North American shale drilling is a fast-paced environment where downhole drilling equipment is pushed to the limits for the maximum rate of penetration (ROP). Downhole mud motor power sections have rapidly advanced to deliver more horsepower and torque, resulting in different downhole dynamics that have not been identified in the past.

High-frequency (HF) compact drilling dynamics recorders embedded in the drill bit, mud motor bit box, and motor top subassembly (top-sub) provide unique measurements to fully understand the reaction of the steerable-motor power section under load relative to the type of rock being drilled. Three-axis shock, gyro, and temperature sensors placed above and below the power section measure the dynamic response of power transfer to the bit and associated losses caused by back-drive dynamics. Detection of back-drive from surface measurements is not possible, and many measurement-while-drilling (MWD) systems do not have the measurement capability to identify the problem. Motor back-drive dynamics severity is dependent on many factors, including formation type, bit type, power section, weight on bit, and drillpipe size. The torsional energy stored and released in the drillstring can be high because of the interaction between surface rotation speed/torque output and mud motor downhole rotation speed/torque. Torsional drillstring energy wind-up and release results in variable power output at the bit, inconsistent rate of penetration, rapid fatigue on downhole equipment, and motor or drillstring backoffs and twistoffs.

A new mechanism of motor back-drive dynamics caused by the use of an MWD pulser above a steerable motor has been discovered. HF continuous gyro sensors and pressure sensors were deployed to capture the mechanism in which a positive mud pulser reduces as much as one-third of the mud flow in the motor and bit rotation speed, creating a propensity for a bit to come to a complete stop in certain conditions and for the motor to rotate the drillstring backward. We have observed the backward rotation of a polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) drill bit during severe stick-slip and back-drive events (−50 rev/min above the motor), confirming that the bit rotated backward for 9 milliseconds (ms) every 133.3 ms (at 7.5 Hz), using a 1,000-Hz continuous sampling/recording in-bit gyro. In one field test, multiple drillstring dynamics recorders were used to measure the motor back-drive severity along the drillstring. It was discovered that the back-drive dynamics are worse at the drillstring, approximately 1,110 ft behind the bit, than these measured at the motor top-sub position. These dynamics caused drillstring backoffs and twistoffs in a particular field. A motor back-drive mitigation tool was used in the field to compare the runs with and without the mitigation tool while keeping the surface drilling parameters nearly the same. The downhole drilling dynamics sensors were used to confirm that the mitigation tool significantly reduced stick-slip and eliminated the motor back-drive dynamics in the same depth interval.

Detailed analysis of the HF embedded downhole sensor data provides an in-depth understanding of mud motor back-drive dynamics. The cause, severity, reduction in drilling performance and risk of incident can be identified, allowing performance and cost gains to be realized. This paper will detail the advantages to understanding and reducing motor back-drive dynamics, a topic that has not commonly been discussed in the past.

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