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SPE 82280

An Alternative Drill-in Fluid System for Low-Pressure Reservoirs

Lirio Quintero, SPE and Tom A. Jones, SPE, Baker Hughes INTEQ Drilling Fluids

Copyright 2003, Society of Petroleum Engineers Inc.

the surface tension.6 In the particular case of modified
This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE European Formation Damage polysaccharides and anionic surfactants, the attractive
Conference to be held in The Hague, The Netherlands 13-14 May 2003.
interactions generate complexes characterized by micelles
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of
information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as
bound along the polymer chain.8, 9 The net effect of these
presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to complex associations, with a proprietary blend of bridging
correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any
position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Papers presented at particles and an internal phase olefin or glycol, is a non-
SPE meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees of the Society of
Petroleum Engineers. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper
damaging drill-in fluid that minimizes fluid and particulate
for commercial purposes without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is invasion for depleted sandstone and/or carbonate reservoirs.
prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300
words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous This paper summarizes the extensive laboratory testing used to
acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper was presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O.
Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836, U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435.
verify the above claims.

Product Qualification and Testing

Abstract Water-based fluid formulations containing variations of
The majority of wells drilled with water-based fluid systems in specially selected surfactants and polymers in a 5% dispersed
pressure-depleted reservoirs are subjected to high overbalance internal phase of synthetic oil were evaluated. The
pressures due to drilling fluid densities greater than the density formulations were prepared systematically, varying the
of water. These overbalanced conditions are directly related to concentrations in order to obtain elevated low shear-rate
loss of circulation, stuck pipe and especially, formation rheological properties with good API filtration control and
damage due to solids and fluid invasion. Specialized generally high return oil permeability.
technologies, such as under-balanced drilling with ultra-low The evaluated products included anionic surfactants with
density foams or aerated fluids, have been used to resolve high hydrophilic nature, water-soluble modified biopolymers,
most of the aforementioned problems1, 2 High application and polymer stabilizing preservatives for elevated circulating
costs, however, have made these alternative systems almost temperatures.10 The dispersed internal phase included high
prohibitive in many mature fields. molecular weight polyglycol or a synthetic base oil such as an
With appropriate surfactant and polymer selection and the olefin. Likewise, inorganic and organic pH buffers were
implementation of unique bridging methods, drill-in fluids selected that would not interfere with the surfactant-polymer
may be designed with highly thixotropic behavior, minimal interaction or dispersed organic phase. The most critical
filtration properties, excellent crude-oil compatibilities and laboratory testing for fluid evaluation is included in the test
high return permeability. This paper presents the development matrix below:
of a low-density water-based drill-in fluid stabilized by a
specially selected polymer-surfactant complex and bridging 1. Rheological evaluation using a Fann 35A Viscometer,
materials designed specifically for low pressured sandstone RJF Viscometer (RJF), Brookfield Viscometer, and SR-
and carbonate reservoirs. 5000 rheometer after heat aging up to 138 ºC (280 ºF).
2. Dynamic and static filtration using a Dynamic Filtration
Introduction Device (DFD) and Particle Plugging Apparatus (PPA).
In recent years, attempts have been made to develop low 3. Droplet size determination of the internal phase using a
density drill-in fluid systems that eliminate reservoir intrusions light-scattering technique with a Malvern
by reducing the hydrostatic pressure across a production Instruments Mastersizer.
zone.3-5 Within this perspective, studies conducted by the food 4. Formation damage evaluation (return oil permeability)
and paint industries during the last decade, involving polymer- using a Hassler Cell Permeameter.
surfactant interactions6, 7 have provided a fundamental basis 5. Compatibility testing between crude oil and the
for the development of the new water-based fluid presented in drill-in fluid.
this paper. Previous industry publications have disclosed
significant amounts of evidence demonstrating that certain Laboratory Results and Discussion
surfactants, having a good association with polymers, form Polymer-Surfactant Selection
mixed micelles within a polymer-surfactant mix that produces The initial selection of the surfactant-polymer combination
elevated gel structures in the aqueous phase while resulted from a theory-based study that included several
simultaneously decreasing interfacial properties, for example, surfactants, biopolymers and modified biopolymers. Later,
2 SPE 82280

laboratory evaluations were conducted after altering 20

concentrations of various polymeric thermal stabilizers for a
Initial: 3 µm
range of temperatures between ambient and 138°C (280°F). After Hot Roll at 250°F: 3.5 µm
The concentrations of the modified polymer blend varied
between 4.0 and 7.5 lb/bbl; the concentration of the surfactant Droplet Diameter, %
varied between 3.0 and 6.0 lb/bb. Droplet Diameter, %
Table 1 depicts the rheological effects of varying the
polymer and surfactant concentrations in formulations that
also included 5% (v/v) synthetic oil as an internal phase. The
three formulations tested show low plastic viscosities,
moderately high yield points and elevated but non-progressive
6 and 3 rpm Fann dial readings. The gel strengths were
measured at 10-sec, 10-min, and 30-min intervals and the
results also clearly demonstrate the non-progressive nature of 0
0.1 1.0 10.0 100.0
the polymer-surfactant-oil interaction.
Droplet Diameter, µm

Additives Formulation Figure 1 Droplet size distribution of formulation with 6 lb/bbl

1 2 3 surfactant and 6 lb/bbl of polymer

Water, bbl 0.95 0.95 0.95 A side effect (neither positive nor negative) of the
Olefin, bbl 0.05 0.05 0.05 polymer-surfactant interaction is the development of a ‘mini-
foam’ with droplet sizes similar to the dispersed olefin. This
Polymer, lb/bbl 6 6 7.5
phenomenon, however, is typical for surfactant solutions
Surfactant, lb/bbl 3 6 6 where the surfactant possesses a high degree of hydrophilic
pH Buffer, lb/bbl 0.5 0.5 0.5 nature. When foaming is undesirable, it can be controlled with
Polymer Stabilizer, lb/bbl 5 5 5 defoamer additions.12
Post 200°F Hot Roll Properties The evaluation of Formulations 2 and 3 described in Table 1
include low shear-rate viscosity, dynamic filtration, return
Fann Reading, 6 rpm 23 23 30
permeability and fluid compatibility. The results of these
Fann Reading, 3 rpm 19 20 27 evaluations are discussed below.
Plastic Viscosity, cPs 17 14 19
Low Shear-Rate Viscosity
Yield Point, lbf/100 ft 52 53 59 The low shear-rate viscosity (LSRV) of each fluid formulation
Gels (10/10/30), lbf/100 ft
20/26/27 21/26/28 28/34/35 was measured between 0.3 rpm and 60 rpm using a Brookfield
pH 9.8 9.7 9.7 Viscometer. The results obtained (Table 2) show a highly
thixotropic behavior with viscosities approaching 200,000 cPs
Dynamic Filt., spurt /30 min x2 5/23.6 5/16.4 3.7/14
at the lowest shear-rate. This high rheology is a result of
Table 1 Effects of polymer and surfactant complexes formed by multiple associations between the long-
concentrations on fluid properties chain polymer, the surfactant micelles and the dispersed
oil phase.
The testing of Formulations 1 and 2, after dynamic aging
at 93°C (200°F), show that an increase in the surfactant RPM
Viscosity, cP (Brookfield)
concentration from 8.6 to 17.1 kg/m3 (3 to 6 lb/bbl) results in (Post 200°F HR)
a decrease in filtrate volume without significantly changing Formulation 2 Formulation 3
the rheological properties. Increasing the polymer 60 1,224 2,949
concentration from 17.1 to 21.4 kg/m3 (6.0 to 7.5 lb/bbl) 30 1,996 5,019
resulted in a further reduction in filtrate volume. 12 3,899 10,423
One can also observe in Figure 1 that the polymer- 6 6,589 18,296
surfactant blend generates very small olefin droplets in the 3 11,198 32,493
internal water phase. This virtually non-compressible droplet 1.5 19,196 55,855
functions as a lubricant11 and filtration control additive and 0.6 39,659 122,474
slightly reduces the density of the system. 0.3 68,652 196,958

Table 2 Low shear-rate viscosity measured with a

Brookfield Viscometer
Similar thixotropic behavior was observed in the RJF
Viscometer (RJF) evaluation. An RJF Viscometer is similar to
the Fann 35 but can be operated at very low RPM settings.
In Figure 2, viscosity readings for shear-rates between 0.1 and
600 rpm are reported. Note that the RJF and Fann 35 viscosity
curves overlap in the higher RPM range. The fluid viscosity in
SPE 82280 3

the high RPM ranges is low, as expected. Although the fluid 100

Dynamic Modulus (Pa)

has high viscosity at low shear rate, it has relatively low
viscosities at the equivalent shear rates found in shale shaker
equipment. These results suggest that the fluid viscosity will 1
allow fluid passage during solids removal. This was an
important criterion because solids control management is 0.1 Elastic Modulus (G')
Viscosity Modulus (G")
critical for all drill-in fluid applications. Viscosity

0.01 0.1 1 10 100 1000
Angular Frequency (rad/s)
Viscosity (cP)


Figure 3 Viscoelastic properties of the system

RJF Initial
10 RJF, Alter HR at 200°F
Fann 35, Alter HR at 200°F 30

1 25

Volume (mL)
0.01 0.1 1 10 100 1000
Reading (rpm) 20
Figure 2 Rheology of formulation 1 measured with an RJF Filtrate, mL
viscometer 10
Accumulated Filtrate, mL
The viscoelastic properties of Formulation 2, reported in 5
Table 2, were also measured with an SR5000 Rheometer. 0.5 0.2
1.0 1.0 0.5 0.5 1.0

This device is used to determine the presence of three- 0

0 5 10 15 20 25 30
dimensional continuous networks generated by the polymer-
Time (minutes)
surfactant complexes within a gel structure.
The results in Figure 3 show that the elastic modulus (G') Figure 4 Dynamic filtration (solids-free fluid)
dominates the viscous modulus (G") in the entire frequency
region. Likewise, the viscous modulus and elastic modulus do
not converge in the low angular frequency range. This 14
behavior occurs only when a fluid possesses structured Filtrate, mL
12 Accumulated Filtrate, mL
networks similar to those produced by a polymer-surfactant
complex.8 The curve in Figure 3 also demonstrates how the 10

SR 5000 results correlate well with the results obtained from

Volume (mL)

the RJF and Brookfield viscometers. 6
Spurt: 3.7 mL
Dynamic Filtration and Permeability Plugging Apparatus Volume Total x 2: 14 mL
(PPA) Testing 2

Dynamic filtration using Formulation 3 composed of 17 kg/m3 0

(6 lb/bbl) of surfactant, 21.5 kg/m3 (7.5 lb/bbl) polymer but 0 5 10 15 20 25 30
without the usual solids contamination is shown in Figure 4. Time (minutes)
This evaluation, performed at a differential pressure of 500 psi
Figure 5 Dynamic filtration (2% Rev Dust)
on 3 micron ceramic disk (0.45 Darcy), suggests good
development of a primary filter cake during the one-minute Additional filtration testing was conducted using a PPA
spurt loss interval despite the absence of drill solids or tester. This static filtration test was performed to obtain data at
bridging material. Furthermore, the total filtration for the 30 high differential pressures. Testing at a pressure of 1500 psi on
minute test period was very low. The one-minute spurt loss a 3 micron disk resulted in a spurt loss value of only 5.8 mL
measured in this evaluation was of 18 mL. However, this while the cumulative volume was only 10.4 mL. This fluid,
value decreased considerably after contaminating the fluid contaminated with 2% Rev Dust, reconfirms the beneficial
with 2% of Rev Dust, reducing the spurt loss to 3.7 mL and a value of small amounts of solids on the system’s performance.
cumulative filtrate volume to only 7.0 mL (Figure 5). Predictions suggested that higher differential pressures would
result in higher spurt volumes, especially without bridging
agents. To the contrary, the data indicate that increasing the
differential pressure from 500 to 1500 psi only minimally
affects long term filtrate loss to the formation (See Figure 6).
4 SPE 82280

Thermal Stability up to 280°F

14 6
Filtrate, mL
12 Accumulated Volume, mL 5
10 4

Volume (ml)

Spurt: 5.8 ml
Total volume x 2: 20.8 mL 1
6 rpm 3 rpm 10 s Gel 10 m Gel P Y
0 10 20 30 40
Time (minutes) Room T 150° 200° 220° 250° 280°F

Figure 8 The effect of temperature on rheological properties

Figure 6 Static filtration (PPA) at 1500 psi
Specialized Bridging
As stated earlier, the basic formulation of this fluid does Although the original polymer-surfactant fluid design was
not include solid bridging agents such as calcium carbonate. solids-free, excluding bridging material, it was acknowledged
The incorporation of bridging materials into the design of this early on that some reservoir conditions may require
fluid system is optional. However, the result of a dynamic conventional bridging for improved filter cake development.
filtration test with the basic formulation containing a mixture In light of the system’s inherent visco-elastic nature for
of 42.9 kg/m3 (15 lb/bbl) of carbonate of calcium and 42.9 inhibiting fluid invasion, it was discovered that some bridging
kg/m3 (15 lb/bbl) of hollow glass micro-spheres is shown in selection models 14, 15 currently used in the marketplace are not
Figure 7. The hollow glass spheres were added to reduce the applicable to this fluid’s design. The primary reason for this
fluid density, contribute to bridging and compensate for the diversion results from two factors inherent within the final
density increase due to the specific gravity of the calcium formulation. One factor previously discussed is the influence
carbonate component. Thus, the final density of the mixture of the viscoelastic complex on spurt loss; the second factor is
was only slightly changed. The addition of briding material to the inclusion of mixed particle shapes to form the filter cake.
the base formulation was responsible for a reduction of spurt Dynamic filtration, PPA and return permeability results
from 5.8 mL to 2.2 mL. These results also indicate that a with conventional calcium carbonate granules and/or hollow
bridging agent can be recommended in areas where loss of spheres provided excellent bridging efficiency on low and
circulation is expected or at the requested of an operator. medium permeability (300 -1800 mD) aloxite discs and Berea
core samples. However, in highly porous media, such as 90
micron aloxite disks, excellent depositional results were
14 observed with a low concentration blend of granules and
Accumulated Volume (mL) flakes (See Figure 9). Both the granules and flakes are 95-
Filtrate (mL) 99% acid soluble calcium carbonate.
It appears that the use of a low concentration of broadly
Volume (ml)

8 distributed calcium carbonate granules blended 50/50 with a

6 small to medium PSD of flaked calcium carbonate particles
significantly reduces spurt volumes relative to the use of only
4 Spurt: 2.2 mL
the granular form of calcium carbonate.
2 Total Volume x 2: 11.6 mL

0 10 20 30 40
Time (minutes)

Figure 7 Filtration of formulation with calcium carbonate and

hollow glass spheres at 1500 psi

Temperature Stability
To maintain the polymer stability in this system up to 138°C
(280ºF), low concentrations of a thermal stabilizer can be
added to the basic formulation. Figure 8 gives the rheological
properties of Formulation 2 after adding 1.43 kg/m3 (0.50
lb/bbl) of the inorganic stabilizer and 8.6 kg/m3 (3.0 lb/bbl) of
Magnesium Oxide. The results indicate only minor variances
between the rheological properties of the fluid at ambient Figure 9 Photograph of flake calcium carbonate
temperature and those measured at 138°C (280°F).
SPE 82280 5

An extreme example using shape to improve bridging because low surface tension promotes unwanted emulsions
efficiency is shown in Table 3. In this PPA test, using a 90- between crude oil and aqueous mud filtrates. Controlling
micron aloxite disk, there was no attempt to select a proper interfacial behavior can greatly influence fluid flow in porous
PSD of the granular material so that the value derived from the media by reducing the interfacial viscosity and elasticity.13 A
flaked material could be demonstrated. In fact, the mean fluid with a surface tension about halfway between the surface
particle diameter of the graded calcium carbonate was less tension of water (74 dynes/cm2) and zero provides two
than one-seventh of the average pore diameter of the aloxite advantages. A mid-value surface tension property promotes
disc, a condition favoring deep invasion. The recorded low fluid mobility during production and avoids the formation of
spurt and 30-min filtrate volumes provide insight into the instantaneous emulsions, a condition that also reduces
bridging efficiency credited to the flaked form of carbonate. In hydrocarbon mobility.
the case of Formulation 2, the spurt loss volume on the 90- Results of compatibility tests conducted with crude oil and
micron disk was cut in half while the total filtrate volume was the drill-in fluid infer that emulsion blockage in reservoir
reduced by one-third with only 14.3 kg/m3 (5.0 lb/bbl) of pores is not probable.
additional flake material. Return Permeability
Return permeability testing was a critical part of the test
Formulations with 15 lb/bbl Granular CaCO3 matrix. These tests were conducted at 77°C (170°F) and with
Plus 10 and 15 lb/bbl Flake CaCO3 mud-off overbalance pressures of 1000 psi. All the flow tests
Concentration of Flake CaCO3 10 15 used PDVSA crude oil from a reservoir (VLA-1325) in Lake
Spurt Loss, cc/1-min 4 2 Maracaibo, Venezuela. The core came from the
Filtrate, cc/ last 29-min 30 20 VLA-1321 well.
Cake Thickness, mm: 1 1 Basic Formulation with
Formulation CaCO3
Table 3 PPA results of fluid using flake CaCO3
Core Berea VLA VLA VLA
Formation Fluid Compatibility 1321 1321 1321
The evaluation of crude oil compatibility of this drill-in fluid Permeability Crude Crude Crude Crude
was conducted at reservoir temperature 77°C (170°F) and with
Initial Permeability, mD 268 23.7 264 10
50/50 and 25/75 crude oil to drilling fluid ratios. In the
example given in Figure 10, the crude oil was Venezuelan Final Permeability, mD 219 20.2 267 8.4
crude oil from the VLA 1325 well. For this specific test, the Return Permeability, % 92 85 101 84
crude oil/drilling fluid proportions were blended at 300 rpm
for 5 minutes and immediately placed in graduated cylinders Table 4 Return Permeability Results
so the rates of separation of the two phases could be measured.
The specific results obtained with Formulation 2 included
Figure 8 reveals that the samples attained complete separation
a 92% return permeability in a Berea core and 85% from a
in two hours, with a high separation percentage in the first few
field core taken at a depth of 5,902 ft (Table 4). Similar good
minutes. The photos in Figure 10 show the fluids (1)
results were obtained when 15 lb/bbl of calcium carbonate and
immediately after being blended and (2) after the total
15 lb/bbl of the hollow glass micro-spheres were added to the
separation into their respective proportions. This separation
system which resulted in permeability values from 85% to
occurred despite the high static viscosity of the two
100%. Also important were the low break-through pressures
fluid phases.
required to initiate return flow. In all tests, the pressures
required to initiate flow were less than 10 psi. Concurrent with
Initial Condition
the results obtained after 1500-psi PPA testing, the return
permeability results with mud-off pressures up to 3000 psi
suggest that formation damage variance with this fluid is
Volume Separated, %

minimal at high overbalance pressures.

Drill-in Fluid/Crude: 50/50 Conclusions
20 Drill-in Fluid/Crude: 75/25 1. The appropriate selection of a polymer-surfactant blend
can result in a thermally stable, low density drill-in fluid
0 20 40 60 80 100 120 system with high low shear-rate viscosity (LSRV) and an
Time, minutes extremely small droplet of internal phase synthetic oil
Final Condition (olefin).
2. The complexes formed by the association of the polymer
and surfactant provide appropriate rheological properties
Figure 10 Drill-in fluid and crude oil compatibility
for excellent solids removal and hole cleaning.
These results were expected because the polymer- 3. Return permeability data and favorable fluid compatibility
surfactant blend has a moderate surface tension of about 35 results suggest that this fluid is not damaging to
dynes/cm. Surface tensions approaching zero are not desired producing formations.
6 SPE 82280

4. The results of the dynamic and PPA tests at high 11. Israelachvili, J.: “The Science and Application of
overbalance pressures suggest that this fluid has good Emulsions - an Overview,” Colloids and Surfaces A:
application for drilling low-pressure reservoirs without Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects, (91) (1994) 1.
excessive fluid losses. 12. Ivanov, I.B.: Thin Liquid Films: Fundamentals and
5. Granular shapes from conventionally ground calcium Applications, Surfactant Science Series, 29, Marcel
carbonate combined with a unique, flaked calcium Dekker Inc., New York (1988) 790.
carbonate material improve spurt loss and filter cake
development in low and high-pressure environments. 13. Miller, C.A.; and Neogi, P.: Interfacial Phenomena:
6. Although not discussed in this paper, environmental Equilibrium and Dynamic Effects, Surfactant Science
testing have given a North Sea “gold” rating to the Series, 17, Marcel Dekker Inc., New York (1985) 299.
components used to formulate this system. 14. Abrams, “Mud Designed to Minimize Rock Impairment
due to Particle Invasion,” Journal of Petroleum
Technology (May 1977) 586.
The authors would like to thank Baker Hughes INTEQ
Drilling Fluids for allowing us to publish this paper. Special 15. Dick, M.A., Heinz, T. J., Svoboda and C. F., Aston, M.:
thanks are in order to the many laboratory personnel that “Optimizing the Selection of Bridging Particles for
generated data supporting development of this system. Reservoir Drilling Fluids,” SPE 58793, Symposium on
Thanks also go out to various persons with PDVSA who Formation Damage, Lafayette, 23-24 February 2000.
supplied crude oil and core samples for our compatibility and Si Metric Convertion Factors
return permeability testing. ft x 3.048* E -01 = m
psi x 6.894 757 E +03 = pa
1. Bennion, D.B.; Thomas, F.B.; Bietz, R.F.; and Bennion, cP x 1.08* E -03 = Pa.s
D.W.: “Underbalanced Drilling: Praises and Perils,” SPE mL x 1.0* E -06 = m3
Drilling & Completion, 13 (4), (December 1998) 214. mD x 9.869 233 E -16 = m2
2. Kamp, A.; Celis, E.; Blanco, A.; Rivero, M.; Sharma, Y.; µm x 1.0* E -06 = m
Atsushi, K.; and Tetsuo, Y.: “Aerated Drilling Proves its bbl x 1.589 873 E -01 = m3
Worth in Venezuelan Reservoirs,” World Oil, (March
lbf/100 ft2 x 0. 478 803 E 00 = Pa
2000) 51.
lbm/bbl x 2.853010 E +00 = kg/m3
3. Quintero, L.; Blanco, .: "Oil in water emulsion well
servicing fluids," U. S. Patent No. 5,783,525, July 1998. Microns x 1.0* E -06 = m
°F (°F-32)/1.8 = °C
4. Quintero, L.; Bejarano, L.; Bellorin, L: “Aplicación de la
Tecnología INTEFLOW en Perforación de Pozos,” XI * Conversion factor is exact.
Congreso Latinoamericano de Perforación, Buenos Aires-
Argentina, Octubre 1998.
5. Brookey, Tom “Micro-Bubbles: New Aphron Drill-In
Fluid Technique Reduces Formation Damage in
Horizontal Wells,” SPE 39589, SPE International
Symposium on Formation Damage Control,
Lafayette, 1998.
6. Miguel, M.G.; Marques, E.; Dias R.; Melnikov, S.M.;
Khan, A.; and Lindman B.: “Associating Polymer-
Surfactant Systems,” Progress Colloid Polymers Science,
112, (1999) 157.
7. de Gennes, P.G.: “Interactions Between Polymers and
Surfactants,” The Journal of Physical Chemistry, 94 (220)
(1990) 8407.
8. Piculell, L.; Thuresson, K.; and Lindman, B.: “Mixed
Solution of Surfactant and Hydrophobically Modified
Polymer,” Polymers for Advanced Technologies, 112,
(2001) 44.
9. Lay-Theng Lee “Polymer-Surfactant Interactions:
Neutron Scattering and Reflectivity,” Current Opinion in
Colloid & Interface Science, 4 (3), (1999) 205.
10. Hallman, J. H.: “Formiatos en Accion: Uso en el Campo y
Recobro,” III Seminario de Fluidos de Perforación y
Terminación de Pozos, Venezuela, Octubre 1996.