A joint industry project was established to study barite sag mechanisms and to develop field guidelines to manage the consequences. A simple empirical model was developed to compare sag potential for a wide range of fluid types. In the study, physical properties of the mud, wellbore conditions, and characteristics of the weighting material were shown to have a large influence on sag behaviour. The study also included direct measurements of the properties of settled weight-material beds. These results provide new insight into the mechanisms of barite sag and how best to manage problems in the field.

Data from the tests clearly demonstrate that the parameters affecting sag are interrelated and seldom act in isolation. For all muds tested, the highest sag occurred at low annular velocities over angles from 60–75°. Drill-pipe rotation was particularly beneficial in minimising barite settlement. Rotation also assisted in re-distributing barite deposits formed on the low side of the hole.

The improved understanding of the mechanisms of barite sag enabled development of practical field guidelines. Case history studies presented in the paper demonstrate how the results of the work together with better field monitoring have been successfully applied to manage the effects of barite sag in HP/HT and extended-reach drilling operations.

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