Managed pressure drilling (MPD), which has been heavily refined and readily practiced in offshore and deepwater operations, could open many doors to untapped potential on land—a concept often underestimated. Operators look to MPD technologies—for example, multiphase MPD or drilling gas—to access challenging or partially depleted wells when the conventional approach has failed or is economically unfeasible. One critical technology component that enables drilling with gas is the rotating control device (RCD), a pressurized secondary well control barrier that contains and diverts flow at surface. Coupled with an MPD system (choke, coriolis meter, etc.), the RCD enables early kick detection and the ability to manage the annular hydrostatic pressure profile using surface backpressure. Adding to the well control benefits realized by the RCD is its sealing capabilities.
Weatherford conducted nitrogen gas testing of RCD elements in accordance with API 16RCD testing criteria—the industry's first testing of RCDs for gas-tight sealing. Pressure control, MPD-enablement, and gas-tight sealing are the perfect combination of RCD capabilities that will enable new techniques for drilling optimization in depleted reservoir sections. This paper will detail the inherent challenges of RCD gas-tight sealing and shed light on the significance that proven testing could deliver to the market for empowering new techniques that could lead to an unforeseeable number of drilling triumphs in the near future.