An operator has drilled more than 32 wells to date in Adhi field, a gas and condensate field in northern Pakistan. The majority of these wells produce from depleted sands and some also produce from limestone reservoirs. The wells range in depth between 8,366 and 11,483 ft (2,550 and 3,500 m).

The operator was in the process of drilling the 8 1/2-in. hole section with the least possible mud weight to minimize the overbalance across the lost-circulation-prone limestone formation. While drilling the section, an unexpected gas pocket was encountered and subsequently required an increase in mud weight. To further add to already challenging drilling conditions, a fault was expected in the middle of the section. This fault was expected to produce total losses. The resulting loss of hydrostatic head would have caused a troublesome well-control scenario.

The above conditions led to an inherently tight drilling window. The operator thus made precise management of wellbore pressures a prime objective. However in conventional drilling, relying on the mud weight and pumping rate for accurate management of wellbore pressures proves highly inefficient, if not impossible.

A managed pressure drilling (MPD) and underbalanced drilling (UBD) hybridized system was devised to enable drilling the 8 1/2-in. hole section. An MPD system that applies constant bottom hole pressure would enable drilling the section with the least possible mud weight and as close as possible to the pore pressure line. In the event that heavy to total losses were encountered because of the predicted fault, the system could be switched over to UBD flow drilling. By switching over to UBD, the equivalent circulating density (ECD) would be reduced further and allow the well to flow while drilling and mitigating losses.

An MPD and UBD system was also expected to offer numerous benefits in drilling, including reduced chances of differential sticking, reduced formation damage, increased rate of penetration and bit life, less washouts in the drillstring and pumps, reduced nonproductive time, and enhanced abilities to execute well control with the pipe in motion without fear of getting stuck.

The MPD and UBD hybrid system was deployed to the location. The operator was able to drill the 8 1/2- in. section to the target depth. The operator commenced drilling with an MPD system but, as expected, heavy losses were encountered. Drilling then proceeded with UB flow drilling until reaching target depth. The hybrid system enabled the operator to achieve target depth, eliminate an entire casing string, and substantially reduce NPT. This paper discusses the planning, design, and execution of the MPD and UBD hybrid system.

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