Maximizing well productivity and improving drilling efficiency remains a major challenge while drilling horizontal wells in US-land unconventional shale plays in the last few years. Reducing drilling times and eliminating trips for the curve bottomhole assembly (BHA) requires a motor that can be rotated at high RPM in the vertical section while still achieving buildup rate (BUR) in the curve.

The challenges of horizontal well drilling in US land led to the recent introduction of a steerable optimized design motor (ODM) with a short bit-to-bend (BTB) distance. These ODMs achieved higher BUR in the curves than the conventional motors at lower adjustable kick-off (AKO) sub angle.

Although the planned dogleg severities (DLS) stayed at the similar level, drilling vertical and curve sections of the horizontal wells in the Niobrara shale unconventional play posed additional challenges:

  • Rotating the BHA in the vertical section with a high AKO angle

  • Dealing with formation challenges

  • Holding the toolface to achieve consistent BUR in the curve

  • Completing the vertical and curve sections in one run

The introduction in 2013 of the latest-generation steerable motors (LGSM) with further reduced short BTB distance design helped the operator overcome these challenges. The new system significantly improved drilling performance with excellent directional control.

This paper will discuss the design, testing and results of horizontal wells drilled using the LGSM in the Niobrara unconventional shale play.

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