Efficiently drilling the deep lithology column with PDC bits in Egypt’s Western Desert (WD) has been extremely challenging. The formations—Alam El Buwaib, Masajid, Zahra, and Safa—contain a volatile mixture of highly interbedded sandstone, siltstone, and shale that have damaged PDC bits, especially at depths of 12,500 ft and greater. In addition to the demanding drilling requirements, operators are pursuing multiple targets per well for better cost optimization. Finally, a tight control on target drilling days has required more efficient and consistent drilling solutions. In addition, the array of different drive types and BHAs used in the area have all suffered and exhibited the same symptoms: high stick/slip, high shock and vibration, failure of MLWD tools, RSS, or positive displacement motor (PDM), and premature tripping for bit changeout.

To solve the issues, several 8½-in PDC bits were developed that feature a central conical diamond element (CDE). The bit designs feature an abbreviated cutting structure profile at the bit center that generates a rock column that stabilizes the bit. The rock column is constantly being destroyed with axial force as opposed to traditional shear, resulting in lower torque magnitude and fluctuations. The reduction in torque fluctuations increases the bit’s potential to solve a combination of vibration issues. The new-style bits were scheduled to be field tested in different wells and runs in Egypt’s Western Desert applications, including with classical rotary BHAs, with different RSS/PDM types in a variety of directional well profiles, at different depths, and in different fields. This robust field campaign was performed with the intent of proving and providing a consistent solution and grounds for a paradigm shift of how PDC bits need to be constructed.

The results of the multifield campaign delivered low levels of torque and torque fluctuations; enhanced bit durability, frequently replacing two bits or more; low vibration levels; a significant increase in cuttings size, thereby enhancing surface formation identification; and high dogleg capability and smooth directional response. The bits also increased footage and overall ROP due to preserving the cutting structure, producing a performance step change and achieving consistent lower cost per foot across the WD field.

The field test campaign results in Western Desert spans over 60 runs conducted over a 12-month period. A close monitoring of the performance improvement has been tracked where the runs are rated against offsets. The rating is in terms of overall run performance, footage improvement, ROP increase, cutting structure condition, and overall dull grade. The new bits set over 30 new benchmarks.

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