The reservoir field highlighted in this paper is located Offshore Mexico in the southeast part of Campeche Bay and hidden below a troublesome, unstable formation that must be transacted before reaching the new production zone. During the exploration phase, this section experienced severe lost circulation and unstable conditions before reaching the final depth. Based on lessons learned, the team worked to develop a best- practices approach using geomechanics analysis and a novel fluid technology which enabled the operator to safely drill through this problematic intermediate section under high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) conditions.

The methodology started with identifying the geomechanics challenges, implementing operational best practices, and finally, use of an innovative, low-invasion fluid technology, which creates a thin and impermeable shield at the wellbore wall, effectively sealing the fractures and preventing fracture propagation in the highly unstable formation of interspersed carbonates, shales, and sandstones. The strong mechanical properties of the thin, but firm, barrier created at the wellbore wall minimized the destabilizing effect of fluid invasion. Synergy from the geomechanical team, best practices for the operation, and innovative drilling fluid technology solved the wellbore instability drilling challenge encountered in the exploration well.

In offset wells, losses of more than 2,200 m3 of drilling fluid, stuck pipe, and major NPT were observed. By incorporating the shielding technology, wellbore instability was improved in the intermediate section. In addition, the fluid technology was easily pumped through the bottomhole assembly (BHA) to seal formation fractures between 2,000 and 3,000 μm in size. This well, utilizing the barrier technology to mitigate the wellbore instability and drill within a narrow fracture gradient operating window, was the first in the area to have zero loss of drilling fluid as compared to the typical 5 to 10-m3/hr circulation losses experienced during exploration drilling in the intermediate section characterized by interbedded layers of carbonates, shales, and sandstone under high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) conditions. The coordination between the teams using best practices was critical to meeting the challenge of the intermediate geomechanically weak formation.

This case history in offshore Mexico will demonstrate both the importance of teamwork and the utilization of a proven technology that improves wellbore instability, minimizes NPT, mitigates pipe tripping issues and avoids huge volumes of drilling fluid lost into the geomechanically weak formation. This barrier technology can be applied globally to troublesome formations - such as interbedded carbonates, shales, and sandstones - to improve operations and provide cost savings for the operator.

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