On a Deep Gas Field in the Middle East, it is required to drill across a highly fractured and faulted carbonate formation. In most wells drilled across the flank of this field, it is impossible to cure the encountered losses with conventional or engineered solutions. Average time to cure losses is 20 days. With the current drive for cost optimization, it has become necessary to eliminate the NPT associated with curing the losses.

A thorough risk assessment was conducted for wells drilled on the flank of this field, it was established that the risk of encountering total losses was very high. Seismic studies were performed and it was observed it would be impossible to eliminate total losses as fractures were propagated in all directions. It was proposed to run a sacrificial open hole bridge plug above the loss zone and sidetrack the well instead of performing extensive remedial operations. The proposed solution would help eliminate the well control and HSE risks associated with drilling blindly ahead with the reservoir formation exposed.

Applied the proposed solution on the next well that was drilled on the flank of the field, encountered total losses, spotted eight LCM pills, unable to cure the losses, ran sacrificial open hole bridge plug and sidetracked the well. The entire process was completed in 30 hours. Sidetracked the well in adjacent direction to the initial planned well trajectory based on further seismic data analysis and no losses was encountered. Recovered full mud column to surface thus ensuring the restoration of all well barrier elements. This solution has since been adopted as best practice for wells drilled on the flank of the field where there is high probability of encountering total losses. The average time saving per well due to this optimized solution is 450 hours for wells where total losses are encountered.

This engineered solution has made drilling wells on the flank of the field in a timely manner possible and at optimized costs. This has resulted in:

  • The elimination of Non-Productive Time,

  • Quick delivery of the well to production,

  • Reduced HSE risk,

  • Reduced well control risk as loss zone is quickly isolated before drilling ahead.

This paper will explain why running sacrificial open hole bridge plugs and sidetracking the well is a more effective solution compared to extended remedial operations when total losses are encountered while drilling across highly fractured / faulted formation. It will discuss the extensive risk assessment conducted, the mitigation and prevention measures that were put in place in order to ensure successful implementation on trial well.

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