Although devised in 2003, managed pressure drilling (MPD) has gained widespread popularity in recent years to precisely control the annular pressure profile throughout the wellbore. Due to the relatively high cost and complexity of implementing MPD, some operators still face a challenge deciding whether or not to MPD the well.

In the offshore Mediterranean of Egypt, severe to catastrophic mud losses are encountered while conventionally drilling deepwater wells through cavernous fractured carbonate gas reservoirs with a narrow pore pressure-fracture gradient (PP-FG) window, leading to the risk of not reaching the planned target depth (TD). Furthermore, treating such losses was associated with long non-productive time (NPT), massive volume consumption of cement, and lost-circulation materials (LCM), in addition to well control situations encountered several times due to loss of hydrostatic head during severe losses. Accordingly, the operator decided to abandon the conventional drilling method and implement MPD technology to drill these problematic formations.

In this paper, the application of MPD is to be examined versus the conventional drilling in terms of well control events, NPT, rate of penetration (ROP), mud losses per drilled meter, LCM volume pumped, and drilling operations optimization.

According to the comparative study, MPD application showed a drastic improvement in all drilling performance aspects over the conventional drilling where the mud losses per drilled meter reduced from 19.6 m3/m to 3.7m3/m (123.2 bbl/m to 23.4 bbl/m). In addition to that, a 35% reduction of NPT and also a 35% reduction of LCM pumped, and 67.2 % reduction by volume of cement pumped to cure the mud losses. Moreover, the average mechanical rate of penetration increased by 37.4%. MPD was also credited with eliminating the need for an additional contingent 7" liner which was conventionally used to isolate the thief zone. The MPD ability to precisely control bottom hole pressure during drilling with the integration of MPD early kick detection system enables the rapid response in case of mud loss or kick, eliminating kick-loss cycles, well control events, and drilling flat time to change mud density.

This paper provides an advanced and in-depth study for deep-water drilling problems of a natural gas field in the East Mediterranean and presents a comprehensive analysis of the MPD application with a drilling performance assessment (average ROP, mud losses, LCM and cement volumes, well control events) emphasizing how MPD can offer a practical solution for future drilling of challenging deepwater gas wells.

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