Because of their capability to delay water and gas breakthrough in horizontal completions, inflow control devices (ICDs) are being used widely in completion strategies to delay water and gas breakthrough. These devices add an additional pressure drop to the production fluid, and this additional pressure drop helps to balance the heel-to-toe effect in long homogenous horizontal completions. ICDs can perform a similar function in heterogeneous wells by configuring the ICDs to have an increased pressure drop in the more permeable zones. With the oil influx more evenly balanced, total oil recovery is maximized.

The next generation ICD is an autonomous inflow control device (AICD), which will independently create a greater pressure restriction against the breakthrough of unwanted fluids. AICDs, as well as ICDs, have relatively small fluid passageways required to help create their fluid restriction. A common concern among operators when running a device with a restricted fluid-flow passage, however, is the risk of plugging by drilling mud, produced fines, or any other debris that travels through the device. To eliminate the concern over plugging the AICD, a test procedure was drafted, and a test program was run to mimic the worst-case scenario down hole.

This paper will focus on the procedure, testing, and results of a plugging test developed for the fluidic diode-type AICD. Oil was used to obtain base line performance curves through the AICD. Drilling mud was then circulated through the AICD at various flow rates over an extended period of time. Finally, another oil performance curve was generated to compare against the original oil-flow curve. During flow tests, the plots were analyzed to ensure that there were no indications of plugging in the device. Since no potential plugging conditions were found, the testing verified that the AICD passed the plugging test. After running a test such as this, operators now can feel more confident that the AICD will not sustain any plugging issues down hole in similar conditions.

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