How Can You Avoid NPT And The Cost Of Damages During Drillout?
When it comes to your drillout or millout job, NPT and excessive damages don't have to be part of the process. While many operators assume that they will see costly equipment damages and will likely have to stop the drillout due to operational issues, there is another way.
EnerCorp is a leading service provider of drillout, flowback and well testing, and sand management services, and we have a unique approach to drillout operations that results in significant savings — for both damages and NPT. Operating in the Permian, Eagle Ford, Northeast, Haynesville, and Canada, among other locations, we have experience working on thousands of wellsites during the drillout/millout process. As a result, we’ve established processes and best practices that ensure our customers see minimal damages and downtime.
Why do poor drillout operations lead to NPT?
It’s all in the approach.
If your service provider suggests the same equipment configuration for your well as for every other well they work on, it’s likely the setup has an opportunity to be optimized.
At EnerCorp, we focus on fit-for-purpose solutions. This means that we first look at your wellsite and understand the pressures you’re working with. We review what your goals are and how much fluid and sand production is expected.
Based on this information, we design a drillout configuration that provides you with the best results — while lowering damages, non-productive time, personnel on site, and environmental exposure.
This focus on fit-for-purpose solutions is not common in the oil and gas industry, where many conversations start out with an equipment list.
With EnerCorp, you don’t see an equipment list until the very end of our conversation when we know exactly what you need.
Millout and drillout services best practices
We’ve had the privilege of working on drillout projects in Louisiana, the Northeast, Bakken, West Texas, New Mexico, and Eagle Ford, in addition to a number of other regions. Our highly experienced team not only use industry best practices while on site — they create them. In order to help our customers avoid the frustrations with damages and NPT, here’s what we recommend:
Carefully monitor and manage fluid returns
Of course, the last thing you want to do is get the coil or pipe stuck. This involves carefully monitoring the fluid return rates to make sure they are matching what is expected. We always make sure we know if you are drilling balanced or under balanced. Plus, we know that it is possible for plans to change during the course of the millout. This is where excellent communication and accurate monitoring are key.
While there are often a lot of personnel on site during this process, they have to be expertly coordinated. Each crew member needs to be talking to one another to ensure they are monitoring the flow in and out of the well and adjusting the choke when they need to in order to balance the fluid returns with pump rates. Keeping a close eye on fluid rates helps ensure hole cleaning stays on track and that you don’t get your pipe or coil stuck in the hole.
A deviation from the plan can cause NPT.
Monitor drill/mill times per plug
When drilling through the plug, you have to ensure you’re creating cuttings that are small enough to return to surface. If the cuttings are too large, they may not be capable of being circulated out of the hole.
This can result in getting your bottom-hole-assembly stuck in the hole, especially on the extended reach laterals that are so common in North American shale plays.
To avoid this, it is always important to know when you have tagged a plug and then monitor and control the drill time through that plug. This will allow you to slowly and steadily drill the plug while generating cuttings small enough to be circulated out of the hole.
Keep an eye on drilling plug parts
It’s important to calculate and monitor sweep times and watch for plug parts to be returned. Not only do you need to know when the plugs are coming up, but you have to know how much of the plug is coming up back to the surface. On many drillout jobs, we actually weigh the plug parts to check if everything came back up.
This helps reduce the risk of getting stuck, and ensures that your wellbore is properly cleaned up before flowback begins.
It also reduces the cost of friction reducer chemicals because you likely won’t need to use as much if the plugs are fully circulated out of the hole and the wellbore is clear of obstructions. Removing all debris from the plugs also plays a part in reaching TD of the well during drillout.
Utilize a cyclone in between your plug catcher and choke manifold
During drillout, the largest damages you will see on flowback equipment will be to your manifold parts and iron as a result of the frac sand returns. In many applications, this damage and the resultant cost can be reduced by using a cyclone between the plug catcher and the choke manifold.
However, this solution isn’t right for all applications, so it will depend on your well conditions.
If it is right for your wellsite, the cyclone not only reduces damages to the manifold, but it can also help keep your drilling fluid clean.
Keep circulating fluid clean
During millout or drillout operations, it’s vital to ensure your circulating fluid is clean in order to minimize damages to downhole tools. If the circulating fluid is full of debris and solids, you will get slower drillout speeds, motor issues — or worse, NPT with trips to replace downhole tools.
Using a cyclone, a filtration device, or a low pressure sand removal device like a SandX, Sand Commander, or Sandcat, is a good way to keep the circulating fluid clean.
The EnerCorp team are well versed in using these devices in all major markets and are familiar with how the technology can benefit your operations.
Use the appropriate frac stack configuration
In order to avoid leaking valves or non-productive time from plugged components, it’s wise to use the right combination of manual and hydraulic frac valves that are the right size for your flow expectations. Your frac stack should be able to handle the sand slugs from your site.
Not having a safety factor within your configuration could mean you’re going to need to replace or repair the leaking frac valves, resulting in NPT.
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