This paper describes the improvements in drilling operations in the West Qurna-2 field, as evidenced in a reduction of well days and non-productive time, as activity increased from two to six rigs over a fourteen month period. The West Qurna-2 field, one of the largest oil fields in Iraq and the second largest undeveloped field in the world in terms of its hydrocarbon reserves, was awarded to Russian Lukoil Oil Company (operator) in 2009. Drilling operations were managed under an integrated contract with US oilfield services company, Baker Hughes (contractor), providing all services and consumables required for drilling1,2. Challenges included the rapid ramp-up of operations, security, logistics concerns, communications issues, personnel competency, lack of offset data, and downhole problems.

Non-productive time was significantly decreased from 2012 to 2015, even as well complexity increased with higher inclination wells. In the same time frame the average number of meters drilled per day doubled. This was achieved not only by engineering and operational improvements, but by implementing project-specific processes, procedures and protocols (a formal communications protocol using translators on the locations as well as coaches on the rigs).

This paper presents the lessons learned and best practices established to deal with drilling challenges in the West Qurna-2 field such as Tanuma shale instability, loss of circulation and high vibration. It provides technical and operational recommendations for performing within a large integrated contract that includes logistics and communication difficulties.

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