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The American University in Cairo

School of Sciences and Engineering

Assignment (3)

A Report about Deepwater Drilling: Definition, Limitations, and


Name ID

Hassan Abdel Rahman Amer 900141840

PENG 4125/01

Professor Gehad Mohamed

T.A. Peter Morcos & Mosab Shawki

14 December 2017

1. Deepwater Drilling.

1.1. Introduction (Definitions and Objectives).

Drilling in deepwater, particularly when the metocean environment is harsh, is a high cost,

high risk activity compared to drilling a conventional well. The increase in both technical and

financial risk means that more careful, lengthy and detailed planning is required for most stages of

the process. The location, weather, water depth, and resulting equipment requirements, rig

capability, and operating procedures make detailed well planning complex and crucial. The

shortage of capable rigs (limited world wide availability) and equipment for such a demanding

operation further extend the planning lead times and risk of large cost overruns. Experienced

contractors are vital.

With high rig rates, complex (technically high risk) environment and a high risk of wait on

weather in harsh environments, smooth operations using swift and simple procedures to reach total

depth are the key to success. A minimal number of trips, and a simple casing design, must of course

be balanced against managing the hazards detailed in this document. Effective characterization of

the metocean environment for rig operability and engineering design assessment will be necessary

in harsh environments- this will require on-location current profile measurements.

1.2. Locations of the major deepwater drilling activities.

The key locations of major deepwater drilling activity are as follows:

Atlantic Margin (UK, Ireland, Faeroes) & Norway

Gulf of Mexico



West Africa

Other locations include South East Asia, Australia, Caribbean and the Caspian.

2.1. Drilling Operation.

With the AFE in hand and the rig contract signed, the time to spud the well (begin drilling)

arrives. If the rig contract calls for a semi-submersible, a large anchor-handling boat tows it to the

location and assists with the mooring. Satellite-fed signals assist in the initial positioning of the

semi and in the continuous monitoring during drilling operations. After all, as any deepwater driller

will boast with the least bit of encouragement, drilling a well in 5,000 feet of water is comparable

to standing on top of the Sears Tower trying to stick a long straw into a bottle of Coke sitting on

South Wacker Drive. Success in one case delivers the refreshing joy of a cola and, in the other,

whatever hydrocarbon riches a reservoir can deliver.Deepwater if the rig contract calls for a

drillship, it moves to the drill site under its own power and locates itself via dynamic positioning

by using its external thrusters on the fore, aft, and sides, and the aid of continuous satellite

Many semi-submersibles also have dynamic positioning. Others need to be moored on

site; some carry their own mooring rigging with them, and anchor-handling boats assist in setting

anchors around the drill site to hold the rig in place. As semis grew in size to handle deeper waters,

the kit required to moor them increased to mammoth proportions, demanding more deck space and

flotation. In a forehead-slapping insight, rig companies began hiring separate work boats to haul

the mooring apparatus ahead of time to the drill site and set the anchors. When the semi arrived,

hook-up took on 8 hours, not days, and anchor boat day rates substituted for semi-submersible

rates, saving about 80% of the mooring cost.

The crewmembers that operate the drilling rig or drillship are employees of the drilling

company that provides the rig. Onboard also are other employees of other service companies that

run testing, drilling mud operations, or other special functions. The representation from the E&P

company, ironically referred to as the operator, usually consists of one or two drilling foremen.

The operator’s representatives have the final word on how the well is drilled, but the drilling and

service companies are expected to run a

safe and efficient operation. Thef

petrophysical engineer, or another

professional who plays that role, takes

the lead in the well evaluation, both as

the drilling proceeds and after the target

depth is reached. In the drilling

Figure 1: a deepwater drillship.
program, the petrophysical engineer

orders intermittent or continuous electric logs and mud logs. The Measure While Drilling (MWD)

tool assesses the lithology and determines the presence of hydrocarbons as the drill bit penetrates.

2.2. Drilling Mud and Dual Gradient Mud (DGM).

Pressure control sits at the top of the list of worries for the drilling engineer. As the drill

bit goes deeper, it encounters increasing pressure in the formation, due to the weight of the various

rock layers and the column of water above it. Pressures increase more or less predictably in many

areas, but in the deepwater, abnormal geopressures are often encountered. As the well is drilled,

drilling mud is circulated down the drill pipe and up the borehole annulus, the space between the

drill pipe and the walls of the well.

The weight of the mud is tuned to the pressures at the bottom of the hole. Three things can

happen as the weight of the mud is varied. If the mud is not heavy enough to contain the pressures

encountered, the well bore may cave in, or worse, the oil and gas may come uncontrollably

spewing up the well bore, forcing the drillers to close the blowout preventer. If the mud is too

heavy, it may overwhelm the strength of the rock, fracture the sides of the well, and leak off into

the formation. If the mud is just right, the well bore maintains its integrity, and any hydrocarbons

encountered are kept in the formation until the well can be evaluated and comp.

3. Deepwater Drilling Environmental Challenges.

To fully understand the deepwater drilling problems and to be able to suggest good

solutions to these problems, it is necessary to shed some light on what happens in the deepwater

environment (the environmental conditions). In this work, this is discussed under the following


A) Currents

Contrasts in water density may arise due to temperature, salinity and turbidity. The result

is a steep boundary interface, separating two distinct water masses. As a result, the light surface

water spreads over the dense deepwater inducing complex flow patterns (currents). Deepwater is

characterized by low speed as compared to surface water due to low temperature, high density and

less exposure to ocean wind at ocean depths. Its masses move continually and slowly, in response

to density gradients that result from differences in salinity and temperature of the water. Dense

water sinks and displaces less dense water.

Figure 2: Current directions in deepwater,

B) Temperature

Both vertical profiles and longitudinal cross sections of water temperature reveal that the

oceans have a layered thermal structure. Warm, tropical and subtropical surface water, several

hundred meters in depth, float over colder, denser water. These two water masses are separated by

a band of water, the thermocline, which has a steep temperature gradient. Unlike the surface water,

where temperature changes with seasons, water below the permanent thermocline remains

remarkably uniform to a particular depth and stable in temperature over time, averaging < 4 o C.

The temperature of the ocean water decreases as water depth increases. There are two major

considerations regarding the behavior of the ocean water in relation to temperature interactions:

(a) Salt Content and temperature effect: Exposure of the big ocean seawater (saltwater) to

fresh water could alter its salt content.

(b) Pressure and temperature

C) Other Considerations.

Deepwater is usually saltier than surface water with increasing salinity with depth, which

decreases the freezing point of water. Although deepwater is known for relatively colder

temperatures, sometimes, extremely

cold surface temperatures in winter time

could make the surface water colder than

that of the deepwater and this would

make the surface water to sink and

displace the warmer deepwater.

Figure 3: Deepwater inetraction with water.