Kick circulation analysis for extended reach and horizontal wells



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Texas A&M University


Well control is of the utmost importance during drilling operations. Numerous well control incidents occur on land and offshore rigs. The consequences of a loss in well control can be devastating. Hydrocarbon reservoirs and facilities may be damaged, costing millions of dollars. Substantial damage to the environment may also result. The greatest risk, however, is the threat to human life. As technology advances, wells are drilled to greater distances with more complex geometries. This includes multilateral and extended-reach horizontal wells. In wells with inclinations greater than horizontal or horizontal wells with washouts, buoyancy forces may trap kick gas in the wellbore. The trapped gas creates a greater degree of uncertainty regarding well control procedures, which if not handled correctly can result in a greater kick influx or loss of well control. For this study, a three-phase multiphase flow simulator was used to evaluate the interaction between a gas kick and circulating fluid. An extensive simulation study covering a wide range of variables led to the development of a best-practice kick circulation procedure for multilateral and extended-reach horizontal wells. The simulation runs showed that for inclinations greater than horizontal, removing the gas influx from the wellbore became increasingly difficult and impractical for some geometries. The higher the inclination, the more pronounced this effect. The study also showed the effect of annular area on influx removal. As annular area increased, higher circulation rates are needed to obtain the needed annular velocity for efficient kick removal. For water as a circulating fluid, an annular velocity of 3.4 ft/sec is recommended. Fluids with higher effective viscosities provided more efficient kick displacement. For a given geometry, a viscous fluid could remove a gas influx at a lower rate than water. Increased fluid density slightly increases kick removal, but higher effective viscosity was the overriding parameter. Bubble, slug, and stratified flow are all present in the kick-removal process. Bubble and slug flow proved to be the most efficient at displacing the kick.