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High-Performance Water-Based Drilling

Fluids Offshore Cameroon

H istorically, invert-emulsion
drilling fluids are the preferred
system for drilling offshore
KB Field
Cameroon. However, with a regulatory
environment moving toward zero
discharge, associated costs are rising.
Therefore, an operator planning to
drill in this environment investigated
high-performance water-based-mud
(HPWBM) -system alternatives.
HPWBM systems offer the potential
advantage of offshore discharge of KF Field
drilled cuttings and effluents (owing
BaF Field
to the absence of oil contamination)
and lowered waste-management costs.
Experience in the field demonstrated
that the selected drilling fluid
met expectations by achieving the
required drilling performance and
high shale stabilization with zero
environmental impact. Ebome


Drilling with an overbalanced pressure Fig. 1—A location map of the BaF field in the Douala basin offshore Cameroon.
is a common operational technique used
to prevent formation fluids or gas from
entering the wellbore, thereby minimiz- The HPWBM system is formulated mized bit balling and accretion, torque
ing the risk of well kick and blowout. with a concept of total inhibition. Unlike and drag reduction, and environment-
However, overbalanced drilling can cause a conventional water-based-mud system, al compliance.
drilling fluid to invade the formation, designed chemical additives are used A complementary benefit of its
resulting in formation damage, differ- ­explicitly in the formulation to achieve aqueous base is that HPWBM cap-
ential sticking, and sloughing if the for- desired drilling characteristics that tures the growing need for more-­
mation consists of highly reactive clay are similar to those of invert-­emulsion environmentally-friendly drilling fluids.
and shale. To avoid these consequences, mud. The key features of HPWBM sys- During the past 10 years, more-­stringent
invert-emulsion drilling fluids have al- tems include high shale stability, regulations on drilling-waste dispos-
ways been preferable for drilling highly clay and cuttings inhibition, rate-of-­ al have been implemented worldwide.
reactive clays and shale formations. penetration (ROP) enhancement, mini- The industry anticipates that the zero
discharge of oil-­contaminated drilling
This article, written by JPT Technology Editor Chris Carpenter, contains highlights wastes will soon be the global standard.
By switching from invert-emulsion drill-
of paper SPE 163502, “High-Performance Water-Based Drilling Fluids: An
ing fluids (oil-/­
synthetic-based mud)
Environmentally Friendly Fluid System Achieving Superior Shale Stabilization
to an HPWBM system, operators can
While Meeting Discharge Requirement Offshore Cameroon,” by Anuradee achieve substantial cost savings on waste
Witthayapanyanon, SPE, Baker Hughes; Jerome Leleux, SPE, Julien Vuillemet, management and logistics. These sav-
Ronan Morvan, and Andre Pomian, Perenco; and Alain Denax and Ronald ings result from the use of on-site, off-
Bland, SPE, Baker Hughes, prepared for the 2013 SPE/IADC Drilling Conference and shore discharge allowed by an absence of
Exhibition, Amsterdam, 5–7 March. The paper has not been peer reviewed. oil contamination.

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at www.spe.org/jpt.

120 JPT • FEBRUARY 2014

NT163502.indd 120 1/16/14 8:05 AM

Field Background tivity of the shale membrane increas-
Fig. 1 displays the location of the BaF es with decreasing shale permeability.
field in the Douala basin offshore Cam- Therefore, the design of the HPWBM
eroon. The operator has been drilling formulation is aimed to form in-situ,
a number of wells in these fields, most effective sealing under downhole con-
of which were development wells. Ac- ditions, improving the efficiency of
cording to the operator’s drilling cam- the semipermeable membrane. In this
paign, three offset wells were drilled work, the HPWBM components con-
with ­synthetic-based muds (SBMs) and tributing to shale stability were sealing
five wells were drilled with HPWBMs in polymer, aluminum complex, and NaCl
the BaF field. Our reference offset well brine. Because of its extremely small
(Offset Well  3) was the last SBM well, particle size, a nanosized polymer seal-
drilled in late 2005. ant provides a mechanical plug for shale
pore throats and shale microfractures,
Operator’s Selection while the aluminum complex chemically
Criteria for HPWBM precipitates inside the pore throats and
On the basis of the historical data of shale matrix because of the change in Fig. 2—Electric-logging image with
the offset well, approximately 1933 t pH or the interaction with multivalent six-arm caliper of the (left) 12¼-in.-
of oil-contaminated drill cuttings and cations in the formation. A coprecipita- and (right) 8½-in.-hole sections of the
37,834  bbl of waste water were gener- tion of polymer sealant and aluminum HPWBM Well 6.
ated from drilling with SBM. With past complex forms a good membrane seal-
SBM practice, the operator obtained en- ing that imposes a water flow from the in membrane efficiency and osmotic
vironmental permits that allowed the wellbore to the formation side. In ad- pressure differential of the HPWBM led
discharge of untreated s­ynthetic-based dition, the HPWBM formulation used to a significant reduction in the pore-­
wastes from the platforms direct- the NaCl brine to lower water activity of pressure transmission.
ly into the ocean. However, there is a mud and increase the osmostic gradi- One of the technical challenges in-
strong anticipation that the Camer- ent, causing the fluid to flow from inside volving water-based muds is control of
PressureAd_JPT9_12_Layout 1 8/7/12 8:27 AM Page 1
oonian government will begin plac- the pore to the wellbore. An increase the hydration of reactive clays. Clays
ing stronger restrictions on ocean dis-
charges of SBM and oil-contaminated
cuttings. If the regulatory agency leans
toward a ­zero-discharge limit, the oper-
ator will be liable for the transfer of oil-­
contaminated drill cuttings to land for
any further treatment.
The secondary consideration was
that the operator had already used
the HPWBM system for shale inhibi-
tion onshore in the Peruvian jungle and
in Colombia, Cameroon, and Gabon.
The system showed success in achiev-
ing high shale inhibition, preventing
clay and cuttings hydration, and reduc-
ing bit balling. The operation was suc-
cessful, without any hole-related prob-
lems. Therefore, when the operator
planned to drill the next offshore devel-
opment well in BaF field, they selected
the HPWBM with a saturated NaCl sys-
tem as an alternative to traditional SBM.
This transition has been taking place
since 2011.

HPWBM Design
The shale formation is known to act as
a semipermeable (selective) membrane
because the clay-rich matrix hinders the
movement of some solutes. The selec-

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consist of negatively charged alumino- with no back reaming. Electric logging
silicate layers kept together by cations. with a six-arm caliper (Fig. 2) shows
Clay hydration begins with a surface hy- no washout, with an average of 12¼‑in.
dration (a bonding between water mol- mean internal diameter. Both casing and
ecules and oxygen on clay surface) and cementing operations were complet-
ionic hydration (the hydration of inter- ed without any issues. Similar findings
layer cations with surrounding shells were also observed in the 8½-in. section
of water molecules). The ability to ad- drilled with 1.25- to 1.30-SG HPWBM.
sorb water between the layers results in The section daily mud report of Well
strong repulsive forces and interlayer 7 indicated that the cuttings appeared to
expansion (swelling). Severe clay hy- be very dry and remained integrated.
dration and dispersion in water-based This finding suggests superior clay- and
mud can lead to poor fluid rheological cuttings-inhibition performance of the
properties. In the HPWBM formulation, HPWBM. Additionally, the report indi-
an environmentally acceptable water- cated that a good hole condition exist-
soluble clay-hydration suppressant was ed when performed back to bottom. As
used in conjunction with monovalent noted in the report, the hole was circu-
salt (in this case NaCl) to reduce the lated clean and was confirmed stable by
swelling and dispersion of highly reac- the flow check before tripping out with-
tive clays by a cation-exchange mech- out any noticeable drag.
anism. A similar chemical inhibition At the end of Well 7, the 63 m3
approach can also be applied to drill- of a 1.24-SG HPWBM was transfered
cuttings inhibition. for reuse to drill the next well (Well 8).
In that well, recycled mud was recon-
Drilling Performance ditioned with additives, mainly to in-
Evaluation: Offset vs. crease mud weight to 1.40 SG, and
HPWBM Test Wells then combined with the freshly formed
Offset-Well Review. Well 3 is a J-type HPWBM in the active pit. The results
directional well. There were two sec- show that the HPWBM still maintains
tions (12¼-in. and 8½-in.) drilled with desirable rheological properties. The
SBM. The 12¼-in. section drilled with ability to reuse or recycle the HPWBM
1.25-specific gravity (SG) SBM was the system provides an added benefit of
directional drilling, with a final incli- reducing drilling-mud cost for the op-
nation of 68° and an average ROP of erator. The operator was able to de-
17.5 m/h. The following section (8½-in.) crease the total operational cost by a
was drilled with 1.16-SG SBM, with an range of 13 to 30% from the planned
average ROP of 11 m/hr and a final in- budget by use of the HPWBM system.
clination of 90°; then, the 7-in. slotted Furthermore, because the HPWBM is
liner was run to total depth with a gas an environmentally compliant fluid, the
lift completion. The well’s true vertical spent mud and drill cuttings can be dis-
depth was 700 m. charged directly and do not require fur-
ther drilling-waste treatment.
Test Wells: HPWBM Achievements.
The operator performed a 1-year cam- Conclusions
paign to evaluate the HPWBM system After the 1-year campaign, well recaps
for offshore drilling from March 2011 indicated that the HPWBM proved to
to March 2012. Five wells were drilled be an excellent alternative to the invert-­
with the HPWBM system in the BaF emulsion mud for the BaF field. The
field. Here, the performance of HPWBM ­system delivered high drilling perfor-
in the last three wells (6, 7, and 8) is mance and optimum characteristics
evaluated. In these three test wells, the such as shale stability and clay and cut-
HPWBM system was employed in the tings inhibition as well as a high ROP.
12¼-in.- and 8½-in.-hole sections. The operator experienced no wellbore
In Well 6, operator review indicat- problems. From an environmental per-
ed that the 12¼-in.-hole section drilled spective, because of the absence of oil
with the 1.35- to 1.4-SG HPWBM pro- contamination, the system eliminated
vides a good ROP of 14.6 m/h. The sec- the rig costs associating with drilling-
tion total depth was achieved in 2 days waste management. JPT


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