Unconventional shale resources are drilled horizontally following the geologic bed dip upward or downward and completed with multi-stage fracturing to maximize reservoir contact. A recent study in Oklahoma claimed that toe-up (inclined upward) laterals yield the highest production rate and estimated ultimate recovery. The objective of this study is to investigate drilling fluid hydraulics and well control operations in toe-up laterals and compare the results to toe-down laterals.

This study uses a multiphase steady-state hydraulics and a dynamic well control simulator. A hydraulics model was developed and verified with a data from a recently drilled Marcellus shale lateral in Monongalia County, WV in 2015. Static and dynamic pressure profiles were examined at drilling flow rate and at slow pump rate. Further, this research studies gas kick behavior and well control practices for kicks experienced at shallow, middle, and deep zones in the lateral section. Additionally, it considers the impact of operational parameters and influx characteristics on wellbore integrity.

The results of this study showed that the developed hydraulics model successfully predicted the pump pressure with an accuracy of 0.97. Larger kick sizes result in higher pit gain, gas flow rate, choke, and casing shoe pressures in toe-down laterals. In contrast, in toe-up laterals, the higher the kick size, the longer the circulation times with an insignificant impact on the choke and shoe pressures. In toe-up laterals, gas bubbles migrated towards the toe and accumulated in high side pockets. Likewise, choke experienced less pressure, volume, and gas discharge rate for extended periods of time in toe-up laterals. Therefore, higher circulation rates and longer circulation times were essential to flush out the dispersed and trapped gas bubbles. The closer the kick location to the vertical section of the well, the shorter the circulation time needed. However, kicks experienced at the heel resulted in higher pit gain, gas discharge rate, choke pressure, and consequently high casing shoe pressure.

Identifying the consequences of drilling toe-up laterals on hydraulics and well control is crucial for drilling operations. This improves rig and personnel safety and reduces the blowout associated risks. Accordingly, it is critical to verify the well integrity by monitoring surface choke, casing shoe, and constant bottomhole pressures throughout the entire well control operations.

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