Traditionally, 12.25-in. hole sections in the Jurassic formations were planned to be drilled with mud weight (MW) of 20 ppg and solids content of 45%. The planned drilling would use a rotary assembly from the Hith formation, crossing several zones in which mud losses or gains were likely. The casing would then be set in the thin shale base of the Gotnia formation. A minor inaccuracy in casing setting depth could often lead to well-control issues.

Pore pressure drops severely below the shale base and requires a MW of 15 ppg. Passing this shale base can lead to severe losses and potential abandonment of the well. An anhydrite marker is located approximately 50 ft above the shale base. To reduce risk, the operator would normally drill to this marker at a rate of penetration (ROP) of 20-30 ft/hr, then decrease the ROP to 2 ft/hr. While slowly drilling the last part of the section, penetration would be stopped every few feet to circulate bottoms-up to receive samples confirming the shale base; this process requires an additional 24 hours of rig time.

After reaching the casing point, the operator would pull out of the hole to pick up logging-while-drilling (LWD) tools to perform a wiping run. This logging, however, is frequently cancelled because of wellbore stability issues, resulting in the loss of important formation-evaluation data across this interval.

A new solution has been developed, comprising drilling with a rotary assembly to the final anhydrite marker, then pulling the string out of hole to pick up LWD triple-combo and sonic tools, with a conventional gamma ray sensor placed only 6 ft from the bit. The remaining part of the section would then be drilled at 7-10 ft/hr until the gamma-ray tool detected the shale base, thereby determining the casing depth. In addition, it was planned to re-log the previously drilled interval.

This solution prevented the well from potential abandonment and reduced drilling time. It also secured critical formation evaluation data for exploration and future field development.

The engineered drilling solution was tried for the first time in these formation sequences within a harsh drilling and logging environment. The option of rotary steerable services with an at-bit GR sensor was not considered because of the high cost.

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