As operators strive to increase production from existing reservoirs with depleted reservoir pressure, the use of under-balanced drilling and underbalanced horizontal drilling is becoming more widely used. One of the primary problems to be overcome in drilling under-balanced is designing a circulating "fluid" that has an equivalent circulating density below the reservoir pressure. This paper discusses the mathematical equations used to design air drilled "under-balanced" wells. It will also show how these equations were used to design four separate wells. The presentation of actual field data will validate these equations and computer modeling used. The four wells will include 1) 17,000 TVD well drilled into the Ellenberger formation with reservoir pressure at 1200 psig, 2) horizontal well drilled into the Petit formation at 5900 ft. TVD with reservoir pressure at 210 psig, 3) horizontal wells drilled into the upper Penn Formation at TVD 7800 ft. and reservoir pressure of 1000 psig., and 4) deviated wells drilled into the Ellenberger formation below 13,000 feet TVD and reservoir pressure of 600 psig.
The mathematical equations used were developed by Dr. William C. Lyons of New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, NM. Computer simulations for these wells were run by David Giffin on software developed by Boyum Guo and Dr. Lyons. Each of these wells was drilled using air drilling techniques. By measuring the pressure at both surface and bottom hole conditions, the validity of the mathematical models used has been established. Air or other compressed gas can be used to reduce equivalent circulating densities to accommodate almost any reservoir pressure.