This green technology saves operators money and resolves issues.
by Mark Holland, ProOne, Inc.
January 26, 2015

Operators can appreciate how new technology has dramatically reduced the odds of drilling dry holes. However, with the actual costs of drilling each well remaining fairly constant on an inflation-adjusted basis, a new technology that significantly saves time and money greatly affects operators. One downhole drilling fluid treatment is changing the industry’s approach to lubricants from more than a functional mud additive to a solution for major drilling challenges.

Key Features

The drilling mud additive has two key features:

  • 50 times conventional lubricant film strength
  • Considerable reduction of heat and friction

The fluid has a positively charged molecular structure that delivers extra film strength by reversing the molecular structure polarization of base lubricants. In turn, the positively charged technology reduces the static electromagnetic field (SEMF), which then reduces electrolysis. The result, with slurry mixed at 3 to 5 percent solution rate of concentrate, is that the rheology is surrounded with lubrication. That mixture provides exceptional performance. For example, the additive can increase film strength of existing drilling mud by more than 200,000 psi and reduce its friction coefficient by as much as 94 percent. The treatment has proven effective in temperatures up to 340 C, which allows drilling in extreme conditions. This technology—even when temperatures are moderate—prevents more than 30 percent of heat build-up at the source, drilling bit contact and drill string contacting the casing walls.

Proven Benefits

Extreme pressure is another critical challenge that operators face. Lubrication is most vital in harsh, high-pressure and high-temperature conditions. However, extreme heat and pressure cause most conventional lubricants to break down and migrate away from the friction. As a result, operators experience losses because of downtime and associated costs. This positive ionic-charged technology reacts with key components of the downhole drilling operation—drill bit, drill string, mud motor, mud pump and casing—to reduce friction up to 70 percent. The additive reduces drilling torque and drag by 20 to 50 percent. Also, a surface layer that results from bonding the lubricant to metal prevents the penetration of unwanted material including hardened layers, salts and water. During lubrication, protection is provided to non-ferrous materials covering critical moving parts of the downhole drilling equipment by minimizing acidic oxidation setting up. When assessing the value added by a product, decision makers consider how capabilities translate into cost savings. For example, a single trip out costs up to $90,000 per day. The additive increases drilling performance overall, allowing both the drilling of deeper wells and better horizontal drilling options. Needing fewer mud motors also results in savings for operators. A 15,000 foot well may require as many as four mud motors. The factors that affect this number most are heat, vibration and chemical degradation of the motors’ seals. Reducing those negative factors will result in fewer motor failures and, therefore, fewer motors are required. This decrease will generate thousands in savings from fewer trips and drill string repairs. Drill bits are also a large cost for operators. Often, companies pay $75,000 to $120,000 for each bit. Any product that can reduce friction and wear on a drill bit’s rotating part will save several bits per well. Reducing friction throughout the downhole drilling system combines with reduced torque to deliver substantial increases in rate of penetration (ROP). Operators using the downhole drilling additive have reported increases of up to 50 percent in the curve. Since the top drive rotates drill pipe and controls ROP, friction reduction downhole will lessen stress on top load equipment.

This fluid additive reduces friction throughout the downhole drilling system to deliver substantial increases in ROP.

Drilling Challenges Solved

Operators look for technology that will improve daily operations and solve specific problems that seem daunting or unsolvable. In addition to the issues discussed above, drilling companies have used this additive to address other challenges that include:

  • Stuck pipe
  • Spiraled holes
  • Long horizontals
  • Chopped holes
  • Deviated wells
  • Doglegs

This additive also allows rig personnel to slide liner faster, reduce hook load, set casing faster, maintain weight on bit (WOB) and drill straighter verticals without corkscrew.

Case Study

An operator in Texas said it could not have completed a specific well without this technology and cited figures accordingly. In direct results, torque was reduced from 15,500 foot pounds (ft/lbs) to 9,700 ft/lbs. ROP increased 12 percent, and drill curve time was reduced from 64 to 30 hours. The torque maxed out, and the hole reached total depth (TD). On two trips out at $60,000 each, a total of $120,000 was saved. Two drill bits at $15,500 saved this operator $31,000. Drilling operations using the additive showed a 34-hour reduction in drilling time, which resulted in a savings of $85,000, at $2,500 per hour. The ROP at curve to TD (4,437 feet) at 25.5 feet per hour provided a $52,500 savings. With no hard-banding required, $12,047 in spending was unnecessary. The total gross savings were $300,547.

A Green Solution

This drilling mud additive is non-hazardous, environmentally safe and biodegradable as defined by stringent industry standards. Users can dispose of the product relatively easily and avoid health issues caused by standard lubricants. The fluid is also available for drilling wells that must use hydraulic fracturing before being able to produce, including shale and other unconventional formations. It produces a cleaner wellbore and increases hydraulic fracturing fluid’s effectiveness. By replacing harmful chemicals, it helps avoid environmental risks and maintains clean water.