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Directional well profile: overburden section

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Having steered away from the congestion of the surface section, the main part of the well path through the overburden is specifically designed to put the well in the best possible position for penetrating the reservoir.

Well shape types

There are three different overall shapes of the well, depending on the penetration requirements. These are:

  • Build-and-hold
  • S-shaped
  • Continuous build

In practice, these generic shapes will be modified by local conditions. Getting the right well path through the overburden is a multidisciplinary task in which geologists advise the designer about:

  • The presence of faults
  • The precise shape of salt formations
  • Mud diapirs
  • Other subsurface hazards

Understanding the interaction between the 3D well trajectory and the formation stresses, particularly in overthrust areas, is vital to ensuring that the well can be drilled safely and efficiently. See Fig. 1 for an illustration of these wellbores.

Build-and-hold well

In general, a build-and-hold profile is planned so that the initial deflection angle is obtained at a shallow depth, and from that point on the angle is maintained as a straight line to the target zone. Once the angle and deflection are obtained, casing may be set through the deviated section and cemented. In general, the build-and-hold profile is the basic building block of extended-reach wells. These profiles can usually be employed in two distinct depth programs. These profiles can be used for moderate-depth drilling in areas where intermediate casing is not required and where oil-bearing strata are a single horizon. They can also be used for deeper wells requiring a large lateral displacement. In this case, an intermediate-casing string can be set to the required depth, and then the angle and direction can be maintained after drilling out below the string.

S-shaped well

The main reasons for drilling an S-shaped well are completion requirements for the reservoir; for example, when a massive stimulation operation is required during the completion. An S-shaped well also sets the initial deflection angle near the surface. After the angle is set, drilling continues on this line until the appropriate lateral displacement is attained. The hole is then returned to vertical or near vertical and drilled until the objective depth is reached. Surface casing is set through the upper deviated section and cemented. The wellbore is then continued at the desired angle until the lateral displacement has been reached and then returns to vertical. Intermediate casing is set through the lower vertical-return section. Drilling then continues below the intermediate casing in a vertical hole.

The S-shaped well is often employed with deep wells in areas where gas troubles, saltwater flows, etc. dictate the setting of intermediate casing. It permits more-accurate bottomhole spacing in a multiple-pay area. The deflection angle may be set in surface zones in which drilling is fast and round-trip costs can be held to a minimum.

Continuous-build well

A continuous-build well starts its deviation well below the surface. The angle is usually achieved with a constant build to the target point. The deflection angles may be relatively high, and the lateral distances from vertical to the desired penetration point are relatively shorter than other well types. Typical applications would be in exploring a stratigraphic trap or obtaining additional geological data on a noncommercial well. Because deflection operations take place deep in the hole, trip time for such operations is high, and the deflected part of the hole is not normally protected by casing. The continuous-build profile may also commonly be found in old fields in which development of bypassed oil is carried out by means of sidetracks from existing wells that have ceased to produce economically from the original completion.


Noteworthy papers in OnePetro

Noteworthy book

"Mitchell, R. F., & Miska, S. (Eds.). (2011). Fundamentals of Drilling Engineering. Richardson, TX: Society of Petroleum Engineers. SPEBookstore and WorldCat

Fundamentals of Drilling Engineering"

External links

See also

Directional well profiles