Formation damage is a concern when attempting to control fluid loss during drilling operations. The usual approach is to use bridging agents and high polymer loadings to reduce fluid loss. However, these additives contribute to formation damage. In this paper we explore the fluid loss characteristics of xanthan-based fluids, including starch and calcium carbonate, during the drilling process. Fluid loss while drilling is a complex process where fluid is lost underneath the bit and through the surface of the wellbore. A unique laboratory scale drilling simulator was used to determine the leakoff and formation damage of xanthan-based drilling fluid formulations. The fluid was circulated as in a conventional drilling operation, through the microbit and up the annulus under overbalanced conditions. Thin section analysis and environmental SEM were performed on rock samples to identify the different components of the fluid system. Sandstones up to 1,000 md were used. Cleanup sequences, which include enzymes and oxidizers, were also evaluated after the cores were drilled. The cleanup efficiencies were compared to conventional QC-testing techniques used by operators for filtercake removal.

The results showed that most of the fluid is lost underneath the bit in a continuous spurt condition while drilling. The filtercake formed during drilling does not pose a resistance to flow during production, but poses a strong resistance during leakoff. Xanthan gum contributes to fluid loss reduction, while combinations of CaCO3, starch and xanthan gave the lowest leakoff and formation damage. Wellbore soaking procedures do improve production after drilling.

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