Analyses and Procedures for Kick Detection in Subsea Mudlift Drilling
- Jonggeun Choe (Seoul Natl. U.) | Jerome J. Schubert (Texas A&M University) | Hans C. Juvkam-Wold (Texas A&M University)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Drilling & Completion
- Publication Date
- December 2007
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 296 - 303
- 2007. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 5.6.4 Drillstem/Well Testing, 1.7.2 Managed Pressure Drilling, 4.1.9 Heavy Oil Upgrading, 1.11.2 Drilling Fluid Selection and Formulation (Chemistry, Properties), 4.3.4 Scale, 1.14 Casing and Cementing, 4.1.9 Tanks and storage systems, 4.2.4 Risers, 1.7.3 Dual Gradient Drilling, 1.11 Drilling Fluids and Materials, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 1.7.1 Underbalanced Drilling, 1.10.1 Drill string components and drilling tools (tubulars, jars, subs, stabilisers, reamers, etc), 1.10 Drilling Equipment, 1.7.5 Well Control, 2.1.7 Deepwater Completions Design, 1.6.1 Drilling Operation Management
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In deepwater drilling, a conventional large-diameter riser requires drilling vessels with large weight and space capacities, large mud volume to circulate through a riser, and many casing points because of narrow gaps between pore and fracture pressures. A large number of casing points also require a larger wellhead and a larger marine riser. These problems are inter-related and intensify as the water depth increases. Although there are some successes to set a new drilling record on water depth, it is impractical to extrapolate current technology with a marine riser to 10,000 ft water depth.
Subsea mudlift drilling (SMD) is a term used to describe an unconventional technique using a relatively small diameter pipe as a mud-return line from the seafloor instead of a large-diameter marine riser. The scheme also balances internal and external pressures at the seafloor by reducing the internal pressure to make a dual pressure gradient possible. It has potential advantages of cost and time savings and rig upgrades for deepwater applications.
Kick detection and well control will not be hurdles for field applications of SMD. If the circulation rate is less than the maximum free-fall rate, there will be a time delay in kick detection. In this case, the circulation rate may need to be increased or a drillstring valve that provides a positive surface-pump pressure should be used. In case of transient U-tubing or fill up, other operations should be avoided for easy kick detection and well control, unless there is an accurate prediction and monitoring tool available.
As proven petroleum reserves decline through continued production, the industry extends its search into ultra-deepwater and marginal areas that present significant economic risks and technical hurdles. With new technologies and hardware developed in the last few years, the industry has reached its record water depth of 10,011 ft for drilling (Discoverer). However, production is still limited to 6,500 ft water depth.
One of the basic and most challenging problems in deepwater operations is the use of a marine riser. A marine riser has been used to provide a connection between the drilling vessel and the wellhead. This serves as a guide for the drillpipe into the hole and as a mud return path to the vessel. It also supports choke and kill lines. Floating drilling operations in deep water presently involve the use of a 21-in. outer diameter (OD) marine riser.
As water depth increases, it is impractical to extrapolate current technologies with a marine riser to 10,000 ft water depth because of the problems listed in Table 1, which are also mentioned in several references (Gault 1996; Choe and Juvkam-Wold 1997a, 1997b; Peterman 1998; Choe and Juvkam-Wold 1998; Choe 1998; Schubert et al. 2003). These problems are interrelated and intensify as water depth increases. The high operational cost and narrow gap between fracture and pore pressures can prevent rig crews from reaching the target depth with the required hole size. These problems also make completion and production difficult in ultra-deepwater.
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