Investigation on the effects of ultra-high pressure and temperature on the rheological properties of oil-based drilling fluids
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Designing a fit-for-purpose drilling fluid for high-pressure, high-temperature (HP/HT) operations is one of the greatest technological challenges facing the oil and gas industry today. Typically, a drilling fluid is subjected to increasing temperature and pressure with depth. While higher temperature decreases the drilling fluid’s viscosity due to thermal expansion, increased pressure increases its viscosity by compression. Under these extreme conditions, well control issues become more complicated and can easily be masked by methane and hydrogen sulfide solubility in oil-base fluids frequently used in HP/HT operations. Also current logging tools are at best not reliable since the anticipated bottom-hole temperature is often well above their operating limit. The Literature shows limited experimental data on drilling fluid properties beyond 350°F and 20,000 psig. The practice of extrapolation of fluid properties at some moderate level to extreme-HP/HT (XHP/HT) conditions is obsolete and could result in significant inaccuracies in hydraulics models. This research is focused on developing a methodology for testing drilling fluids at XHP/HT conditions using an automated viscometer. This state-of-the-art viscometer is capable of accurately measuring drilling fluids properties up to 600°F and 40,000 psig. A series of factorial experiments were performed on typical XHP/HT oil-based drilling fluids to investigate their change in rheology at these extreme conditions (200 to 600°F and 15,000 to 40,000 psig). Detailed statistical analyses involving: analysis of variance, hypothesis testing, evaluation of residuals and multiple linear regression are implemented using data from the laboratory experiments. I have developed the FluidStats program as an effective statistical tool for characterizing drilling fluids at XHP/HT conditions using factorial experiments. Results from the experiments show that different drilling fluids disintegrate at different temperatures depending on their composition (i.e. weighting agent, additives, oil/water ratio etc). The combined pressure-temperature effect on viscosity is complex. At high thresholds, the temperature effect is observed to be more dominant while the pressure effect is more pronounced at low temperatures. This research is vital because statistics show that well control incident rates for non- HP/HT wells range between 4% to 5% whereas for HP/HT wells, it is as high as 100% to 200%. It is pertinent to note that over 50% of the world’s proven oil and gas reserves lie below 14,000 ft subsea according to the Minerals Management Service (MMS). Thus drilling in HP/HT environment is fast becoming a common place especially in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) where HP/HT resistant drilling fluids are increasingly being used to ensure safe and successful operations.
Ibeh, Chijioke Stanley (2007). Investigation on the effects of ultra-high pressure and temperature on the rheological properties of oil-based drilling fluids. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from