Lost circulation has plagued the industry since the beginning of drilling. Historically, severity of losses has been categorized based on the amount of barrels lost to the formation, i.e., seepage, partial, and total. Though helpful, this strategy doesn't help understand the underlying drive mechanism(s) for losses and doesn't provide enough data to propose a solution. The recently adopted category is focused on the lost-circulation mechanism based on the properties of the exposed formation; these classifications are losses to 1) pore throats, 2) induced or natural fractures, and 3) vugs or caverns. This study provides an integrated workflow to predict expected losses for such classification/mechanism of losses.
Mud loss through fracturing is categorized based on fracture types, i.e., natural or induced fractures. Different models are used with respect to the fluid-loss mechanism in natural and induced fractures. These models take into account the effect of fracture breathing. In addition, mud loss through the pores on the wellbore and the fracture face is modeled based on formation and mud-cake filtration properties, coupled with the fracture losses. Losses through induced fractures generally occur when ECD exceeds fracture gradient. This happens due to erroneous prediction of the mud weight window, lack of the key information, harsh downhole pressure/temperature and some other operational factors. A field case from deep water Gulf of Mexico is presented in this paper showing how an inaccurate mud window can yield in drastic mud losses. In addition, rock properties and field in-situ stress govern fracture width and fracture propagation. Losses to vugs/caverns are usually total losses due to very large openings in the rock; recommendations are provided on how to control severe losses.
Lost circulation not only causes the adverse effect of mud loss itself; it can also lead to several other issues, such as formation damage, stuck pipe, hole collapse, and well-control incidents. The current industry trend is moving towards drilling more low-pressure zones, and lost-circulation planning is becoming a vital part of these projects.
Knowledge of the type and the expected amount of mud loss can help engineers select the most appropriate and effective solution and preplan accordingly. This information also provides criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of the applied lost-circulation strategy. In this study we review LCM treatments, wellbore strengthening, MPD, and CwD as some of the most common remedial techniques.