Ultra-large diameter Polycrystalline Diamond Compact (PDC) bit drilling is a fast growing cost-effective solution in high-tier deepwater drilling operations in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico (GOM) where salt is encountered in the shallow part of the wellbore. Conventional design called for roller cone (RC) (IADC Code 111-115) drill bits on positive displacement motors (PDM) in these ultra-large diameter intervals. Cost savings on drilling fluid alone, in the form of Rate of Penetration (ROP) gains through the salt interval, has the industry trending to drill these riserless sections with the use of PDC drill bits on Rotary Steerable System (RSS) drilling assemblies.
New robust high torque capacity top drives, stronger drillpipe connections, larger diameter RSS tools and improved mud programs have all largely contributed to this step change in drilling performance. Additionally, evolved bit and BHA design, efficient operating parameters, improved hydraulics and vibration prediction modeling have all aided in the success of these runs.
Although this emerging new trend reduces drilling times and associated cost, experience has shown there are multiple challenges that must be overcome to complete a successful run in a single trip. These challenges vary from well to well and include, but are not limited to: BHA steerability, rig equipment limitations, efficient operating parameters, identification of both sediment and salt formations, hole cleaning and hydraulics, salt creep, drilling fluid displacement, drillpipe torque limitations, stabilization placement, lateral/ torsional BHA vibrations, and others.
This presentation will concentrate on the multiple aspects of ultra-large diameter riserless PDC bit drilling applications and the considerations that have been used to optimize them. Prior SPE papers and data from previous deepwater GOM case histories were heavily researched and scrutinized to support the conclusions provided within the body of this paper. Together with industry experience available, these findings have resulted in a set of defined recommendations, providing operators with a guide to justify a lower cost per foot approach through the potential reduction of drilling time in these challenging applications.