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DRILLING AND COMPLETION FLUIDS

OVERVIEW
In reviewing the fluids-related papers to be featured in this issue, I was struck by the wide range of choices that exists for drilling and completion fluids today. We are no longer constrained to the use of a handful of basic water- or oil-based fluids, clear brines, or simple pneumatic fluids to do our job. Likewise, we are no longer limited by a few surface measurements and basic concepts to describe and understand the physical behavior of the fluids that are used. Clearly, this increased selection and our ability to test, predict, monitor, and understand the behavior of all wellbore fluids have contributed greatly to the success of our industry in drilling increasingly complex and challenging wells. Professionals who make decisions about fluids have more challenges than ever before. These challenges include overcoming marketing glitz and information overload to understand when and where true benefits can be derived from use of nonstandard fluids and more-complex-fluid analysis. Normally, I get on my plastic-viscosity/yield-point soapbox here, but what comes to mind is that we are challenged to remember and use the basic engineering science behind what we are doing, most of which was described by the previous generation of SPE professionals in the classic papers with paper numbers below 10000. I encourage you to read the summaries and review the list of additional reading papers that follow. Then I challenge you to take the next step and read the entire paper for the topic that is of greatest interest to you. And once you have done that, review the references and consider the classic SPE papers that laid the foundation for the work being presentedif you have never read them, do yourself a favor and take the time to do so. Regardless of whether you are evaluating the most-challenging high-cost well to be drilled this year helping to access the next deepwater giant field or a series of assembly-line low-cost wells that help the industry access unconventional resources, knowing your fluids choices and understanding when and where to use them can make the difference between success and failure. JPT Paul D. Scott, SPE, is Principal EngineerFluids with ConocoPhillips in the Wells Technology Group supporting worldwide drilling operations as a drilling-fluids specialist. Previously, he was with Marathon Oil Co., Atlantic Richfield Co., and M-I Drilling Fluids. Scott has a broad background of field experience and technical expertise in all aspects of drilling and completion fluids. He earned a BS degree in mechanical engineering from Texas Tech U. Scott has served on SPE Drilling Conference Program Committees and currently serves on the SPE Drilling Operations Committee, 2007 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition Drilling Committee, and JPT Editorial Committee. Drilling and Completion Fluids additional reading available at the SPE eLibrary: www.spe.org SPE 99080 How To Unify Low-ShearRate Rheology and Gel Properties of Drilling Muds: A Transient Rheological and Structural Model for Complex-Well Applications by B. Herzhaft, Inst. Franais du Ptrole, et al. SPE 96342 Selection and Evaluation Criteria for HighPerformance Drilling Fluids by K. Morton, Chevron Energy Technology Co., et al. SPE 97018 Evaluation of Equivalent Circulating Density of Drilling Fluids Under HighPressure/High-Temperature Conditions by O.O. Harris, SPE, U. of Oklahoma, et al.

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DRILLING AND COMPLETION FLUIDS

Formate-Based Reservoir-Drilling Fluid Meets High-Temperature Challenges


In the Belank field, reservoir temperatures average 315F and reservoir sections are 3,500 to 4,500 ft drilled horizontally. A low-solids, brine-based reservoir drilling fluid was required because the wells use premium screens for sand control. Six wells were drilled with the sodium formate-based reservoir-drilling and completion fluids. The particle-size distribution and concentration of the calcium carbonate (CaCO3) bridging solids were monitored closely while drilling to ensure that filter-cake quality was not compromised.

Introduction The Belanak field is an oil-producing field off the coast of Indonesia. Reservoir temperatures average approximately 315F. Six horizontal-well completions were planned from the Belanak A platform. A water-based drilling fluid was selected for drilling the 81/2-in. horizontal reservoir sections, some as long as 4,500 ft and many with tortuous well paths. The bottomhole temperature (BHT) exceeded the temperature range of conventional water-based reservoirdrilling-fluid components. In addition, the remoteness of the platform from the supply base and the limited supply of drill water at the supply base were major issues. As a result, laboratory work on the drilling-fluid design had to consider supply-chain limitations as
This article, written by Assistant Technology Editor Karen Bybee, contains highlights of paper SPE 98347, Formate-Based Reservoir-Drilling Fluid Resolves High-Temperature Challenges in the Natuna Sea, by R.J. Bradshaw, SPE, R.M. Hodge, SPE, and N.O. Wolf, SPE, ConocoPhillips Co., and D.A. Knox, SPE, C.E. Hudson, SPE, and E. Evans, SPE, M-I Swaco, prepared for the 2006 SPE International Symposium and Exhibition on Formation Damage Control, Lafayette, Louisiana, 1517 February.

well as the technical issues that usually dominate fluid design. Fluid design focused on the following. Developing a drilling fluid that would be stable under long-term exposure to temperatures as high as 315F. Determining the minimum concentration of CaCO3 bridging agent required to generate a clean, treatable filter cake without compromising filtercake quality. Identifying a suitable scale inhibitor to prevent precipitation-related formation damage if the limited water supply forced the completion brine and drilling fluid to be mixed with seawater instead of drill water. Laboratory Testing Base-Fluid Selection. Discussion between the operator and fluids provider resulted in agreement that the fluid formulation not only should be compatible with the sand-screen completion, but also maintain fluid-loss-control and rheological properties for a minimum of 48 hours exposure to BHT. Both waterbased and nonaqueous-based formulations were considered. Use of natural polymers, such as xanthan gum and starch, for fluid-loss control and viscosity was considered advantageous because of the ability to remove them chemically once the well was completed. However, drilling fluids made with xanthan and starch can begin to exhibit property degradation from prolonged exposure to temperatures greater than 250F. The required density was determined to be 9.8 to 10.5 lbm/gal. Three base fluids were tested: potassium chloride, sodium chloride, and sodium formate. These brines were selected for economic viability, ease of logistics, and in the case of sodium formate, technical performance. Fluid Optimization. Extensive laboratory testing was conducted over a

2-year period to determine the optimal brine-based fluid that would be thermally stable to 315F and also would be tolerant of drill solids. The results of the initial performance tests clearly identified the sodium formate-based fluid as the most stable after prolonged heat aging at 315F. As a result of these tests, sodium formate was selected as the basis for the reservoir drilling fluid. All subsequent laboratory testing was conducted with sodium formate. Formate-based brines were first recognized as having the ability to extend the thermal stability of natural polymers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Their first applications in the field were in the early 1990s, and their use as the basis of reservoir-drilling and completion fluids has become widespread since then. Their ability to preserve conventional polymers at temperatures greater than 300F, and in some cases up to 400F, has been the primary reason for their selection. A comparative analysis between xanthan gum and schleroglucan was conducted to determine the optimum viscosifier for the fluid. Xanthan gum performed substantially better in regard to thermal stability and was chosen as the primary viscosifier for the system. A minimum of 30 lbm/bbl of sodium formate was maintained in the fluid for thermal stability. Laboratory testing verified that 15 lbm/bbl of sodium formate was not sufficient to maintain high-pressure/high-temperature (HP/ HT) fluid-loss control. Solids-contamination testing was conducted to determine the tolerance of the fluid for contamination with 30 lbm/bbl of drill solids; 20-lbm/bbl of formation sand and 10 lbm/bbl of shale were used for the drill solids. Addition of the drill solids to the fluid did not have any adverse effect on the fluid rheology, but it did affect the HP/HT fluid loss significantly.

For a limited time, the full-length paper is available free to SPE members at www.spe.org/jpt. The paper has not been peer reviewed. JPT NOVEMBER 2006 57

CaCO3. CaCO3 was selected as the bridging agent because of the broad range of particle-size-distribution blends available to generate a thin, tough filter cake, and because the filter cake could be dissolved with acid once the well was completed. Laboratory testing and field experience concluded that a loading of 50 to 60 lbm/bbl would provide a high-quality, low-permeability filter cake. However, the quantities of CaCO3 required to build a reservoir-drilling fluid with this CaCO3 concentration for the Belanak development would have placed extreme pressure on the supply chain and were considered impractical. Laboratory work to optimize the solids loading focused on formulating a drilling fluid that would generate a good-quality filter cake with the minimum concentration of CaCO3 and a moderate drilledsolids concentration. Because of the variable pore structure through the reservoir, the particle-size distribution of the bridging agent must have the ability to bridge a wide range of pore sizes. The CaCO3 blend used was selected on the basis of ideal packing theory and was validated with extensive fluid-loss testing.

The objective of the testing was to formulate a fluid with a fluid loss of less than 12 mL after 30 minutes at 315F and 200-psi overbalance with a spurt loss of less than 2.0 mL. Laboratory testing identified that a fluid with a 45-lbm/bbl CaCO3 loading would meet the required specifications. Drilling Experience Properties and performance of the fluid were monitored closely while drilling the reservoir sections to ensure that fluid behavior was in line with expectations. A laboratory technician was sent to the rig to perform on-site fluid testing for each 200-ft drilled interval. This gave mud engineers the time to manage and maintain the system within specifications. Continuous monitoring ensured a more uniform filter cake throughout the horizontal section. Particle-Size Distribution. Particlesize-analysis results were used to determine the effect of drilling on particle-size distribution. Particle-size distribution varied as drilling began and after each addition of fresh res-

ervoir-drilling fluid. Most notable is that there appears to be no discernable increase in the fine material caused by CaCO3 grinding while drilling the long horizontal section. However, there is a rapid decrease in the coarse end of the particle-size distribution (most notably at 10,300 and 11,300ft). These decreases in the coarse fraction generally can be attributed to removal of the larger-sized particles by the solidscontrol equipment. Hole Cleaning. During well planning, it was established that good hole cleaning in the long horizontal sections could be a problem. Hydraulics modeling indicated that high pump rates and good pipe rotation would be required to prevent cuttings beds from forming in the low end of the well. Despite the thermal stabilizing properties of the fluid, some thinning was seen on prolonged exposure to BHT. Increasing the low-shear-rate viscosity (LSRV) of the drilling fluid from 40,000 to 60,000cp helped improve hole cleaning, as did pumping occasional low-viscosity/highviscosity sweeps.

Additive Consumption. Maintaining fluid-loss control within specification was easily attainable, indicating that the base fluid was stabilizing the starch-based fluidloss-control agents. Spurt loss increased intermittently, but this was resolved by addition of coarse-grade CaCO3. Fluids engineers at the rigsite maintained a theoretical fluid composition on the basis of a mass balance of dry materials and premix added and fluid lost by various means. The fact that the starch remained approximately constant throughout the drilling of each well indicates that the starch was being stabilized presumably by the combination of formate and other chemical stabilizers. The xanthan content at total depth (TD) typically was in the 2.0- to 2.5-lbm/bbl range, whereas the premix from the liquid mud plant contained approximately 1.25 to 1.5 lbm/bbl. Part of the difference may be explained by the need to increase polymer concentration to attain the revised 60,000-cp LSRV. Completion Experience. Once drilled to TD, the wells were completed with a standalone sand screen. Once the well

was drilled and the hole conditioned, the open hole was displaced to a solids-free version of the reservoir-drilling fluid to ensure that good fluid-loss control was maintained while pulling out the drillstring and picking up the completion string. Field data from previous wells demonstrated that the solids-free pill had the ability to heal (seal) ruptures in filter cake caused by tool movement across the open hole. Once the casing had been scraped clean, the casing was displaced to completion brine with a combination of solvent and surfactant wash pills. The lower completion then was assembled and run in the hole. Once the lower completion was at TD, the well was displaced to completion brine, then the open hole was displaced to the chelating-agent breaker solution. The breaker solution was allowed to soak the filter cake while the wash pipe was pulled, the upper completion was run, and the well was brought on production. This exposure time ranged from 15 to 110 days. Of the six wells completed, five are producing at expected rates. The sixth well is not producing to expec-

tations, and the reasons for this are underinvestigation. Conclusions The successful drilling and completion of these wells is attributable to the extensive front-end engineering of the reservoir-drilling fluid. The logistical limitations imposed by the remote location were addressed, and a fluid formulation was found that did not compromise technical performance. Use of formate salt as a thermal stabilizer of conventional water-based reservoir-drilling-fluid polymers helped to ensure that a drilling fluid could be formulated to drill long horizontal openhole sections without the use of synthetic polymers or nonaqueous-based fluid. Because of this, the filter cake could be removed effectively with a less-aggressive, noncorrosive breakersolution. Monitoring the particle-size distribution at regular intervals helped to ensure that the reduced CaCO3 loading imposed by the logistical constraints did not affect filter-cake quality or the fluid-loss properties of the reservoirJPT drilling fluid adversely.

DRILLING AND COMPLETION FLUIDS

Drilling-Fluids Displacement and Cased-Hole Cleaning


The full-length paper reviews the results from drilling-fluids-displacement and cased-hole-cleaning operations performed on 158 wells on the Norwegian continental shelf during the past 6 years. These wells cover a variety of different completion scenarios where water-based and oil-based drilling fluids were used. The paper discusses different casing-cleaning requirements vs. well-completion scenarios and displacement techniques.

Introduction Displacing the particle-laden drilling fluid with clear fluids when entering the completion phase is common procedure in drilling and completion operations. A drilling engineer will emphasize the importance of well control and fluid capabilities, while a completion engineer will focus on the ability to run the completion equipment into the well and operate it successfully during production. A reservoir or production engineer is concerned about the exposed formations and the effect that drilling and completion fluids can have on formation productivity. All these aspects are important to achievement of the optimum well design. Development of solutions to meet these demands is important not only from a technical and financial standpoint, but also from an environmental point of view. The ability to reduce environmental exposure
This article, written by Assistant Technology Editor Karen Bybee, contains highlights of paper SPE 99104, Displacement of Drilling Fluids and Cased-Hole Cleaning: What Is Sufficient Cleaning?, by E. Berg, SPE, S. Sedberg, and H. Kaarigstad, SPE, BJ Services, and T.H. Omland, SPE, and K. Svanes, Statoil, prepared for the 2006 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference, Miami, Florida, 2123 February.

Fig. 1Insufficiently cleaned pipe.

and waste generation represents a cost and efficiency improvement. Techniques and Solutions Well-completion solutions are chosen on the basis of the following: Production strategy. Reservoir properties and quality. Well design. Well lifetime. Re-entry abilities. The most common mechanical completion solutions are the following: Cased hole. Preperforated liner. Standalone screen. Gravel pack. Cased holes typically are cleaned underbalanced before perforating. Preperforated liners normally are installed in the drilling fluid and are cleaned with the open hole exposed. Standalone screens can be installed in drilling fluids, low-solids oil-based drilling fluid, brine, or brine-based kill fluid. Displacement of drilling fluid to brine in the production casing can take place before or after installing standalone

screens. A safety valve can be installed on top of the liner/screen to isolate the formation below and improve the displacement conditions with regard to pump-rate and pressure limitations. In gravel-pack operations, the well can be cleaned and displaced from drilling fluid to brine before or after installing the gravel-pack screens. In some cases, the production casing above the gravel pack is cleaned after the gravel-pack operation is finished, before installing production tubing. Smart completions normally are installed in a cased hole. The liner is perforated before installing the inner string with packers between the perforated zones to select and control production from different formations. Because of the small tolerances in these wells, a high degree of cleanliness is required. Completion Fluids. The most common completion fluids include the following: Brine. Water-based fluid-loss-control systems. Kill pill.

For a limited time, the full-length paper is available free to SPE members at www.spe.org/jpt. The paper has not been peer reviewed. 60 JPT NOVEMBER 2006

Low-solids oil-based drilling fluid. A low-solids oil-based drilling fluid is an oil and high-density brine emulsion with low solids content to reduce the risk of screen plugging during production startup. Well-Cleaning Techniques. Casing cleaning or mud displacement can be performed in several ways depending on rig/well conditions and customer preference. The technique chosen is determined by whether the completion is a cased or open hole. The type of drilling fluid used, whether oil based or water based, will affect the chemical design. For a cased hole, displacement from drilling fluid to a clear fluid will be by either a direct or an indirect displacement. A proper mechanical cleanup-string design and the ability to rotate and reciprocate the drillstring are key elements for efficient cleanup. Circulation subassemblies whether weight-, ball-, or fluid-actuated need to be designed carefully and positioned at the right place in the cleanup string. Fluid design is of critical importance for efficient displacement of

oil-based drilling fluids. Water-based drilling fluids are less complicated to displace because both fluids are water based. Often surfactants and solvents can be left out of the cleaning systems, although they can contribute to dope removal. Cased-Hole Displacements. Usually, the drilling fluid is designed to maintain an overbalance, which makes it difficult to detect a possible influx of formation fluids. One common method of detection and well control is to maintain a constant bottomhole pressure (BHP) during displacement and to perform a negative inflow test when all drilling fluid is displaced. Another option is to maintain volume control during displacement. A third option is to use flow-integrity tools in the cleanup string so an inflow test can be conducted before the displacement. Direct Displacement. Direct disiplacement is performed with open blowout preventers so the drillpipe can be rotated and reciprocated. Displacement is performed overbalanced in wells where the formation is exposed or underbalanced

in cased-hole situations. Thorough volume control is required in both cases. Displacement to clean fluid by maintaining a static or dynamic overbalance throughout the displacement often uses weighted chemical cleanup systems and displacement fluid. Displacements to a more expensive brine system could require topside filtration to be used ahead of, during, or after the displacement. Weighted chemical displacement systems can be a challenge with regard to system efficiency. Indirect Displacement. Indirect displacement, maintaining a constant BHP, will mean a displacement through chokelines/kill lines offshore, where the riser will have to be displaced separately. The riser displacement will be performed either before or after the main displacement, and often a booster pump will be used to achieve the highest possible velocity of the displacing fluid in the riser section. A constant BHP is maintained by adjusting the choke setting on the return line or by a combination of adjusting choke setting and displacement rate according to hydraulic simulations.

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Clean-Well Definitions Well cleanliness typically is measured in nephelometric turbidity units (NTUs) of the effluent from the well during displacement. Depending on the completion technique, cleanliness requirements vary from 20 to several hundred NTU. The well-cleaning operations evaluated were performed in conjunction with running tubing, openhole screens, smart-well completions, or gravel packs or before wireline operations with or without a tractor. NTU targets in the cases evaluated were approximately 100 or less. For conventional liner completions and smart-well completions, the target value was less than 100 NTU or stable readings less than 200 NTU. For openhole screen completions or preperforated liners, the limiting values were less than 150 NTU or stable readings less than 250 NTU. For 20 of the wells, the NTU target was not met, but no operational problems were experienced. This observation might indicate that the NTU targets in some cases were too low, requiring excess circulating time. An important supplement to NTU measurements is inspection of the drill-

pipe when pulled out of the hole after displacement. A good indication that the well is clean is finding no dirt or drilling fluid on the top of the connection upset. Fig. 1 shows an insufficiently cleaned pipe. Well-Cleaning Survey All 158 wells used in this study were offshore on the Norwegian continental shelf and were drilled from permanent installations or floating drilling vessels. Most of the completions were perforated cased holes. Six wells were smartwell solutions, eight wells had openhole screens, seven were gravel packed, and 18 had the casing cleaned before wireline operations with or without a tractor. The information was sorted on the basis of the drilling fluid to be displaced, displacement method, cleaning system used, and completion method. Discussion Only two failures occurred during the completion phase that were identified as partially related to the well-cleaning operation. One incident involved premature setting of the production pack-

er, and the other involved problems stinging into the production tubing. Because most of the wells in this survey are cased-hole completions with the production tubing installed after well cleaning, the results are much as expected. This could indicate that the safety factor used to design the well cleaning and displacement operations is too high. Little variation in the cleaning volumes as a percentage of both displacement volume and well volume substantiates the idea that some cleaning designs may have been overdesigned. One important measure of operations efficiency is time consumed to reach the target NTU as a measure of well cleanliness. There was a distinct difference between direct- and indirect-displacement well cleaning. A 1-hour savings in pumping time by performing a direct displacement instead of an indirect displacement is significant. Experience from well-cleaning operations shows that the time associated with starting and stopping the pumps, changing fluid or circulation direction, can easily add up to the same number of hours as the net pumping time. JPT

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Fate of Nonaqueous-Drilling-Fluid Cuttings Discharged From a Deepwater Well


The full-length paper describes results of a study of the fate of cuttings drilled with nonaqueous drilling fluids (NADFs) and discharged into a deepwater environment. The study characterized effects of discharges from a single-well drilling program and tested the accuracy of a discharge model that predicts seabed cuttings accumulations.

Introduction Drilling programs increasingly use NADFs to drill more-challenging wells, such as those in deep water or those requiring highly deviated wellbores. Recent field studies have addressed the environmental effects of the discharge of cuttings drilled with NADF . Similar physical, chemical, and biological phenomena control the fate and effects of drilling discharges in all water depths. However, greater water depth could influence discharge fate and effects by providing increased opportunities for dispersion or other changes in cuttings properties during settling to the seafloor. The full-length paper details a study that used novel deepwater sediment traps to sample drill cuttings as they arrived at the seabed. Method Drilling Program. An exploration well was drilled to a total depth of 2430 m
This article, written by Assistant Technology Editor Karen Bybee, contains highlights of paper SPE 98612, Fate of Nonaqueous-Drilling-Fluid Cuttings Discharged From a Deepwater Exploration Well, by T.J. Nedwed, J.P . Smith, SPE, and H.R. Melton, SPE, ExxonMobil Upstream Research Co., prepared for the 2006 SPE Eighth International Conference on Health, Safety, and Environment in Oil and Gas Exploration and Production, Abu Dhabi, UAE, 24 April.

below the seabed in 950 m of water in the south Atlantic. Over a 9-day period, NADF was used to drill the bottom 1790-m section of the hole with a 121/4-in. drill bit. To separate cuttings from drilling fluid, drilling-fluid returns were processed with a conventional solids-control system comprising two shale shakers operated in series. The cuttings removed from these shakers were discharged 13 m below the sea surface. Discharge Monitoring. The volume of NADF cuttings discharged was estimated by use of the wellbore volume of the NADF-drilled length plus a 7.5% washout. Drilling records of the length of hole drilled each day were used to correlate discharge volumes and times with ocean-current measurements. Discharged Material. Drill-cuttings samples were collected at five depth ranges during drilling to determine base-fluid content and particle fall velocity. Base-fluid content was determined by dichloromethane extraction followed by total-petroleum-hydrocarbon (TPH) concentration measurement by a gas-chromatography/flame-ionization detection (GC/FID) method. GC/ FID results indicated that the detected hydrocarbons in cuttings were identical to those in the NADFs. As a result, TPH concentration can be considered equivalent to base-fluid concentrations for cuttings samples. Measured cuttingssettling times in a laboratory settling column filled with seawater provided data on cuttings-particle fall-velocity distributions for use in modeling. Ambient Conditions. Discharge modeling requires input data on site bathymetry and oceanwater salinity, temperature, current speed, and current direction as functions of water depth.

A drillsite bathymetric survey was performed, and a measurement of watercolumn temperature and salinity was made after the drilling program ended at a site 1 km northeast of the drillsite. Ocean-current speed and direction during the drilling program were measured as a function of water depth by use of an acoustic-Doppler current profiler. Discharge Modeling An industry standard mud and produced-water discharge model was used to predict cuttings accumulation on the seafloor. Ocean-current input data were correlated with drilling records so the model predictions were deterministic (i.e., only data collected during times when discharges occurred were considered by the model). The time during which discharges occurred was divided into 11 segments for modeling purposes. The total amount of solids discharged during each segment was estimated from drilling records. A uniform discharge rate was assumed throughout each time segment. The predicted accumulations for each time segment were summed to create a predicted accumulation for the entire drilling program. Deepwater Sample Collection An array of 28 sediment traps collected cuttings as they arrived at the seafloor. These novel traps enabled the first direct sampling of cuttings as they arrive at the seabed from deepwater drilling discharges. The traps had a 20-cm funnellike opening that directed settling solids into a 5-cm-diameter measurement tube that was similar in operation to a common rain gauge. A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) placed the sediment traps on the seabed in a radial pattern extending approximately 150 m from the wellhead position on the seabed. A flotation collar held the mouth of the trap approxi-

For a limited time, the full-length paper is available free to SPE members at www.spe.org/jpt. The paper has not been peer reviewed. 64 JPT NOVEMBER 2006

mately 2 m above the seabed and limited the inadvertent collection of any ambient sediment. Before drilling with NADF , the traps at 10 and 50 m from the wellhead were capped with conical plugs to prevent the collection of solids discharged during the riserless drilling of the surface-hole section. The ROV removed the plugs after the surface hole was drilled. After completion of NADF drilling, the ROV photographed each trap so the accumulated-cuttings thickness could be measured. The traps then were brought to the surface for cuttings collection and measurement of TPH concentrations by GC/FID. The ROV collected five ambient-seabed-sediment core samples before drilling and nine samples after NADF drilling. To cover the range of expected loadings of drilling solids on the seabed, the post-drilling core samples were collected next to sediment traps according to visual evidence of the amount of sediment in the traps: three samples next to traps with the largest accumulations, three samples next to traps with intermediate accumulations, and three samples next to traps with the smallest accumulations. Taxonomic diversity and abundance of benthic meiofauna (organisms in the 0.063- to 0.5-mm size range) in the top 10 cm of core samples were measured in pre- and post-drilling samples as an indicator of the degree of biological disturbance caused by drilling. Hydrocarbon concentrations in the top 2 cm of the post-drilling sediment core samples were measured by extraction followed by GC/FID. Results Drill-Cuttings Characterization. The fall velocities of drill-cuttings particles determine how long the cuttings are subject to transport by ambient currents, and thus how far they can drift, before they reach the seabed. Drill cuttings composed mainly of large particles with high fall velocities will settle to the seabed close to the discharge point to form accumulations of greater thickness. Samples of NADF drill cuttings from both shale shakers were collected while drilling at five different depths throughout the interval drilled with NADF . The effluent TPH concentrations were considered for modeling purposes to be the average of the concentrations of all the samples. For the entire NADF interval, the TPH concentrations of cuttings averaged 90 000 ppm

on a dry-weight basis with a standard deviation of 40 000 ppm. Fall-velocity distributions indicated that the cuttings samples were composed mainly of rapidly settling particles, with 90% of the particles settling faster than 20 cm/s in four of five samples examined. The median cuttings fall velocities (28 to 35 cm/s) for the majority of samples examined were somewhat lower than those (25 to 44 cm/s) reported previously for cuttings with significantly higher base-fluid content (150 000 ppm) that had been drilled with mineral-oil-based drilling fluids. Sediment-Trap Samples. The solidsaccumulation thickness in the sediment traps correlated well with the dry weight of solids recovered from the traps, indicating that little or no solid material was lost during the recovery process. The correlation was poorest for the traps with accumulations at the low end of the practical range of measurable thickness. The cuttings-accumulations density was greatest to the south and southsouthwest of the drillsite. Overall, the amounts of material in the sediment traps were highly variable, with the maximum and minimum mass and TPH concentrations differing by factors of 160 and 6 600, respectively. Sediment-Core Samples. The sediment-core samples had low (up to a few tens of ppm)and in six of nine cases, non- or barely detectableTPH concentrations. The highest TPH concentrations in sediment cores were found next to sediment traps with high TPH concentrations, but the overall correlation between sediment-trap and sediment-core TPH levels was insignificant. Except for the sediment core next to the sediment trap located 100 m northeast of the well, where the TPH concentrations of both the sedimenttrap and sediment-core samples were extremely low, the sediment core TPH concentrations were much lower than would be expected if the measured thickness of cuttings in the sediment traps constituted the top layer of the sediment core sample. To investigate disturbance of the benthic community around the drillsite, nine post-drill and five predrill ambientseabed-sediment samples were analyzed to determine meiofauna abundance and diversity of taxa. No significant difference in meiofauna and taxa in the pre- and

post-drill samples was observed when comparing abundance, number of genus, and number of families. Neither the univariate nor multivariate statistical analyses performed on these samples were able to detect differences in meiofauna community structure between pre- and postdrilling samples. Density Stratification and Current Measurements. The speed and direction of ocean currents and the fall velocities of cuttings particles are the primary determinants of how drill cuttings accumulate on the seabed. Cuttings particles are transported in the direction of the currents present during discharge. Higher current speeds will result in cuttings transport over longer distances from the discharge point and result in thinner accumulations of solids on the seabed. Ocean density stratification has an effect primarily on the initial dispersion of soluble materials and small particles. Rose plots of the current speed and measured direction grouped by depth range provide a summary of the currents measured during cuttings discharge. Current speeds were highest in the top third of the water column, and current directions were dominated by a strong southward component. Midwater currents were of more-moderate strength and were directed primarily to the north and north-northwest. Currents in the bottom third of the water column were weakest and had no strong directional preference. The water-column density was moderately stratified in the top 100 m and more weakly stratified in the bottom 850 m. Model Predictions. Modeling indicated that the primary cuttings accumulation would occur to the south and southwest of the wellhead, with a smaller accumulation to the north-northwest of the wellhead. These accumulations correspond with the predominant measured current directions in the upper and middle zones of the water column. The southernmost sediment trap was just inside the area where the maximum predicted cuttings thickness occurred. The model-predicted maximum-accumulation location (south and southwest of the well) agreed with the area where the maximum accumulation was observed. There was good agreement between the 0.5-cm maximum observed thickness and the 0.7-cm maximum predicted thickness. The smaller area of predicted

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accumulation to the north-northwest of the wellhead was not reflected in the measured thicknesses. The model prediction duplicated the overall observed trend of increasing thickness from northeast to southwest but tended to overestimate (compared with observations of sediment traps) the thickness to the north of the wellhead. Conclusions Results indicate that NADF dischargefrom this single-well drilling program in deep water has minimal effects on the seabed. The accumulation of TPH (i.e., NADF base fluid) in wellsite sediments is an important determinant of the magnitude of environmental effects from NADF-cuttings discharges. TPH concentrations in sediment core samples and solids accumulating in sediment traps were significantly lower than the TPH concentrations of discharged cuttings. The sediment-core TPH concentrations observed also were much lower than concentrations observed near drillsites where NADF cuttings have been discharged in shallower waters. These results show that cuttings discharged under the conditions of this study will have milder environmental effects than might have been expected on the basis of the TPH concentration of the discharged cuttings and the results of studies in shallower waters. Biological analyses support this because there were no differences in benthic meiofauna between pre- and postdrilling samples. Data from both sediment traps and sediment cores showed high spatial variability in accumulations thickness and hydrocarbon concentrations. These findings are consistent with the results of earlier studies that show variations of several orders of magnitude in sediment hydrocarbon concentrations of samples collected within 100 m of the discharge point. The collective results of recent scientific studies of NADF-cuttings discharge sites support a general conclusion that cuttings settle to the seabed in a patchy manner rather than forming a uniform coating on the seabed. Model predictions of cuttings-accumulations thickness were in general agreementwithobservedthicknessofsedimenttrap accumulations. This indicates that the model can make useful predictions of cuttings accumulations from deepwater drilling operations. The low hydrocarbon concentrations in sediment trap and sediment-core
JPT NOVEMBER 2006

samples compared with those of discharged cuttings are an indication that the cuttings solids lost base fluid during settling to the seabed. Prolonged exposure to seawater during settling is a possible mechanism for basefluid loss. Although base-fluid loss from cuttings by this mechanism will reduce the environmental effects of cuttings discharges on the seabed, it may result in the

exposure of water-column organisms to base fluid. It is expected, however, that elevated hydrocarbon concentrations will occur only within the discharge plume and only during the short duration of the discharge event. Because hydrocarbon concentrations will return to background levels rapidly after discharges end, the potential for any adverse effects on the water column is very low. JPT

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