In this paper, we address the theoretical possibility of drilling with mud weights in excess of the least principal stress for cases of particularly high pore pressure or severe wellbore instability. Because lost circulation caused by hydraulic fracturing is to be avoided, we consider three critical wellbore pressures, Pfrac, Plink, and Pgrow. Tensile fractures initiate at the wellbore wall at Pfrac, link up to form large axial fractures that are subparallel to the wellbore axis at Plink, and propagate away from the wellbore at Pgrow. It is obvious that lost circulation cannot occur if the wellbore pressure during drilling is below Pfrac. However, even if Pfrac is exceeded and tensile fractures are initiated at the wellbore wall, fracture propagation (and, hence, lost circulation) will be limited as long as the wellbore pressure is below Plink. Finally, if the wellbore pressure is greater than Plink, the fractures will not grow away from the wellbore (and significant lost circulation will not occur) if the wellbore pressure is below Pgrow, which must exceed (if only slightly) the least principal stress. In general, our modeling shows that Pfrac and Plink can be maximized by drilling the wellbore in an optimally stable orientation, and Pgrow can be maximized with noninvading drilling muds that prevent fluid pressure from reaching the fracture tip. We apply the model that uses in-situ stress data collected in real fields, such as the South Eugene Island field in the Gulf of Mexico and the Visund field in the northern North Sea.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Energy Engineering and Power Technology
- Mechanical Engineering