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A Task Force Approach to Reducing Stuck Pipe Costs

W.B. Bradley, * BP Research, and D. Jarman, R.S. Plott, * R.D. Wood, T.R. Schofield, *
R.A. Auflick, * and D. Cocking, BP Exploration
*SPE Members

Copyright 1991, SPElIADC Drilling Conference.

This paper was prepared for presentation at the 1991 SPEJIADC Drilling Conference held in Amsterdam, 11-14 March 1991.

This paper was selected for presentation by an SPElIADC Program Committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the
paper, as presented, have not been reviewed by the International Association of Drilling Contractors or the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s).
The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any position of the SPE or IADC, its officers, or members. Papers presented at SPEJIAOC meetings are SUbject to publication
, review by Editorial Committees of the SPE and IAOC. Permission to copy is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words. Iilustralions may not be copied. The abstract shouid
contain conspicuous acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper is presented. Write Publications Manager, SPE, P.O. Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836. Telex, 730989 SPEDAL.

A TASK FORCE APPROACH TO contribution to the total stuck pipe cost. For
REDUCING STUCK PIPE COSTS the North Sea wells, 29% of the total cost was due
SPE!IADC 21999 to differential sticking and 70% was attributed to
,mechanical sticking. Note that almost 50% of the
i costs were due to the hole becoming packed off.

AUTHORS In the Gulf Coast, Table 2, differential sticking

W.B. BRADLEY, D. JARMAN, R.S. PLOTT, R.D. WOOD, was the dominant cause accounting for 61% of the
,T.R. SCHOFIELD, R.A. AUFLICK AND D. COCKING total cost. Packing off was the other major
source of trouble accounting for-a third of the
total Gulf Coast stuck pipe costs.

ABSTRACT The distribution of stuck pipe incidents by the

type of operation underway when the pipe became
In 1989 BP formed a world wide task force to focus stuck was also analyzed. Tables 3 and 4 show
on lowering its stuck pipe costs. In its campaign these results, again for the North Sea and Gulf of
to reduce this cost, the task force gathered Mexico drilling. The results for both areas are
together key personnel from each of its three comparable. Becoming stuck while tripping
operating companies and its research centers. accounted for about 50% of all the stuck pipe
This paper reports on 'the methods used to produce incidents while another 40% occurred while the
a substantial reduction in its stuck pipe costs. pipe was stationary. Only about 10% of the
incidents of stuck pipe occurred while on bottom

Stuck pipe costs are a major drilling trouble cost TASK FORCE APPROACH
for us and for the industry. Historically BP's
stuck pipe costs have exceeded $30 million per Efforts to reduce stuck pipe are not new in BP.
year and various estimates indicate industry stuck Steady progress has been made in the past by
pipe costs exceed $250 million per year. Operations and by Research and Development
efforts. The purpose of the task force was to
Figure 1 shows our stuck pipe costs for the years bring extra focus to further accelerate the
1985 - 1988. These costs were compiled from the reduction of BP's stuck pipe costs. The goals of
records of over 700 wells drilled. Average stuck this effort were to:
pipe cost per well (total cost divided by total
wells) is shown in Figure 2. For this period the 1. Get the industry's expertise on the
average stuck pipe cost per well amounted to prevention and cure of stuck pipe both
$170,000 for each well drilled. known and consistently ~ by all our
drilling staff and by contractor staff;
From the above wells, 98 were selected for a
detailed analysis of each stuck pipe occurrence. 2. Accelerate the transfer of technology to
Tables 1 and 2 show the breakdown of stuck pipe by operations; and
type of sticking for North Sea and for Gulf of
Mexico Wells. Shown are both percent incidents of 3. Quickly implement our new findings and
occurrence of stuck pipe and the percent ideas into our normal operating


The task force was formed in early 1989 and 2. Run periodic stuck pipe competitions to
included key staff from each of our three regional challenge staff on their knowledge of
operating companies and from BP Research. Wide stuck pipe. A prize was awarded to each
participation by staff was encouraged. The number person who successfully completed the
of authors to this paper is indicative of the competition.
broad involvement and contribution to this effort.
Both the monthly cartoon messages and the
Early on the task force identified a number of competitions were provided to all rigs and offices
ideas that we wanted to concentrate on to quickly of contractors drilling for BP worldwide. The
reduce our stuck pipe costs. These included: same applied to all of our drilling offices. A
typical cartoon is shown in Figure 3. As a
1. We felt that improving stuck pipe central character to highlight what can go wrong a
prevention would produce greater cost species of gremlin known as a "Stuckpiper" was
reductions than improving methods to free invented and used in each of the cartoons, Figure
it once it has become stuck. 4.

2. If we were going to reduce stuck pipe, we Technology transfer:

would need to include the drilling
contractor of the service company. It An important early objective of the task force was
was clear that we couldn't do it alone. to produce practical guidelines on how to avoid
stuck pipe. By drawing on the expertise within BP
3. The day to day prevention of stuck pipe and the industry we developed a compact 32 page
is largely in the hands of the rig handbook outlining the principal mechanisms of
operations team. And, the driller is a getting stuck and guidelines on how to avoid them.
i l l member of that team; and This BP publication has been distributed to over
1300 BP and contractor staff to date. The
4. Each member of the rig team has an guidelines have been translated into Spanish and
important contribution to make in into French to ensure the widest possible
controlling and solving stuck pipe dissemination of this information to the rig teams
problems. Therefore, we needed to worldwide.
encourage active communication within the
rig team. A second objective of the task force was to
develop and present a two and half day course on
With the above thoughts in mind the task force the guidelines aimed at the whole rig team. Each
developed and implemented a program of action that . class was designed to include a representative
included four main thrusts; team including a BP rig representative, a BP
drilling engineer, a tool pusher, a driller, a mud
1. A detailed analysis of past stuck pipe engineer and a mud logger. Besides presenting the
incidents; material in the guidelines, the course was
constructed to emphasise the need for close
2. The development of a stuck pipe awareness cooperation and good communication within the rig
campaign; team to successfully combat stuck pipe. This was
accomplished by presenting the course as a series
3. Improvement in the transfer of our stuck of practical drilling problems that the team
pipe technology to the rig operations members solved together. This illustrated the
team; and expertise each member could bring to the
successful solution of the problems. The course
4. The development of improved methods to has been presented both in English & in Spanish.
warn the driller of impending stuck pipe.
Stuck pipe warning:
Problem analysis:
From the analysis of past stuck pipe incidents it
The analysis included a review of overall stuck was clear that improved detection and warning of
pipe costs to determine if any major trends were developing stuck pipe problems would be of major
evident and a detailed study of 98 wells to help to the rig team in preventing many serious
understand what the principal causes of our stuck stuck pipe problems. As a result an Rand D
pipe were. This allowed us to focus our resources project was started to review existing industry
on the main targets of opportunity. Some of the warning capabilities. Out of this effort two
results of this analysis were presented in the industry Drilling Engineering Association projects
previous section. were sponsored to develop a better understanding
of stuck pipe in the Gulf of Mexico and in the
Awareness program: North Sea. Efforts are ongoing.

In order to effectively communicate the stuck pipe RESULTS AND LIl:SSONS LICARNED
message to our drilling staff and contractor and
service company staff worldwide, the task force The results to date of the task force efforts are
chose to: both gratifying and a little surprising. The
lowering of our stuck pipe costs occurred more
1. Create and distribute a monthly cartoon quickly and to a greater degree than we had
message; and anticipated. The results are due to the efforts


of our drilling staff, and contractor and service positive effect of top drives on controlling stuck
company staff worldwide, and are a real credit to pipe. We found that with a top drive the time to
their active interest and skill. free the drill string once it becomes stuck was
reduced over the time required with a kelly drive.
The results for 1989 and 1990 are shown in Figures The average cost of a stuck pipe incident with a
5 and 6. Note that both total stuck pipe costs top drive was one third the cost of an average
and average stuck pipe cost per well have been incident on a kelly equipped rig. We also found
significantly reduced. Promoting stuck pipe cost that the failure of back-off and severance charges
reduction to the field began in mid 1989 with the was unacceptably high. Failure of a majority of
distribution, of the Practical Guidelines for the charges to back-off or sever on the first try
Preventing Stuck Pipe to all drilling staff, was a common feature on the cases that were
contractor as well as BP. studied. This is an area that is in need of study
and would be a good candidate for an industry
Figures 5 and 6 show that by the end of 1989, supported project.
total, stuck pipe costs were down by 30% and
average stuck pipe costs per well were down by Awareness program:
50%. This resulted in a 1989 savings of
approximately $10 million. In 1990 with the task A strong emphasis on a communication program to
force program in full swing, costs continued to make people more aware of stuck pipe has, we feel,
drop. Based on extrapolating the first three been a key element in the success of this project.
quarter's results to full year costs, total stuck During 1990 we have been supplying monthly
pipe costs and average stuck pipe costs both cartoons to rigs worldwide (on average about 35)
showed a drop of over 70% from the averaged 1985- and to BP and contractor offices. Messages that
1988 results. have been communicated by the monthly cartoons
have included:
These results are all the more important when you
consider that they came on top of already good 1. Stuck pipe is an important and ongoing
drilling performance. The 1985-1988 stuck pipe problem;
costs represent only 3-5% of our total drilling
costs. Therefore, we are attacking the tail end 2. Despite the fact that we drill a lot of
of the problem and getting the last bit of hole, stuck pipe isn't inevitable;
improvement is always more difficult than
eliminating the first part of the problem. 3. Each person has a part to play in
controlling stuck pipe - each person ~
Problem analysis: make a difference; and

The detailed analysis of a sample of 98 stuck pipe 4. Drilling practice messages on hole
wells from our overall stuck pipe data base cleaning, tripping, overpull, bottom hole
revealed a number of things. One of the most assemblies etc.
important findings was the strong correlation
between the incidents of stuck pipe and the crew Feedback has been positive. In fact, one of our
shift change handover times. Figure 7 shows the contractor's staff in Papua New Guinea composed
results of plotting these 98 incidents of stuck and sent us an unsolicited poem which we later
i pipe as a function of when they occurred during used in one of our monthly cartoons.
the day. Figure 7 shows the results broken into
three groups of tOto 2 hours (2 hours before to So far we have completed two competitions to
2 hours after shift change), t 2 to 4 hours, and t challenge BP, contractor and service company staff
4 to 6 hours. With two shift changes per day on their knowledge of stuck pipe. The first
these three groupings cover the full 24 hour competition tested their knowledge on the material
period. that was contained in the Stuck Pipe Guidelines.
This competition produced 930 winners out of more
Note that in the two periods away from the than 1300 entries. The second competition was
handover times (2-4 and 4-6 hours) there were an designed to be more difficult but still produced a
average of 21 incidents per period, while the 0-2 large response of 1100 entries and 750 winners.
hour period had 56 stuck pipe incidents. If we It required a team solution to a practical
assume that 21 incidents represents the number of drilling situation which ended with the pipe
stuck pipe events that occurred without the effect becoming stuck. The problem was portrayed on a
of the handover process, then the impact of video tape and each team was asked a series of
handover in the t 0-2 hour period on stuck pipe questions on what happened and how would they have
amounts to an increase of 35 incidents or 36% of changed the operation to prevent the pipe from
the total stuck pipe incidents. That's an becoming stuck.
increase in stuck pipe frequency of over 2 1 /2
times during this critical period. We also We have recently begun to use the cartoons and
observed an increased number of stuck pipe events competitions to target specific areas and
occuring around the time of crew change out. We particularly difficult wells. We have also
believe that this strong correlation between stuck translated some of the monthly cartoons into other
pipe and the handover process offers a clear area languages to better target local crews.
of opportunity for improving our stuck pipe
performance. Technology transfer:

Several other findings from this analysis are also One of the results of the analysis that was done
worth noting. First, we were able to confirm the showed that, after the fact, it was clear in most


cases why we had become stuck. This strengthened - promoting a rig team approach to tackling
our view that we must get the existing knowledge the problem and by providing training on rig
on the control of stuck pipe both known and team stuck pipe problem solving; and
consistently used in our operations. Both the
guidelines and the rig operation stuck pipe - raising awareness of stuck pipe through a
awareness course were focused on meeting this coordinated worldwide communications program
need. for BP, contractor and service company staff.

We have held over 20 rig operations stuck pipe 4. The handover process during shift change was
awareneSs courses worldwide in Scotland, the Gulf responsible for 36% of all stuck pipe
of Mexico area, Alaska, Norway and Colombia. incidents.
Overall more than 200 people have attended these
courses. More than 75% have been contractor and 5. The use of top drives reduced the time
service company staff, who have attended the required to free the drill string on the
course as part of the team. Response by attendees average by one third when compared to kelly
to these courses has been good. Surveys taken at equipped rigs.
the completion of each course have singled out
that the team solution method of controlling stuck 6. The failure of back-off and severance charges
pipe was the most important message that the to perform was unacceptably high. This is an
attendees got and planned to take away and apply area that needs further work and would be a
on their rigs. good candidate for an industry sponsored
When the task force started with this effort we
The authors would like to thank Bp's drilling
thought that the principal gains would be made by
providing new technology to control stuck pipe. staff, and contractor and service company staff
What we have found is that most of the gains that for their contributions to this effort. We would
have been made to date have had more to do with also like to note Ian Pitkethly's contributions to
people. The attention that has been placed on the development & running of the awareness
program;Final~y~ we would like to thank BP for
unleashing each individual's expertise and the
emphasis on team participation in controlling allowing 'us to publish this paper.
stuck pipe has, in our opinion, been the main
reasons for the dramatic reduction in stuck pipe
costs that we have seen.

We are now applying these lessons learned to other

areas of drilling, such as well control and
safety, with the expectation of similar,
improvements. We have also been approached by a
number of other companies about sharing our
awareness program and our stuck pipe rig
operations course with them.

Finally, we believe that the stuck pipe probl$M

will not go away and stay away without constant
attention to it. As with safety, vigilance has to
be maintained to ensure that hard won, high
standards are not allowed to erode through
familiarity. And as new technology becomes
available, we will be able to drill more
aggressively and at the same time control stuck
pipe costs.


1. A task fOrce approach to stuck pipe has

produced more than a 70% reduction in our
worldwide stuck pipe costs in the last year
and a half.

2. We believe that these results have been

primarily due to focusing our attention on
improving people's performance rather than to
the introduction of new technology.

3. Key elements in this effort involved:

- recognizing the importance of the drilling

contractor, and service company staff role in
helping us control stuck pipe;

SPE 21999


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