Filter cake removal is a difficult task, especially in horizontal and extended reach wells. Water-based drilling fluids consist of xanthan gum as a viscosifier, starch as a fluid-loss control, sized calcium carbonate or salt particles to increase the mud density. Conventional chemical means used to remove filter cake are reactive mineral acids, enzymes, chelating agents, oxidizers, or combinations of these chemicals. Controlling of the reaction rate of the cleaning fluids with the filter cake material is an essential factor that determines the efficiency of filter cake removal.

This study assesses the performance of three acid precursors (esters) that produce organic acids. These precursors produce low-molecular weight organic acids that can dissolve calcium carbonate particles from the filter cake. The rate of hydrolysis of acid precursors can be adjusted to produce a predetermine acid concentration at bottom hole conditions. Enzymes, mainly α-amylase, can be added to these esters to break starch that is present in the filter cake. The slow release of these weak organic acids ensures proper and efficient removal of the filter cake.

Lab studies using static HPHT filter press indicated that the three systems can remove the filter cake efficiently. The rate of hydrolysis was measured for each system, and found to be a function of temperature and type and concentration of the acid precursor. Surface tension measurements conducted for solutions of the three precursors at different temperatures highlighted low surface tension values for the spent acids, which are needed to lift the spent acid following the treatment.

No phase separation or precipitation was observed when the three systems were heated at temperatures up to 250°F. Surface tension measurements indicated that the formic acid system had low surface tension, which will accelerate lifting these fluids from tight formations. Acetic and lactic acid systems had much higher surface tension, and a suitable surfactant will be needed to reduce the surface tension. The kinetic study indicated the very rapid reaction rate of the precursor of formic acid and a moderate reaction rate in the acetic acid system. The reaction rate of the precursor of lactic acid was in between the two systems and more close to the in-situ acetic acid system.

HPHT experiments showed that formic acid system was very efficient at short soaking times at temperatures of 200 and 250°F. The performance of lactic acid was comparable to formic acid when the soaking time was increased from 4 to 6.75 hrs. The efficiency of acetic acid was much lower than the other two acids. Acetic acid will require much longer soaking times.

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