The Horn River Basin is a natural shale gas play located in North Eastern British Columbia, Canada. However, these wells require advanced horizontal drilling techniques and extensive hydraulic fracturing to make them economically attractive. This paper details how a major operator, working in cooperation with a key drill bit supplier, has been able to make radical improvements in drilling performance in this area, leading to significant cost reductions.

A typical well consists of a main hole interval that has a vertical section, build section (taking the bore from vertical to horizontal), and a final horizontal leg. When the operator started this project in 2008, the objective was to drill this entire main hole in just three bit runs; one for each directional leg described prior. In actuality, twelve to fourteen bits were utilized, averaging over forty days from drill-out to section TD. This made the economic viability of further development questionable.

The team approach of operator and bit supplier enabled bit design modifications and improvements to be implemented in a controlled, continuous, and closely monitored program. A key component of this was the development of a unique flexible bit design developed specifically for directional applications in coordination with a leading supplier of motors. These bits contain novel features that allow rapid design modifications to be performed locally, significantly reducing response time, and allowing the program to proceed at a much faster pace than previously possible. Prior to any alterations, a full analysis of the drilling data of the previous iteration was undertaken. Any proposed changes were then discussed in detail with the drilling operations team, prior to implementation.

By July 2009, this systematic cooperative approach enabled the operator to achieve the initial objective of drilling the interval in 3 bit runs, but also their subsequent objective of drilling the interval in just two bit runs. Days to drill this section were drastically reduced from over forty to less than twelve days. The savings produced by this huge improvement in drilling performance has greatly assisted the economic viability of continued Horn River Basin development.

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