The largest risks in deepwater well construction often occur in the shallow, surface hole sections where seismic uncertainty is high. This seismic uncertainty translates into increased error when estimating the position and extent of shallow hazards such as gas charged sediments, high pressure zones, wellbore stability concerns, faults, etc. Should these hazards be encountered unexpectedly, or without adequate preparation, then the associated operational costs and risks to safety can be extremely high. It is therefore critical that these risks are managed appropriately to ensure drilling success. Minimizing the uncertainty in the surface seismic requires adequate knowledge of both the compressional and shear velocities of these shallow sediments. Being able to turn this information into real-time drilling solutions to mitigate risk requires the acquisition of these measurements using logging while drilling (LWD) sonic tools in a wide variety formation types, often in large, and potentially washed out, surface holes and in a wide variety of mud types. This paper will discuss the physics of acquiring quadrupole shear measurements in large boreholes and slow formations. The limits of measurement will be explored, using both modeled data and real well examples, in a variety of formations, with different mud types, and in different borehole sizes. The effect on measurement quality as a result of the interplay among these three key parameters is revealed. The results show that, although the acquisition of reliable shear data in these conditions is challenging, it is not impossible, provided that the LWD tool is correctly designed, the physics are understood, and suitable processing applied. The latest generation of LWD sonic tools can therefore offer unique solutions to managing drilling risk.

As LWD sonic tools have become more advanced, they have become more routine in use and are now commonly used in multiple hole sections from surface to total depth. Utilizing the compressional and shear measurements from these tools as inputs into analysis to address concerns such as wellbore stability or seismic remigration requires a thorough understanding of the physics of the measurement, the effects of the borehole conditions and the limits of their capability. The challenges inherent in acquiring compressional velocity in large holes and slow formations are well documented, but the effect of these formations on measurements of LWD quadrupole shear has been much less discussed. The newly conducted intensive modeling study and field data analysis of the LWD quadrupole modes reveal that the effect of the drilling mud properties (slowness and density) is also important as well as the formation properties and the borehole size for deriving robust shear slowness.

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