An increasing number of horizontal wells requiring sand control are being gravel packed, particularly in deep-water and/or sub-sea environments, where completion reliability is paramount due to prohibitively high cost of remediation. Tophole sections in many of these wells are being drilled with oilbased fluids, with the common practice of switching to waterbased fluids when the reservoir drilling starts. In the last several years, some operators started using oil-based drilling fluids in the reservoir section as well, and gravel packed them with water-based fluids. In some cases, these practices required running pre-drilled liners in oil-based fluids, and subsequently displacing to water-based fluids, prior to running in hole with the sand-face screens and gravel packing. In other instances, screens could be run in hole with oil-based fluids in the wellbore, and gravel packing could be performed with water-based fluids. In both cases, the presence of reactive shales and/or water-sensitive productive zone can introduce serious concern in the event that the carrier fluid losses occur into the formation during gravel packing. Although a base-oil or diesel can be used as a carrier fluid, low density of the base oil limits such applications to low-pressure/depleted wells. In this paper, we present a case history of the first successful application of drilling and completing in an all oil environment, utilizing a reversible oil-based reservoir drilling fluid and an oil-based gravel packing fluid. The carrier fluid used in this application included a filtercake cleanup solution in the aqueous internal phase of the oil-based carrier fluid, extending the application of simultaneous gravel packing and cake cleanup processes that have been successfully practiced in water-based fluid environments, to oil-based systems. The subject application was in a high-rate gas field located offshore Trinidad, with anticipated production rates in excess of 150 MMSCFD per well. Presented in the paper is the drilling and completion selection methodology based on extensive laboratory and yard testing, along with the details of the completion and recommendations for future applications based on lessons learned. A direct comparison of the all-oil drilling and completion process to water-based drilling and completion is also presented based on a case history from the same field.
Openhole gravel packing is a proven sand control technique from both productivity and reliability standpoints and has been the preferred method of sand control by many operators in deepwater/subsea developments.1,2 Synthetic/Oil-Based (S/OB) fluids have traditionally been the preferred drilling fluids in these environments, although the operators have often been forced to switching from S/OB mud used to drill the top hole to a water-based fluid for reservoir drilling due to various concerns, particularly in wells that will be gravel packed.