The need to increase productivity and to reduce drilling damage favors the use of underbalanced drilling (UBD) technology. In highly depleted reservoirs, extremely low-density fluids, such as foams or aerated mud, are used to achieve circulating densities lower than the pore pressure. In such cases, the induced modification of the in-situ stresses has to be supported mainly by the rock, with little contribution from the drilling fluid pressure. The application of underbalanced drilling depends on the mechanical stability of the drilled formation, among other factors. In general, poorly consolidated, depleted formations are not suited for that technology.
In this paper, twenty three UBD worldwide cases have been analyzed; two of which are from Egyptian fields and the others are from Iran, Algeria, Kuwait, Oman, Texas, Mexico, Indonesia, Canada, Libya, Middle East, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Lithuania. From these analyses, the reasons of failure or success have been stated. The reasons of success included depleted reservoirs and highly fractured carbonates formation while, the reasons of failure include overpressurized shale, highly tectonic stress areas, and downhole failures. The main attractive application of this technology was proposed to be only in the reservoir section, and the target was to prevent the reservoir damage and hence increase the productivity and recovery factor.
A proposed underbalanced drilling program is developed based on these analyses to be used in the three main regions in oil and gas producing Egyptian fields. The aerated mud was selected as a drilling fluid to drill the reservoir section in Western Desert and Gulf of Suez region whereas the single phase fluid was selected as a drilling fluid in the Nile Delta region.