Several mature fields in the North Sea experience significant challenges relating to high pressures and temperatures accompanied with the infill drilling challenge of very narrow margins between pore and fracture pressures. To navigate these narrow mud weight windows, it is critical to understand the bottom hole pressure. However, in the cases of fractured formations above the target zones, severe losses can be encountered during drilling and cementing operations often leading to the inability to maintain a full mud column at all times and even threaten the ability to reach TD.

The operator therefore decided to investigate the use of a new acoustic telemetry system that could provide internal and external pressure measurements, (along with other downhole measurements) independently of traditional mud pulse telemetry in the drilling assembly. Real-time distributed pressure data essential to understanding the downhole conditions could therefore be provided regardless of circulation, even under severe losses or during tripping and cementing operations.

This acoustic telemetry network was deployed on several wells through multiple hole sizes and including losses management, liner running and cementing operations.

The initial primary purpose of running the network was the ability to monitor the top of the mud at all times, even in significant loss situations. As real-time data was acquired it became apparent that the data could also be used in real-time to aid and help quantify the actual downhole pressures. The use of this downhole data was modified and new calculations designed for simpler visualization of equivalent circulating densities at the shoe, bit and identified weak zones in the well at depths beyond the acoustic tools themselves. This data was used to manage the bottom hole pressure within a 300 psi mud weight window to ultimately enable the well to be delivered to planned TD.

The tool and calculations helped verify managed pressure connections and subsequent pump ramp up and down operations to minimize pressure fluctuations in the well. Additionally the data was used during dynamic formation integrity testing and to measure and calculate ECD at various positions along the drillstring and casing when downhole PWD measurements were unavailable.

This paper will describe how the implementation of new technology through the downhole acoustic network was deployed and the lessons learned in how the real-time data was used, changed and adapted in this particular well. Due to this deployment the acoustic telemetry network will now be used on upcoming equally challenging wells and its range of operations expanded to include drilling, tripping and liner cementing operations.

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