An Improved Method for Computing Directional Surveys
- G.J. Wilson (Continental Oil Co.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- August 1968
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 871 - 876
- 1968. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 4.3.4 Scale, 5.1.2 Faults and Fracture Characterisation, 1.1 Well Planning, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 1.6.6 Directional Drilling
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Difficulties experienced in correlating vertical and lateral locations of subsurface features that are encountered in directional wells prompted critical review of the tangential method of computing directional surveys. Inherent discrepancies were indicated to cause small incremental but significantly large cumulative errors in computed vertical depth and horizontal departure. A radius of curvature method, developed for planning and analyzing directional wells, was studied as a means of more accurately calculating survey data. Errors incurred in the tangential method were not present in the radius of curvature method. Conflicting assumptions in calculating dog-leg severity by the tangential method were resolved by a new procedure that was derived from the radius of curvature method. Results of the investigation showed the radius of curvature method to be an improved method for computing directional surveys.
Many improvements in directional drilling tools and techniques have been made in the past 10 years, but the method of computing survey data has remained virtually unchanged. While use of computers greatly aids the process of calculation' and eliminates many human errors, manual and computer calculations are still made with the assumption that the wellbore consists of straight-line segments. This paper points out discrepancies in the method and presents an improved method in which the wellbore is assumed to be curved.
The method presently used to calculate vertical depth, horizontal departure and direction coordinates with measured values of well depth, inclination angle and direction angle is termed the tangential method. This term stems from performing calculations with a series of straight-line segments, with each segment assumed to be tangent to the wellbore at a corresponding survey point. A segment is defined by inclination and direction angles measured at only the lower or deeper end. Consequently, a discrepancy or error is introduced for each segment. Errors are not of extreme magnitude, but cumulatively are significant due to the need to define as accurately as possible the vertical and lateral location of subsurface features such as pay tops, fluid contacts and fault cuts encountered in expensive directional wellbores.
In Fig. 1, the curved-line segment ab represents a portion of the actual borehole as viewed in the vertical plane. Points a and b are survey stations and O, is the inclination angle at point b. The curved-line segment ab is assumed to be the straight-line segment a'b of a length equal to ab and tangent at point b to the curved-line segment. Lengths a'c' and c'b are equal to ab cos phi and a'b sin phi, respectively. Point a already has been fixed by calculations performed with survey data obtained at point a, and calculated lengths a'c' and c'b are projected as lengths ac" and c"b' from point a, rather than from point a'. Point b' is thus fixed and assumed to represent the actual point b. Calculated length ac" is shorter than actual length ac, and calculated length c"b' is longer than actual length cb. Since b' is the point from which the next deeper segment will be projected, errors are cumulative.
Cumulative error continues to increase as long as the inclination angle continues to increase. When the inclination angle decreases (Fig. 2), calculated length ac" is longer than actual length ac, and calculated length c"b' is shorter than actual length cb.
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