Coiled tubing units (CTU) have been used to drill-out frac plugs in shorter horizontal shale wells for the last decade, but coil has mechanical limitations. The new innovative technology of Hydraulic Completion Snubbing Units (HCU) is gaining popularity across North and South America to drill-out frac plugs in long lateral, high-pressure, and multi-well pads. The HCU is designed for drill-outs and interventions where coil may not be the best option. This paper will summarize the recent evolution of the HCU system. Case histories will be provided from the Appalachian and Permian shale plays.
The latest HCU consists of a stand-alone unit that mounts on the wellhead after completion. The primary components include the jack assembly, a gin pole, traveling/stationary slips, a redundant series of primary/secondary blowout preventers, a rotary table, power tongs, and an equalize/bleed off loop. Tubing up to 5 ½" is used to carry a downhole motor, dual back pressure values, and the drill bit. Slickwater is used for the drilling fluid to carry out parts from the frac plugs while the tubing is rotated via the jack rotary table. Torque and drag modeling are performed to guide downhole expectations that allow most wells to be drilled in one trip and with one bit without short trips back to the heel or bottom- hole vibration assembly tools. Finally, a remote telemetry data acquisition system has been added that summarizes the drilling data and key performance indicators.
In 2016, a North American operator drilled and completed the first super lateral in the Appalachian Basin, setting the completed lateral record at over 18,500 ft. Since then, many operators have been routinely drilling laterals between 12,000 ft and 16,000 ft. HCU technology has been used in the longest laterals in onshore North America, including the lower 48 U.S records for completed lateral length (LL) at 20,800 ft and the total measured depth (MD) record at 30,677 ft. The average lateral contains between 60 to 90 plugs and can be drilled out in 3.5 to 4.5 days. The record number of plugs drilled out by an HCU is 144 and took 5.2 days. High-pressure wells are also routinely encountered where pressures range from 3000 to 8000 psi during operations. Operators are achieving faster drilling times per plug, less chemical usage, faster moves between wells, and running tubing immediately after the drill-out, thus eliminating the need for a service rig.
Operator's desire to reach total depth with the least risk and as cost-efficiently as possible resulted in the HCU gaining market acceptance. This paper will showcase the novel evolution of the HCU system that has enabled it to be a safe and effective option for interventions outside of just frac plug drill-outs such as fishing for stuck/parted coil or wireline and installing production tubing/artificial lift systems.