It is a common occurrence worldwide to have hole washouts while drilling with water-based mud. There are several reasons for this and until a concerted effort is taken to address the issue, such holes are bound to develop. Some of the problems that large washed-out holes cause are poor hole cleaning while drilling the hole, increased chances of stuck pipe, poor wireline log quality, bad zonal isolation after cementing primary casing strings, and loss of production due to inadequate zonal isolation.

This paper discusses custom-designing water-based systems to address the problem of washed-out holes and wellbore stability. It details the laboratory testing performed on cores and drill cutting samples from the drilled intervals to assess the suitability of appropriate chemicals. The primary study concentrated on understanding the shale inhibition process using water-based fluids. The mineralogical compositions of the shales from the drilled areas were analyzed and tested with various base fluid types and additives.

The recommendations generated from these studies were implemented in high temperature wells drilled by this operator. The results obtained from drilling these wells have been reduced hole wash-outs and stable wellbores.

According to conservative estimates, the problems resulting from shale instability costs the petroleum industry over half a billion dollars per year. The learnings from this paper should help other operators overcome such issues and cut down on non-productive time and expenditures.

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