch when properly casing joint with the window could collapse under
oriented and overpull will confirm proper latch and formation pressure, which would totally
orientation. A circulation sub is required above the compromise the completion operations.
anchor latch as the clearance between the latch and
packer are not sufficient to maintain the minimum The production deflector was then run on tubing
flow rate required to activate the MWD signal on and the first attempt proved to be difficult as
surface within acceptable circulating pressure for formation/sand fell in the packer bore making it not
the surface equipment. possible to engage into the packer. A second clean
up run was performed and confirmed sand in the
Additional lesson learnt of this was to combine well bore. Future evolutions of this system will
these two runs using a special device enabling combine the clean out trip and the production
circulation for the MWD system, as well as deflector setting procedure. This will eliminate an
providing isolation to the main wellbore. This will extra trip and will also limit the time the hole
be deployed at a later stage. remains open without the sandface completion. The
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production deflector is designed to feature a flow was required including only one pilot hole and one
through outlet to commingle the lower formation, 8-1/2” section with 7” liner.
but to also create a by pass flow below it to limit the
washing or hotspots of the completion string just Compared to several workover operations, a saving
above it due to the higher fluid velocity. The of over $1 million is estimated, which does not
production deflector is designed to be smaller than a include the extra ESP and surface equipment
whipstock to allow a by-pass flow in the casing required for each well. Compared to other
string. This design induces a very accurate space multilateral technology, a saving of approximately
out in the already milled window to deflect the 150K$ is estimated per well.
sandface completion in the gauge area of the
window to avoid eventual damages. Initial clean up showed approximately 4,000 bpd of
light crude oil production and the steady production
Screens were then run with a bull nose being rate is approximately 3,500 bpd. This is
deflected off the production deflector and out the significantly more than the 850 bpd of average
lateral. With the screens in place a standard liner production given for a standard horizontal workover
hanger was used to hang off the string. An extra (an equivalent of approximately 2,500 bpd for 3
joint of screen was run in the main bore casing wells worked over). No sand is produced which will
above the window to commingle the flow from the increase the ESP life expectancy and water cut is
main bore and to avoid any particle from the minimal now (10%).
window to be produced.
In addition to the money saved on the workover, the
The same procedures were used to drill the upper time saved is important, especially in a scenario
lateral, this time exiting to the right (see Figure 3 where the well is actually producing more than
for Well plan and Figure 4 for Completion three separate wells put in production one after the
diagram). other. It is estimated that approximately seventy
days have been saved in this program.
Economics and Production Data of this solution
The objective of the trial test of the Tri-lateral
solution was to evaluate the capability of this This safe/straightforward multilateral system
technology to improve the production of the field enabled Saudi Aramco to multiply by three the
and to reduce the cost which is already approved. exposure to the reservoir from an existing well bore
The uncertainty of the sand equality is one of the with minimum cost and major savings compared to
main concerns for the reentry project in this field, three workover operations. This technology and
drilling problem (hole instability in the reservoir) is workover solution will be applied to other wells in
another factor that increases significantly the cost of the same area to help improve the total production
a single reentry. of this mature field.

The Tri-lateral or multilateral technology will REFERENCES

improve and optimize the field development of the
field in term of production and cost. The pilot hole Diggins, E.: “A proposed multi-lateral well
is required for each workover to improve the well classification matrix”, World Oil (November
placement as the reservoir is already depleted. Plus 1997) 107.
the 8-1/2” section with cemented 7” liner is required
to cover unstable shale sand above the reservoir. Zaki A.Al-Baggal, Ibrahim Refai, James Abbott,
When drilling and completing a tri-lateral well, it is SPE 101538.
possible to save on these two costly operations as to
drill three legs of equal length only one workover TAML classification.
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TAML Classification

Level 1: Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Level 6

Barefoot main bore & Lateral either Lateral liner anchored to Both bores cemented at the Achieved with the Achieved with sealed
lateral or slotted liner barefoot or with liner main bore but not cemented junction completion, i.e., straddle casing (cement alone
hung off in either bore hung off in open hole at junction packers (may or may not is not sufficient)
be cemented) Includes reformable
junctions and non-
reformable, full
diameter splitters that
require larger
diameter wellbores
Completion shown for information only and not required in the TAML classification

Figure 1 - TAML classification

Figure 2 - Completion steps

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Figure 3 - Well Plan

Figure 4 - Completion Diagram