Wellbore stability analysis has been included at the well planning stage of many operating companies for its beneficial effect on improvement of drilling efficiency and cost. Such analysis can be very complex and time-consuming due to numerous factors contributing to borehole instability. As such, many wellbore stability analyses take only a few of the factors into account and are mainly based on continuum mechanics. In addition to the detrimental effect of bedding planes and fractures on borehole stability, the rock masses will become more prone to wellbore instability along fractures penetrated by mud due to reduction in the fracture friction angle. However, very few wellbore stability analyses consider the impact of friction angle reduction of fractures when they are infiltrated with mud. Analyses without considering these factors may yield significant errors and misleading predictions.

In this paper, coupled numerical analyses, using UDEC, are presented to investigate the impact of mud infiltration into fractures on wellbore stability under both isotropic and anisotropic stress states. A symmetric regular fracture geometry is considered in the analyses. A simplified, but reasonably realistic, approach is developed to take into account the friction angle reduction of the fractures that occurs when infiltrated with mud. This approach evaluates the extent of mud infiltration and reduces the friction angle of fractures located in the mud-infiltrated region accordingly. The domain of mud infiltration can be either circular or elliptical around the wellbore, which covers both isotropic and general stress conditions.

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