With the energy sector in crisis the worldover, oil and gas operators continue to seek more effective and efficient methods to reach potential prospects. With sharply declining oil prices, it is imperative that operators minimize the non-productive time in the drilling of all wells.
Many operators are actively seeking riskier exploration to establish a strong foothold in this volatile market. One such area of interest to operators is HPHT and beyond wells. An HPHT prospect carries a high-risk high-reward potential, therefore newer and advanced methods are being deployed to successfully drill and complete HPHT wells.
The Makran Coastal belt in south western Pakistan is one such area containing a potential Ultra-HPHT prospect. Many operators had attempted to drill about 9 wells in the locality but never managed to reach target depth due to drilling operations being plagued with a large number of problems. The drilling problems included high pressure influxes, stuck pipe while controlling influxes, circulation losses with high mud weights and ECD’s, differential sticking against permeable formations, inefficient bottom hole pressure control due to mud weight reduction with high temperatures and swabbing from the formation due to having an insufficient trip margin.
The operator was facing an extremely narrow drilling window in the target section. The maximum formation pressure was estimated to be around 2.29 SG while the maximum fracture pressure of the formation was estimated to be around 2.35 SG in EMW. It was abundantly clear that drilling with a conventional mud system would be impossible and impractical on all forthcoming wells.
As it was of paramount importance to precisely manage the wellbore pressure profile, the operator decided to apply managed pressure drilling on a candidate well. By applying managed pressure drilling techniques the operator expected to drill the section with an underbalanced mud weight and maneuver the bottom hole pressure just above the pore pressure line and thereby avoid circulation losses, detect influxes early on and control influxes without the need of ever shutting in the well, account for mud density variations with temperatures by executing an advanced thermal hydraulics model in real time, mitigate swabbing from the formation again by maintaining a constant bottom hole pressure while tripping, and finally ascertain the downhole pressure environment by conducting dynamic formation pressure tests.
The successful application of MPD enabled the operator to reach target depth for the first time in the history of the area. The paper studies the planning, design, and execution of MPD on the subject well.