Drilling problems frequently result from severe mechanical failure of the wellbore wall and thus depend on the interplay between the magnitude and orientation of in situ stresses, rock strength, mud weight, and the orientation of the wellbore. Utilizing a new suite of software tools developed to study wellbore stability in a wide variety of geologic environments, we can accurately predict optimally-stable wellbore trajectories from knowledge of the stress tensor. The analysis is a two step process – first, we determine stress from observations of failure in existing wells. We can then apply this knowledge to predict the stability of proposed wells both while drilling and later during production. We illustrate this type of approach using three case studies. First, we combine observations of failure in a vertical well with rock strength measurements to demonstrate the feasibility of horizontal drilling in poorly consolidated reservoir sands. Next, we analyze the stability during production of a series of multilaterals drilled from a single inclined parent well. Finally, we show that wellbore stability can be controlled by the orientation of a well with respect to bedding, and illustrate a method to optimize the trajectory of wells to account for this effect.

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