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Drilling Performance Gets Boost Through Use of New Mud Additive

Selecting a more efficient drilling mud additive can save contractors time and money on a variety of drilling projects.
Selecting a more efficient drilling mud additive can save contractors time and money on a variety of drilling projects.

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940 South Coast Drive, Suite 200
Costa Mesa, CA
US, 92626


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7909 Parkwood Circle Drive
Houston, TX
US, 77036


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For decades, the key focus on drilling mud (including any additives) was on having the mud perform its basic drilling function sufficiently and as cheaply as possible. Yet, just getting in and out of a hole can often be very costly, in both time and money, for well operators.

A new lubricant technology is assisting drillers to change the economics of their operations. XPL+ lubricant features 50 times conventional lubricants’ film strength, according to its manufacturer, ProOne. The fluid treatment bonds to metal, even when dealing with extreme heat and pressure, offering more protection during operations. In addition, it is biodegradable and non-toxic to marine life.

XPL+, which stands for Extreme Pressure Lubricants, with the plus representing a positive charge, differs from other lubricants in several ways. Foremost is a literal attraction to heat and pressure rather than being repelled by both (or essentially migrating away), with its positively charged molecule structure’s strong ionic charge.

Operators typically employ hightech drilling practices and utilize drill bits such as the tri cone ($20,000 to $25,000 each) up to $120,000 PDC bits, along with measurement while drilling (MWD) systems at $170,000-$200,000. As a result of such costs, operators have begun questioning whether saving money on drilling mud is actually a sensible approach. With some lubricants being used at depths of up to 15,000 feet, for example, at approximately $90,000 a day, it costs $112,500 for 1-1/4 days to trip that out. If ProOne XPL+ saves one trip out, that alone would more than pay for the lube.

Anecdotally, one drilling contractor summarizes his company’s decision to change drilling mud additives, saying “we don’t have to trip out due to the loss of motors or have to wash the mud motor. We’re now drilling 6,000-foot laterals – with the same drill bits, same mud motors, same MWD – and we don’t have to trip them out. We had been averaging four to five trips per lateral.”

Increased lubricity, lower friction

The overall scope of benefits include an increase in lubricity, reduced friction by up to 70 percent, enhanced Rate of Penetration (ROP) and reduced torque and drag by a significant 20 to 50 percent. For example, the lubricity increase is not a simple observation but instead a result of using the respected Baroid Lubricity Meter (Metal/Metal).

When operators are engaged in controlled drilling at 250 ROP, for instance, the tendency has been to think a different additive is not necessary because the advantages would not be worth the change-out. To the contrary, as fast as rig personnel may be drilling, they inevitably reach a point where the drill bit or mud motor is lost. In fact, the faster that personnel drill, the more friction or load is exerted on that drill bit, motor and MWD.

The smoother borehole created by XPL+ ensures less vibration, less viscous sweeps, less collapse of wall cake and subsequently less trip out; in other words, it functions as more than just a lubricant by stabilizing the hole.

In field applications, case studies amplify what has moved XPL+ into the next generation of drilling mud additives. It goes well beyond simply a viscous fluid mixture which facilitates drilling of boreholes. Instead, it has become a way to solve a variety of historically vexing drilling challenges besides just helping operators avoid excessive trip outs, low ROP and high torque/drag.

These solutions come from, but are not limited to, capabilities such as allowing rig personnel to: free stuck pipe; greatly reduce hook load; set casing faster; help prevent top drive overheating, chopped and spiralled holes; substantially reduce pump wear; allow liner to slide faster; drill straighter verticals; and drill curves in 50 percent less time.

The product also allows the operator to more effectively deal with long horizontals, deviated wells and doglegs, along with lengthening drill bit life as typically an ongoing major expense.

Kicking mud additive spending up a notch can save drilling operations significant amounts of money in three different ways: minimizing twist-off risk, helping free stuck pipe, and finishing the well.

Or they can save through higher Rate of Penetration (ROP), reduction in trip outs and disposal costs. Even on the low end, operators can reduce costs, saving mud motors and drill bits, drill string repair and hard banding.

Establish ROI quickly

Of course, changing products is not always an easy decision, especially if an operator has been using the same products just because “that’s what we use.” Results from proven field applications show the benefits. In one case study, the operator beat the drill curve by six days.

Overall, the crew was able to build the curve in 20 hours (40 percent quicker than before) and drill from the end of curve (EOC) to TD 25 percent faster than current historical data. This was accomplished with the PDC not hanging up in the curve and utilizing only one bit in the lateral instead of two. Savings spoke for themselves: $11,000 saved on the bit, $36,000 on the trip out and $18,000 through re-use of mud.

One operator drilled through six doglegs and wanted to get weight on the bit. This additive helped free up the torque, get weight on the bit and allowed the bit to stay there longer to keep it from being chipped out as often. This product has helped quite a few rigs drill up to 1,000 feet more.

Another interesting anecdote involves a directional drilling engineer in a scenario which is not uncommon.

He says, “I have to stay within the pay zone and can’t deviate away from that when I hit hard areas which can deviate the drilling pattern.”

XPL+ helped the directional engineer stay focused on his trajectory. Even when hitting hard areas which deviate him to one side, with this additive he could still focus on those areas and not have to create a dogleg due to hard substances in the formation.

In West Texas, a major operator was particularly focused on the notable drop in torque, which experienced a 40 percent reduction, and the increase in ROP. From the weight on bit (WOB) viewpoint, the WOB increased from 25,000 to 32,000 pounds, holding torque to 13,500 footpounds at TD. Additionally, the hook load was reduced from 330,000 pounds to 260,000 pounds, casing was two hours off company record and decreased drag occurred during trip out.

When lubricants are added to drilling mud, that notation is entered on the mud report. However, as a practical matter, the report entry has no relationship to (i.e., does not show) the days with trip outs but is a separate line item in a completely different section on a spreadsheet. Meanwhile, however, the company’s rig overseer is following onscreen what is occurring with his mud engineer, drilling engineer and directional drilling engineer on multiple rigs.

Maybe they typically tripped out every 1,800 or 2,500 feet of drilling. Now they are at 4,500 feet and still have not tripped out. This is a definite positive change that can be brought on by using the right drilling fluid treatment.

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