The Ordovician fractured carbonate reservoir in the Shunbei field is buried ~7300m below ground level and has presented great challenges for the drilling of extra deep, deviated development wells. Borehole instability-related drilling problems including pipe stuck, pack-off, and mud losses have been experienced frequently during drilling, with many wells being sidetracked three or four times before reaching the target. To understand the failure mechanism and optimize the drilling design to mitigate the drilling risk has become crucial for the field development.

As the basis of the investigation, detailed geomechanical modelling was conducted for a selected area with the most representative drilling problems. Laboratory core tests, wireline logs, image data and drilling experiences were used to build geomechanical models characterizing the in situ stress, pore pressure and rock mechanical properties in both the overburden and reservoir sections. Stress-induced borehole failures observed in the image logs were analysed to help diagnose the failure mechanisms together with the cavings recovered from the problematic wells, which provided significant insights into the likely nature of instability problems in the wells.

The geomechanical modelling from a series of wells revealed that the stress magnitudes in the selected area vary based on the structural location. The wells near the major fault system appear to be in a normal faulting stress regime in the Ordovician reservoir, while the wells nearby the secondary fault system are in a strike-slip faulting stress regime. Different stress regimes and horizontal stress anisotropies have resulted in different behaviors during drilling, with breakouts seen in some vertical wells while not in other vertical wells despite using similar mud weights. during drilling. The variable stress conditions plus the highly developed fractures have caused serious borehole collapse in some wells, but reasonably good hole condition in other wells. Wells using higher mud weight are not necessarily the ones having fewer drilling problems. Although the complex lithology, great depth, and unpredictable distribution of intrusive rocks has complicated the drilling problems, a proper definition of suitable mud weight to control borehole collapse and understanding of the natural fractures might play a bigger role in maintaining borehole stability and mitigating drilling risk.

A good understanding of the stress condition and rock mechanical properties appears to be helpful in defining the proper mud weights and optimizing other drilling parameters to help mitigate the complex drilling problems encountered during drilling in the Shunbei field. However, additional work on the fracture distribution and trend of stress change in the field might be required to help investigate the problem further.

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