Advances in PDC Cutter Bits Improve Drilling in Hard, Abrasive Formations
- Albert Gonzales (Devon Energy) | Terrell Clark (Devon Energy) | Charles Douglas (Smith Bits, a Schlumberger company) | Gary Elsik (Smith Bits, a Schlumberger company) | Levi Mueller (Smith Bits, a Schlumberger company) | Jiaqing Yu (Smith Bits, a Schlumberger company) | Jibin Shi (Smith Bits, a Schlumberger company) | Youhe Zhang (Smith Bits, a Schlumberger company)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- November 2011
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 26 - 27
- 2011. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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About 70% of the footage drilled worldwide is performed with polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) bits. This percentage is projected to increase with the continued pursuit of hydrocarbons and geothermal energy in more challenging environments.
In these more demanding applications, conventional PDC cutting elements have often failed because of formation abrasiveness, impact damage, and thermal fatigue. To improve PDC bit drilling, a tougher, more abrasion-resistant cutter technology is required.
An extensive research and manufacturing effort was launched to develop new technology that would enable a cutter to withstand harder, more abrasive formations. Attention focused on manufacturing processes involving diamond sintering and advanced materials development. The initiative resulted in the development of the Onyx II premium PDC cutter, which has significantly improved abrasion resistance and thermal stability. The cutter has been run in the Travis Peak and Cotton Valley formations in east Texas for Devon Energy since 2010 and has generated improved rate of penetration (ROP) results while significantly reducing cost.
The new cutter represents an evolution of technology, having been introduced two years after the debut of the first generation of the high-performance shearing element. Development of the first-generation cutter was enabled by the use of a proprietary, two-step high-pressure/high-temperature (HP/HT) manufacturing method that allowed PDC bits to drill more footage at higher ROP. With bits fitted with these cutters, intervals that normally required multiple PDC bits to reach total depth could be drilled in a single run in some cases.
Engineering a New CutterTo advance the technology to the next level, a key objective was to develop a tightly packed, high-density diamond structure that would enable the cutter to achieve better wear resistance and improved thermal stability. Experiments with several diamond grit combinations were made. The mixture of base diamond material with different size distributions was evaluated to achieve the best theoretical packing density. The mixture was then sintered using an extreme HP/HT process. The process produced additional diamond/diamond bridging and networking, compared with the existing cutter manufacturing process. Tests have confirmed that the extreme HP/HT process produces a cutter with improved thermal wear resistance capable of retaining a sharp cutting edge for a longer period than previous cutters.
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