The ‘Smear Effect’ observed during a casing-while-drilling operation helps reduce lost circulation, provides wellbore strengthening, and improves the fracture gradient so we can drill more effectively through depleted reservoirs. Several case studies have been reported confirming the formation of a smear zone around the wellbore wall, due to the plastering of cuttings and added lost circulation materials. However, even after successful application in a number of cases, a thorough understanding of the parameters affecting the formation of the smear zone and the subsequent increase in the fracture gradient is not available.

This study analyses the theory behind the phenomenon of the smear effect mechanism using case studies and existing literature, and then applies analytical models to estimate the improvement in the fracture gradient based on the drilling parameters and reservoir properties. The formation of the smear zone has been investigated by modelling the mechanism of initiating micro-fractures around the wellbore wall due to high ECDs occurring during casing while drilling. The effect of plugging these generated micro-fractures by drilled cuttings and lost circulation material has then been modelled to estimate the resultant improvement in fracture gradients expected along the wellbore open hole section. In addition, the appropriate particle size distribution required to successfully plug the micro-fractures has also been presented.

These analytical models have then been applied to a simulated field case study and the results have been analysed in the context of recorded field observations to simulate the smear effect using the proposed models. The contribution of the casing size and length, formation properties, and operating parameters on the initiation of micro-fractures and the increase in fracture gradient has also been presented to better demonstrate the mechanism of the formation of the smear zone. This study can be suitably applied to enhance our understanding of the smear effect and to use it better to our advantage.

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