CATEGORIZED | 2010, Departments, March/April

Drilling Ahead: To MPD or not to MPD? Simplifying daunting decisions

Posted on 25 March 2010

By Mike Killalea, editor & publisher

To MPD or not to MPD? That is the question posed not by Hamlet, but by George Medley, Signa Engineering, speaking at the 2010 SPE/IADC Managed Pressure Drilling & Underbalanced Operations Conference in Kuala Lumpur in late February. Indeed, the decision can be daunting. Fortunately, the industry is quickly developing a plethora of tools and models to aid the tricky selection process.

In North America, more than a third of all wells are reportedly drilled using some form of managed pressure drilling. Why, ask MPD proponents, can this acceptance not be mirrored worldwide?

MPD, Mr Medley said, is a godsend to the industry, when properly applied. “It’s filled a real gap in the technology that has allowed us to drill wells that were undrilled, and to improve performance on wells that were drillable,” he remarked. Mr Medley and his co-authors, one of whom is Dr Jerome Schubert of Texas A&M University (TAMU), describe a model developed as part of a TAMU research project.

In addition to the Signa/TAMU model, the IADC UBO & MPD Committee is working diligently to create a candidate selection tool that will be freely available online. The tool will be unveiled at IADC World Drilling 2010, 16-17 June in Budapest.

One roadblock to acceptance may be confusion between managed pressure and underbalanced operations. In a joint paper at the MPD/UBO conference, Ken Malloy, Stress Engineering, and Sara Shayegi, Hess Corp, went to great pains to draw the line. Like a celebrated road, the road to MPD or UBO is paved with good intentions. In the case of UBO, the intention is to draw influx from the formation into the wellbore. The same is not true for MPD.

And ours is not – let’s face it – an industry quick to embrace change. The tried and true tenaciously hold its edge over the new and exotic.

Finally, an unhelpful, yet stubborn perception lingers regarding reliability. A survey conducted by the IADC Advanced Rig Technology Committee on perceptions across a broad range of technologies, indicated that MPD is highly regarded for safety and accuracy. The respondents also said, however, that certain key elements, notably reliability and automation, “need development.”

The survey results were published as part of a larger paper, “Advanced Rig Technology: Future Technology Subcommittee Report of Activities and Industry Survey” (IADC/SPE 128953), reprised here.

On the upside, along with accuracy and safety, specific MPD technologies that fared well in the survey included automated choke systems and rotating control heads – in other words, MPD’s bread and butter.

A final item noted by the respondents as “needs improvement,” is cost. But then, we surveyed lots of operators, so maybe this is not too surprising!

Short summaries of the presentations by Mr Medley,  Mr Malloy and Ms Shayegi are available here, as is a video interview with Brian Grayson, Weatherford, chairman of the IADC UBO & MPD Committee.

IADC OTC MICROSITE

OTC is just around the corner, and this year is a special one for IADC. 2010 marks IADC’s 20th year as an endorsing organization for the world’s largest upstream petroleum event. IADC members play a pivotal role in OTC. The annual registrant survey consistently shows that, of the 20 participating societies and associations, IADC ranks in the top 3 when delegates are asked which organization they are affiliated with.

This year, IADC is proud to unveil on 1 April an OTC microsite that will provide OTC updates, interviews with key OTC players and conference previews, both ancillary and directly related to the conference. Tune into DrillingContractor.org/otc beginning 1 April.

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