Traditionally, several multiphase hydraulic calculations are required to determine the permissible surface-parameter operating envelope in underbalanced drilling (UBD) operations to estimate how bottomhole pressure (BHP) and the desired underbalanced condition can be achieved. Furthermore, the complexity consists of running several combinations of gas- and liquid-injection rates and overlapping these results with operating constraints, including the operating range of equivalent liquid rates for downhole mud motors, minimum annular velocities for effective hole cleaning, desired BHP, and respective surface-equipment limitations, to visualize a comprehensive spectrum of viable surface parameters. This paper explains and illustrates a novel method for obtaining quick and comprehensive operational envelopes for underbalanced drilling operations.

The model used for pressure-drop calculations considers the effect of geothermal and string temperatures, detailed drillstring and wellbore geometries (including tool joints), formation fluid influxes at several depth intervals, cutting-slip effects, and surface back pressure. This model also enables the evaluation of the behavior of multiphase drilling fluid using different gas correlations.

The system determines bottomhole pressures for several combinations of injection parameters and automatically collects results to generate a permissible operating area (envelope).

Measured times to generate the operating envelope graph and a comparison of the results are evaluated for several methods and wellbore hydraulic simulators; a qualitative evaluation and validation against field data is also included. The method outlined in this paper offers an alternative to automatically obtaining a gas- and liquid-injection operating envelope, which results in a time savings of three orders of magnitude, as compared to traditional procedures and computational solutions.

One of the limitations of the model is that the operating envelope is for a single wellbore depth and provides a representation of the pressure achieved at a fixed depth. Recommended developments will consist of the ability to visualize BHP values for drilling depths, perhaps through a 3D graph.

This paper describes the method used by a multiphase flow simulator to create a graph that aids in determining and visualizing the operational area to achieve a specific BHP, including the hydrostatic and friction-dominant areas of circulation; this development will facilitate the decision-making process while designing the wellbore hydraulic aspects of an underbalanced drilling operation. The benefits of the multiphase flow simulator include a significant time savings to obtain a visual representation of bottomhole conditions and the ability to quickly achieve optimized results by means of a broader sensitivity analysis.

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