The Upper Devonian-Lower Mississippian Bakken petroleum system, including the Bakken, Lower Lodgepole, and Upper Three Forks formations, is a widespread unit within the central and deeper portions of the Williston Basin in Montana, North Dakota, and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The USGS estimated that the U.S. portion of the Bakken Formation contains between 3 and 4.3 billion barrels of undiscovered, recoverable oil, 1.85 Tcf of associated/dissolved natural gas and 148 million barrels of natural gas liquid; the Upper Three Forks Formation is estimated to contain 20 billion barrels of oil, with approximately 2 billion barrels of recoverable oil.

There are extensive horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing activities targeting these two formations. Those horizontal wells typically have 10,000 ft lateral sections in pay zones and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing with 24 to 36 stages. The extensive well paths bring numerous challenges, including precisely landing the curve, enhancing drilling rig operating conditions to obtain measuring while drilling (MWD) system optimal performance, and avoiding drilling into undesirable formations. Overlooking some or all of these conditions could lead to unnecessary high dogleg severity (DLS), poor rate of penetration (ROP), unnecessary trips and sidetracks to name a few. All these conditions could ultimately add additional time and cost to the drilling and completion program of the well and in the worst-case lower future production rates to the operator.

Several practical field techniques and technology applications are presented as solutions to help optimize ROP, reduce non-productive rig time and chances of sidetracks. Several field examples were analyzed. The techniques gained are valuable for developing optimal drilling practice procedures, and improving drilling operations and future well production.

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