Drilling fluids are very complex and are essential for safe and efficient drilling operations. It is vital for the drilling operator to be able to select an appropriate fluid for each individual well, including the decision of using oil-based or water-based fluids or “muds” (OBM or WBM). In this article we present results from a comparative study of three OBM’s which are based on the same fluid system (Versatec). This work is part of a larger investigation where the main objective is to identify and evaluate the difference in the hole cleaning capabilities of OBM’s and WBM’s with similar viscosity as measured by the API/ISO standards.
This paper describes an experimental investigation of cuttings transport using flow loop laboratory tests without and with injected cuttings size particles using various industrial oil based fluids with varying density and viscosity. The flow loop includes a 10 meter long test section with 2″ OD free whirling rotating steel drillstring inside a 4″ ID wellbore made of concrete elements positioned inside a steel tubing. Sand particles were injected while circulating the drilling fluid through the test section. Experiments are conducted at atmospheric conditions, but are otherwise designed to represent downhole conditions as closely as possible with respect to fluid and particle properties, flow rates and geometry.
Fluids are tested at different flow rates with and without rotation of drill string, with and without sand injection. This has allowed us to study the effects of flow rate and drill string rotation on hole cleaning capabilities of different fluids. The primary results are pressure drop, steady state sand bed height in a horizontal annulus versus fluid and cuttings rates for rotating and non-rotating drill string and in particular the critical rates for fully suspended flow. The results are interpreted in light of results from laboratory characterization of the same fluids, conducted as part of the same project.
The results will increase understanding of the relationship between drilling fluid properties and hole cleaning performance. This will enable the development of improved drilling fluids, both operationally and environmentally. Such know-how will also be important in order to develop more accurate transport models.