Automating drilling fluid analysis

Clint Galliano and André Rand of Halliburton; and Steve Sparling and Pat Watson of Anadarko Petroleum discuss how automated, real-time measurement of fluid density and rheology can enhance drilling operations.

Offshore workers. Photos from Halliburton.

Managing drilling fluid properties at the rig site is a critical step to delivering every well successfully. Fluctuations in these properties are inevitable, and even minor deviations in the drilling fluid can have dramatic impacts on wellbore stability, hole cleaning, equivalent circulating density (ECD), and overall drilling performance. Hydraulic simulations are an essential part of planning the drilling program, and real-time data can offer greater opportunities to improve overall operations.

The ability to model fluid characteristics and drilling activity across a range of variables can help operators identify the best potential path to drill and complete a well safely and efficiently. Physics-based simulations are often seen as industry-leading tools, since no calibration is required. Cuttings transport, surge and swab, sweep designs, and ECD simulations are all heavily dependent on fluid properties and formation composition. Even the best physics-based simulations can benefit from improvements in fluid data points.

Operators depend on accurate drilling fluid data to determine appropriate action plans for the success of their drilling programs. The drilling fluids representative at the rig site has multiple responsibilities and may not have the opportunity or time to conduct repeated, consecutive tests on the fluid. Data can potentially be up to 24 hours old and may not accurately reflect current fluid conditions in the wellbore. Automating routine fluid property tests provides access to precise and dependable drilling fluid properties in real-time data points that are vital when crucial decisions are necessary.

Halliburton Baroid has developed a new solution to help automate the process of fluids data capture and analysis. The BaraLogix Density and Rheology Unit (DRU) is a single, modular device that allows real-time measurements of fluid density and rheology, combined with trending analysis that is autonomous and highly visible to the well construction team. The BaraLogix DRU can help reduce risk, increase efficiency, and communicate performance of drilling projects.

Automated density and rheology measurements

The BaraLogix DRU can provide functionality and features that have historically required multiple instruments and manual interactions. Engineered to compliment the onsite or remote fluid specialists, each BaraLogix DRU incorporates a densitometer and rheometer into a single device, to automatically measure density as frequently as every minute, and rheology as frequently as every 15 minutes. A patent-pending fluid delivery system with self-generating nitrogen purge capability was created to help ensure that fluid is supplied to the unit in a reliable and efficient manner. The unit is capable of 14 days of continuous autonomous operation prior to maintenance servicing. Data accuracy has been proven for 6-speed rheology within 1.5 dial readings of a FANN 35 rheometer, with rheology numbers reported in Herschel Bulkley parameters (n, k, tau0). Density accuracy is within 0.1 lb/gal of pressure-while-drilling (PWD) tools. The Halliburton InSite Anywhere software included in every BaraLogix application can provide additional convenience by allowing a central point of data access for all decision team members, and the constant stream of data can also be provided in multiple industry-standard formats.

The BaraLogix DRU was designed with a small footprint, and components are modular to allow quick and easy maintenance. Slide-out trays aid serviceability with efficient access to critical components. Configured for ATEX and IECEx Certification, the unit is skid-mounted and can be placed near the mud tanks.

The BaraLogix unit can be used in a variety of configurations. A single unit can allow real-time and remote monitoring of fluids data on a single project. Units can also be placed on multiple rigs, allowing monitoring of fluids data for multiple projects though a single InSite Anywhere information portal. For the most complex projects, data from multiple rigs can be filtered through Baroid applied fluids optimization (AFO) specialists who constantly monitor the data, help identify potential problems before they occur, and provide expert recommendations based on proven workflows to help improve operations.

Gulf of Mexico application

Anadarko Petroleum had experienced a stuck pipe during the salt exit stage of a deepwater well in the Gulf of Mexico. The drilling team was looking for new ways to mitigate risk and reduce non-productive time for a new well in the same field. Specific focus was placed on hole cleaning effectiveness and the ability to more efficiently manage fluid properties throughout the project, with the salt exit phase identified as high priority.

A Baroid unit.

The Baroid team deployed a two-part solution incorporating the BaraLogix DRU and AFO services. The complex nature of the well and previous stuck pipe required strict management of fluid properties to maintain target ECD levels and consistent hole cleaning. Constant visibility of fluids data across the drilling team was preferred to maintain proper oversight for the project, and the data stream from the BaraLogix units and real-time monitoring from the AFO team helped satisfy these requirements.

Two BaraLogix DRUs were installed on the rig. The first unit was installed near the mud pit, while the second was installed near the shakers so Anadarko could capture fluids data at both the suction and the return points while drilling throughout the salt exit stage of the project. The data was passed through Halliburton’s Insite Anywhere platform to provide real-time visibility to all members of the drilling team. The fluid engineers were able to monitor the constant stream of data from the DRU and used the readings to help minimize fluid dilution rates and improve fluid efficiency throughout the project.

Additionally, AFO engineers were able to fully leverage the real-time data from the BaraLogix DRUs and PWD tools throughout multiple stages of the well. The AFO team used Drilling Fluids Graphics Real-Time (DFG-RT) software to help monitor and predict downhole hydraulics behavior based on the real-time data. This capability allowed the AFO engineers to identify an unexpected delta between surface mud weight and downhole mud weight during an early stage of the well. The AFO team reported the delta, which was confirmed to be the result of pipe movement. Proactive identification of this issue helped avoid a potential formation influx scenario. During the salt stage, a spike in PWD, which could potentially lead to a pack off situation, was identified. Adjustments were made in accordance with documented workflows to avoid further issues. Anadarko was able to drill to total depth successfully with no NPT related to fluids management.

The integrated BaraLogix DRU and AFO solution helped Anadarko avoid a potential stuck pipe similar to what had been encountered on the previous well. By actively monitoring fluid density and rheology in real time, the fluid engineers were able to maintain proper fluid formulation while minimizing base oil additions in the salt exit interval. The reduced dilution helped Anadarko save approximately 143 bbl of base oil compared to the same interval in the previous well, for a net cost savings of approximately US$22,868. The AFO team was also able to predict maximum rate of penetration and trip speeds to help improve drilling efficiencies. The end result was an effective implementation of new technology and service integration to help Anadarko successfully drill through a challenging formation in a deepwater well. 

Clint Galliano is operations manager for digital solutions at Halliburton Baroid, handling automation and optimization services. Galliano’s background includes working offshore as a mud engineer in the Gulf of Mexico and technology development of automation and optimization services in the Gulf of Mexico, North Sea and Caspian Sea.

André E. Rand is a technical advisor at Halliburton Baroid, responsible for deepwater drilling operations and completions fluids in the Gulf of Mexico. Rand has 20 years’ experience in various positions including as a field professional in the Gulf of Mexico, Trinidad and Venezuela, as well as a technical professional and operations leader in the Gulf of Mexico.

Steve Sparling is a senior drilling engineer with Anadarko Petroleum.

Pat Watson is a drilling and completions operations manager with Anadarko Petroleum.

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