As the Managed Pressure Drilling (MPD) systems for deepwater drilling rigs mature, operators are applying the technology on more complex prospects. Wells are encountering higher pressures in deeper water depths, pushing against the boundaries of technical limits not previously encountered.

A prospect in the US Gulf of Mexico required drilling to measured depths exceeding 31000 feet in water deepwater. Under such demanding depth, a non-typical drillstring was required to manage the tensile loading. Typical drill pipe connections on 6 5/8" S-135 tool joints are 8.5" diameter. This drill string would require V-150 landing string, with a 6 5/8" FH tool joint diameter of 8.875". Hard banding would bring the tool joint nominal OD above 9".

The depth of the well and planned string RPM presented risk of casing wear, therefore drillpipe protectors would also be required.

The depth of the reservoir and size of the drillstring meant pipe would need to be stripped out of the well with up to 900 psi backpressure in order to maintain constant bottom hole pressure.

All well challenges were used to determine design specifications for a custom sealing element. The scope of work was to design, validate through finite element analysis, then validate in a test fixture per API16RCD test procedures. On conclusion of the product validation, a land test rig trial, with mock-up of the planned system, including dual sealing elements in the Rotating Control Device (RCD), the required non-rotating drill pipe protectors on the planned drillpipe, was executed. The development schedule from start to finish was compressed to less than 6 months also, targeting completion ahead of the rig's drilling program.

This paper will recount the various phases of the design-build-validate-test effort that went into resolving these technical limits. It will conclude with field results and lessons learned from first deployment.

As operators pursue more challenging deepwater wells, this systematic approach, through alignment of the operator, drilling contractor and MPD technology company, serves as a model to expand the operating envelope of drilling systems, improving safe performance in a cost-effective manner.

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