The island development strategy of the giant offshore oilfield requires the use of extended reach drilling (ERD) design wells. Compared to the typical wells drilled from the wellhead towers in the same field, higher inclinations are required in both the surface hole and intermediate hole to facilitate drilling three dimensional wells of more than 35, 000 ft. While the challenges of drilling the intermediate hole at higher angles had been identified early on due to field experience, the challenges leading to stuck pipe events encountered in the surface hole were not anticipated due to limited experience drilling high angle surface holes in the region.

Historically total loss of returns has been a common issue in the region when drilling the surface hole. Typically when drilling from the Jack Ups, the wells are drilled with sea water and high viscosity sweeps once total losses has been encountered. Any potential aquifer flows are diverted overboard. In order to divert the aquifer flows on the newly built Artificial Islands, the fluids must be pumped 200 or more meters to the gulf. Mud cap drilling (drilling with seawater down the drill string with heavy mud in the annulus to control well flows) was implemented to solve the issue of losses and flows on the island.

The early wells with surface holes drilled at high angle experienced stuck pipe while tripping out of the hole after reaching casing point, leading to significant non-productive time (NPT) and risking project objectives and planned designs. A detailed investigation was performed, including running six arm caliper logs to better understand the mechanism for stuck pipe events. After analyzing and understanding the issue, operational practices and bottom hole assembly designs have been changed to reduce the stuck pipe risk, and specially designed stabilizers have been manufactured and used to mitigate stuck pipe events. Geologically, significant data gathering within the overburden sequence to characterize lithological, stratigraphic, and diagenetic heterogeneities, as well as structural discontinuities, has improved understanding of aspect ratio and vertical scale of features being drilled that may have caused the previous hole morphology effects. No stuck pipe events have been experienced to date in the surface hole due to the same effects after implementation of the new equipment designs and improved drilling practices.

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