A critical cost in future deep oil and gas recovery is the cost to drill a well. This cost is dominated by the rate of penetration (ROP) that becomes increasingly important with increasing depth. Improving the technology of drilling and increasing the ROP will lower the cost to drill a well. This improves the economics of deep exploration and development, potentially increasing drilling activity, increasing production and supply, lowering the cost to the consumer and improving the economy.

Industry partners and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) successfully completed benchmark testing of advanced diamond bits and high pressure/high temperature (HP/HT) drilling fluids at high pressures. The paper describes the results of this testing and identifies factors limiting ROP performance at great depth, and the development of drilling fluid systems and bit design philosophy to significantly improve drilling performance. Benchmark results match very well with data from target field applications. This project is part of the DOE Deep Trek program.

Sixteen full-scale tests of 6 inch bits were conducted at wellbore pressures greater than 10,000 psi. Results from high-pressure tests with water and base oil showed very high ROPs are possible before mudding up. When drilling through hard sandstone penetration rates can drop 70 to 80% on switching to a weighted mud. These data emphasize the importance of mud technology in high-pressure applications. Performance of polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) bits showed in many cases substantial improvements over roller cone insert bits.

Cuttings from Carthage marble and Mancos shale appear to be compressed agglomerates of fine particles and Carthage marble cuttings had low compressive strengths.

The study has concluded that opportunities for improvements in both bit design and smart HP/HT drilling fluids are possible. While rock properties change continuously with pressure the cutting mechanisms at great depths change much more dramatically. Changes in bit design and mud composition, using next generation technology, will be evaluated in Phase II testing.

The significance of improved ROP for deep oil and gas plays include opportunities to reduce well costs and improve the economics of deep exploration and development plays. The net result for operators is cost reduction as well as an improved position on reserves.

You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.