The primary goal of performance tracking is to consistently minimize drilling costs by using a three-pronged approach:
By tracking the performance data associated with each of these facets of the drilling process, companies gain valuable insight into their interrelatedness. The effectiveness of solids control equipment has a profound impact on the quality of drilling fluid and the amount of dilution needed to maintain it. Solids control equipment also plays an important part when it comes to managing waste volumes. Drilling fluid properties must be considered when optimizing solids control equipment and waste disposal practices, and understanding waste disposal options is necessary when determining both drilling fluid and solids control strategies. Partnering with an expert, such as Aerion, who specializes in proactively managing the entire system allows operators to improve the drilling process, cut unnecessary costs and maximize profits.
“What gets measured gets managed.”
E&P Companies have a difficult time accurately measuring the efficiency of their fluid and waste management efforts. Typically, more focus is placed on measuring drilling fluid volumes than on solids control equipment optimization and waste minimization. Without proper measurement, these companies are missing out on many of these benefits.
Minimizing the percentage of solids in the drilling fluid significantly impacts the speed of drilling operations. Some solids are necessary to maintain specific drilling fluid properties, but some solids, referred to as drilled solids or cuttings, act as contaminants for the drilling fluid. Minimizing their effect will increase rates of penetration and can be done by mechanically removing them from the fluid system and by adding base fluid (dilution).
As the drilling fluid circulates through pumps, drill pipe and downhole tools, contaminant solids create excess heat and friction that decrease the life of these tools. The costs to repair or replace tools can be extremely expensive so maintaining a desirable solids content is essential.
The easiest and most common practice for reducing solids content is dilution. While dilution will always be necessary for drilling operations, it can be quite expensive and should be minimized. The most obvious cost associated with dilution is the price per gallon of base fluid. Trucking this fluid to a well site is also expensive. For every gallon of fresh base fluid that is added to the drilling fluid system, a certain amount of chemicals must also be added. Excessive dilution increases the volume of drilling fluid that must be managed, usually by sending back to a mud plant where it is reconditioned (for a price) and stored for later use.
Mechanical solids control equipment, if optimized properly, can effectively remove drill cuttings and decrease costs as it significantly reduces the amount of dilution and chemical required. It also increases the life of the mud so that it can be used much longer, which further reduces the transportation and disposal costs associated with it.
For decades, the standard method for calculating the volume of waste has been the “eyeball method,” which is obviously not a very accurate performance tracking technique. In a closed-loop system, the task is performed at the well site by the truck driver who always leaves with a “full load.” This waste is delivered to a waste disposal yard, where the E&P company usually pays a price based on the volume of waste that was delivered. Without a more accurate method to measure waste volumes, the E&P company usually pays to dispose of more waste than was actually delivered. Using accurate methods alone can reduce the cost of waste disposal by as much as 25 percent.
Optimizing solids control equipment to improve solids removal efficiency reduces the amount of dilution, which directly correlates to the amount of waste volume generated.
More Dilution = More Waste.
The process flow through the solids control equipment can also have an impact on waste volumes. When solids are removed from the drilling fluid, they carry base fluid with them, which contributes to the overall waste volume. Therefore, it is not only critical to optimize the solids control equipment for solids removal efficiency, but also for producing dryer cuttings in the waste stream. Dryer cuttings also indicate that more base fluid was recovered so that it could be recycled and reused.
In most cases, performance tracking for fluid and waste management relies exclusively on daily reports (mud reports) submitted by the drilling fluid technician on the wellsite location. Among other things, performance tracking techniques involve close monitoring of daily dilution rates, footage drilled and commercial solids and other chemicals that are added to the drilling fluid system.
Fluid Testing in the field is an extremely important component of performance tracking. A full “mud check” is completed and the results are submitted with the daily mud report. The mud check requires multiple tests including a retort test that determines the percentage of solids, oil and water of a specific mud sample. Mud samples can be collected at multiple locations, but are most commonly collected just before being pumped downhole. In some cases, mud samples will be sent in for more extensive testing using expensive laboratory equipment.
Solids control equipment selection is usually determined by past experience and adherence to the status quo without any analysis from performance tracking methodologies. This generally results in having an equipment underutilization problem and the operator ends up paying for equipment that is not needed.
Solids control equipment settings are sometimes noted on the mud report, but rarely include enough accurate details to make useful decisions. Unfortunately, performance tracking efforts for solids control equipment don’t go much further than shaker screen sizes and centrifuge runtime hours.
Aerion’s most valuable assets for performance tracking are its personnel on location. Our supervisors and equipment operators have the extensive training and experience to ensure that customers receive the best possible service.
Because solids content is such a critical piece of information for performance tracking, Aerion uses only 50 mL OFI Retort Kits which are much more accurate than the standard 10 mL OFI Retort Kits that are most often used by drilling fluid technicians. Aerion personnel at the wellsite collect mud samples at various depths and locations throughout the solids control process in order to optimize the equipment settings.
Many of these samples are shipped to the Aerion Laboratory Facility for further testing. Aerion has the capability to run a full mud check as well as particle size analysis using the Microtrac S3500, which uses laser diffraction to obtain the most accurate measurements.
Aerion also analyzes samples from the waste streams to measure and record the retention of oil on cuttings. This information is reviewed along with accurate waste volumes to make necessary cost savings adjustments.
Aerion has a dedicated team of technical experts that is responsible for analyzing operational data for each well, such as solids removal efficiency, diesel consumption rates, centrifuge utilization, etc. This information is mined even further before reports are developed to give a deeper understanding of performance drivers.
Sophisticated performance tracking techniques give Aerion a large database of information that is not only used for post-well analysis, but also project planning. This information helps Aerion standardize solids control operating procedures in various shale plays with various drilling fluid systems. This level of insight gives E&P companies confidence when entering new basins or expanding their drilling programs.
Aerion is the leading provider of high-quality fluid and waste management solutions. Our dedication to performance tracking gives us an unparalleled advantage for understanding and solving our customers’ challenges by using tested strategies that increase their bottom line. To learn more about our performance tracking methods and how we can help your drilling program, contact us today.