The Geothermal Research Dept. at Sandia Natl. Laboratories, in collaboration with Drill Cool Systems Inc., has worked to develop and test insulated drillpipe (IDP). IDP will allow much cooler drilling fluid to reach the bottom of the hole, making possible the use of downhole motors, electronics, and steering tools that are now useless in high-temperature formations. Other advantages of cooler fluid include reduced degradation of drilling fluid, longer bit life, and reduced corrosion rates.

This article describes the theoretical background, laboratory testing, and field testing of IDP, including structural and thermal laboratory testing procedures and results. We also give results for a field test in a geothermal well in which circulating temperatures in IDP are compared with those in conventional drillpipe (CDP) at different flow rates. A brief description of the software used to model wellbore temperature and to calculate sensitivity in IDP design differences is included, along with a comparison of calculated and measured wellbore temperatures in the field test. There is also analysis of mixed (IDP and CDP) drillstrings and discussion of where IDP should be placed in a mixed string.

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