This paper describes a new approach to evaluating the effectiveness of the rotary steerable system (RSS) steering mechanism on wellbore tortuosity in horizontal wells. Wellbore tortuosity in drilling applications is defined as any unwanted deviation from the planned well trajectory. As reservoir objectives become more complex and exact, operators increasingly perceive the wellbore tortuosity as a serious concern in the process of drilling, completing, and producing wells.

More than 700 wells were reviewed and analyzed in this study. Strict criteria were set during the classification process; the studied wells have a common geology and trajectory, and they use a very similar bottomhole assembly (BHA) design. The inclination values from the wireline tool are used to illustrate the attainable benefits in terms of wellbore quality and measure wellbore tortuosity. In addition, the wireline inclination data are compared with the actual measurement-while-drilling (MWD) survey to highlight the existence of the micro-dogleg severity (DLS) that cannot be measured by standard surveys.

Due to the theoretical differences in the steering mechanism between the various types of RSS, it has been claimed that utilizing one steering mechanism over another can produce a less-tortuous wellbore. These steering mechanisms have previously been classified as either push-the-bit or point-the-bit mechanisms. The relative merits of a push-the-bit steering mechanism vs. a point-the-bit steering mechanism is an over-simplification; neither mechanism can deliver the premium wellbore quality the industry demands from RSS. The present study introduces the continuous proportional steering method (CPSM), and demonstrates how this mechanism can provide superior wellbore quality by reducing wellbore tortuosity. In addition, a superior inclination hold performance is observed in horizontal sections drilled with the CPSM. Curve intervals are more continuous and smoothly drilled through the planned directional changes.

The research becomes a useful reference to analyze the performance and efficiency of RSS steering mechanisms across drilling and workover operations. Directional drilling service companies are encouraged and challenged to improve the efficiency and accuracy of RSS mechanisms, improving the hole quality and reducing micro-doglegs.

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