Horizontal drilling in the Fruitland Formation, a Coalbed Methane (CBM) play located in the San Juan Basin (SJB), found across the states of Colorado and New Mexico can present a number of drilling and production challenges. Examples of these challenges include wellbore instability, severe fluid losses, high mud costs, formation damage, and post-well production issues.

Clear fluid brine systems such as Calcium Chloride (CaCl2) and Calcium Bromide (CaBr2) are usually preferred because of their compatibility with coals and their ability to minimize formation damage. However, these brines can instigate fluid losses, cause fluid handling issues, and create long-term production challenges. Coal instability in the horizontal play has historically led to events such as wellbore collapse, stuck pipe, lost Bottomhole Assemblies (BHAs), and challenges such as getting the pipe out of the hole at Total Depth (TD) and subsequently running completions. Ultimately, these problems led to sidetracks, incurring additional costs, time, and resources.

In May 2019, the Constant Bottomhole Pressure (CBHP) technique of Managed Pressure Drilling (MPD) was introduced to mitigate these challenges. Two wells with eight laterals and combined horizontal footage of ±46,000 ft were drilled using CBHP, maintaining 11.4 ±0.1 pound per gallon (ppg) Equivalent Circulating Density (ECD) and Equivalent Static Density (ESD) in the lateral at ±2800 ft True Vertical Depth (TVD). With a focus on safety and training, the mud weight was staged down from 10.8 ppg on the first lateral to 9.8 ppg on the second. The final six laterals were drilled with 8.6 ±0.2 ppg produced water. This paper will detail the planning, training and staged implementation of CBHP MPD with produced water. It will briefly discuss improvement in wellbore stability, cost reduction for drilling laterals, and enhanced production after switching to produced water.

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