Oil-based drilling fluids are used extensively in drilling activities worldwide. During the drilling process, because of overbalance pressure in the mud column, the filtrate of oil-based mud invades the formation. This hydrocarbon-based filtrate mixes with the formation hydrocarbon, which can cause major difficulties in obtaining a representative reservoir-fluid sample. Despite the recent improvements in sampling, obtaining a contamination-free formation fluid is a major challenge, particularly in openhole wells.
Depending on the type and conditions of the reservoir, the oil-based-mud filtrate is totally or partially miscible with the formation fluid. Oil-based-mud filtrate dissolves completely in reservoir oil; therefore, the captured sample contains the true reservoir oil with added filtrate. Gas condensate (lean gas condensate in particular) is often not fully miscible with mud filtrate. In this case, the mass exchange between gas condensate and mud filtrate makes the sample unrepresentative of the reservoir fluid.
In this study, the impact of sample contamination with oil-based-mud filtrate on different types of reservoir fluids, including gas condensate and volatile-oil samples, is investigated. Two simple methods are suggested to retrieve the uncontaminated composition from a contaminated sample in which mud filtrate is totally dissolved in the formation fluid (i.e., reservoir-oil samples). A tracer-based technique is also developed to determine the composition of an uncontaminated reservoir-fluid sample from a sample contaminated with oil-based-mud filtrate, particularly for those cases in which the two fluids are partially miscible. The tracers are added to the drilling fluid, with the additional cost to the drilling-mud preparation being negligible. The capability of the developed techniques has been examined against deliberately contaminated reservoir-fluid samples under controlled conditions in the laboratory. The results indicate the reliability of the proposed methods.
Historically, most drilling in the North Sea has used water-based muds; however, drilling certain formations with water-based muds can be difficult, primarily because of the hole instability caused by the swelling of water-absorbing rock. Problems of this type can be greatly alleviated by using mud suspended in an oil (rather than water) base. These oil-based muds also provide better lubrication and achieve significant increases in drilling progress (Davies et al. 1984). In recent years, oil-based drilling fluid has been used extensively in drilling activities in the North Sea. During the drilling process, because of overbalance pressure in the mud column, the mud filtrate invades the reservoir formation. Using an oil-based mud in the drilling, the mud filtrate can mix with the formation fluid. This can cause major difficulties in obtaining high-quality formation-fluid samples. Depending on the type and conditions of the reservoir, the mud filtrate can be totally or partially miscible with the formation fluid. This can alter the composition and phase behavior of the reservoir fluid significantly. Hence, the measured data using the collected formation-fluid samples need to be corrected for the contamination.
In this study, contamination of different types of reservoir fluids with oil-based-mud filtrate, where the two fluids are partially or totally miscible, is discussed. Practical decontamination techniques are proposed to retrieve the original fluid composition from contaminated samples.