As operators actively manage their costs of drilling, reducing cost in one area can increase it in another. Millions of horizontal feet drilled across North American shale basins has effectively eradicated existing drill pipe fleets. In addition, the rise of 5-1/2 inch variants in land-based Extended Reach Drilling (ERD) wells has made drill pipe more difficult and costly to replace, so keeping drill pipe in service for as long as possible is paramount to improving its total cost of ownership as well as to ameliorate the risk of replacement when supply chains preclude availability. In two continuous trials, drill pipe was protected using welded wear bands near the center of the tubes, with the downhole effect on the pipe carefully measured and analyzed.

Using a ground-breaking, low heat input welding process, protective weld material was applied to drill pipe tube bodies used in the Jonah Field and Midland Basin. These protected the most vulnerable areas of the tubes from wear and mitigated DBR/downgrade. The protected drill pipe was thoroughly inspected after being used in both the Jonah Field and Midland Basin, and relevant technical inputs were recorded for every run in the Jonah Field. Extensive measurements were taken of the wear bands run-over-run to evaluate their effectiveness throughout the trials.

The technical need for protected drill pipe was twofold, effective rock destruction when drilling through hard, abrasive sandstone coupled with the economic need to deliver 2-2.5-mile laterals. For the trials, inspections – including dimensional, visual, Magnetic Particle Inspection (MPI), and Ultrasonic Testing (UT) – were completed on pipe following multiple lateral runs and wells. These data were used to measure and monitor material loss of both the wear bands and drill pipe body and indicated that the wear bands were effectively protecting the drill pipe while wearing at measurable rates. Revolutions, calculated side forces, and lithology were tracked on a run-to-run basis in the Jonah Field to assist with normalizing the measured wear rates and evaluating the effectiveness of the trial wear bands. All this revealed successful runs with the wear bands present.

The value of this improved welding method is that it extends the life of the drill pipe, significantly decreasing the total cost of ownership for operators. Although these trials were limited in scope, a meaningful ROI will be achieved at scale, with all or most of the drill pipe protected with the longest-lasting wear bands. Because the wear bands cost less than 25% of a new joint of pipe and allow the pipe to last up to twice as long, this Return On Investment (ROI) is substantial.

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