Frontera Energy drilled an HPHT exploratory gas well in northern Colombia, South America. The uncertainty of the geopressured conditions posed challenges and risks for this well including the potential for water and gas influx events, instability (collapse) of the wellbore, ballooning and a high temperature gradient. Early in the planning process, an automated managed pressure drilling (MPD) system was recommended determined to be a primary means for mitigation of non-productive time (NPT) which historically has been in the range of 25%. A challenge target NPT of 10% was set for this project though the utilization of MPD. The automated MPD application in two sections as part of varied drilling improvements measures allowed the well to be successfully drilled with 3% NPT resulting in a cost savings of 20%.

The automated MPD system provided characterization of the formation pressure, differentiation between detection of kick(s) and determination of the balloon limits, automation of swab/surge compensation and finally, the utilization of multiple fluids in the software solution for successful application of the mud cap drilling technique. This paper presents the detailed planning process, the MPD drilling strategy and the main events in which the fully automated system was able to overcome the challenges of this high-pressure high temperature (HPHT) gas well.

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