PTTEP in the Gulf of Thailand faced costly challenges while conventionally drilling several narrow operating window ultra high temperature (ultraHT) wells with formation temperature up to 220°C (428°F). In the ultraHT sections, the operator encountered serious ballooning issues that resulted in severe non-productive time (NPT) and difficulty reaching well total depth (TD). Additionally, formation pressure uncertainty in the steep pressure ramp region posed additional drilling challenges due to high risk of influxes.

PTTEP decided to utilize managed pressure drilling (MPD) to overcome the complex ultraHT wells. The strategy involved designing a hydrostatically underbalanced mud weight to prevent ballooning and to enable optimal drilling flowrates. The automated MPD was used to continuously maintain bottomhole pressure (BHP) above pore pressure to avoid influxes. Furthermore, the MPD system was also used to safely identify formation pressures by performing static flow checks (SFC). Dynamic formation integrity tests (DFIT) and dynamic leak-off tests (DLOT) conducted while drilling accurately identified the losses limit and ballooning gradient. At well TD, special rollover procedures were implemented to displace trip mud weight in order to safely control the well prior to pulling out of hole, taking into account extreme thermal effects on bottomhole pressure (BHP) reduction.

PTTEP was able to drill through the narrow operating window and avoid problems associated with typical ultraHT condition, including ballooning, loss and influx events. Moreover, MPD allowed the operator to drill efficiently while identifying the actual drilling window to establish wellbore pressure boundaries. Importantly, the operator was able to log the well to obtain the necessary geological data. As a result, the operator cut well costs by 50%, a total of USD 5 million, and saved 20 days of drilling time.

The paper will share the success story of MPD application in drilling challenging ultraHT wells in the Gulf of Thailand. The paper will describe the drilling solutions to solve the well problems and the lessons learnt as part of knowledge sharing.

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