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Effect of Drillpipe Rotation on Hole Cleaning During Directional-Well Drilling

R. Alfredo Sanchez,* SPE and J.J. Azar, SPE, U. of Tulsa; A.A. Bassal, SPE, Gearhart United Pty. Ltd.; s and A.L. Martins, SPE, Petrobra Summary The effect of drillpipe rotation on hole cleaning during directional-well drilling is investigated. An 8 in. diameter well1 bore simulator, 100 ft long, with a 4 2 in. drillpipe was used for the study. The variables considered in this experimental work are: rotary speed, hole inclination, mud rheology, cuttings size, and mud ow rate. Over 600 tests were conducted. The rotary speed was varied from 0 to 175 rpm. High viscosity and low viscosity bentonite muds and polymer muds were used 1 1 with 4 in. crushed limestone and 10 in. river gravel cuttings. Four hole inclinations were considered: 40, 65, 80, and 90 from vertical. The results show that drillpipe rotation has a signicant effect on hole cleaning during directional-well drilling, contrary to what has been published by previous researchers who forced the drillpipe to rotate about its own axis. The level of enhancement due to pipe rotation is a function of the simultaneous combination of mud rheology, cuttings size, and mud ow rate. Also it was observed that the dynamic behavior of the drillpipe steady state vibration, unsteady sate vibration, whirling rotation, true axial rotation parallel to hole axis, etc. plays a major role on the signicance in the improvement of hole cleaning. Generally, smaller cuttings are more difcult to transport. However, at high rotary speed and with high viscosity muds, the smaller cuttings seem to become easier to transport. Generally, in inclined wells, low viscosity muds clean better than high viscosity muds, depending on cuttings size, viscosity, and rotary speed level.

Introduction Numerous studies on cuttings transport have been conducted for the past two decades. Although several investigators have made observations on the effect of drillpipe rotation, most have focused their studies on mud rheology and annular velocities. This is the rst time an extensive experimental study is conducted with the sole purpose of investigating the effect of drillpipe rotation on hole cleaning. In the past, the effect of drillpipe rotation was thought to be minimal. This belief was based on the results of experiments which were conducted in ow loops that used centralizers to constrain the pipe to rotate on its own axis, avoiding any orbital motion. Although the motion of the pipe will change at different positions along the well, it is now believed that in most cases the drillstring will have both rotary and orbital motion, even when in tension. In this case, it is the orbital motion and not the rotation that improves hole cleaning. When the pipe is rotating only along its axis, it will cause a shift and a slight increase in the velocity prole in the annular area, causing the velocities on one side of
*Now with Reda Pump.
Copyright 1999 Society of Petroleum Engineers This paper (SPE 56406) was revised for publication from paper SPE 37626, rst presented at the 1997 SPE/IADC Drilling Conference held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 4 6 March. Original manuscript received for review 2 April 1997. Revised manuscript received 15 January 1999. Revised manuscript approved 11 February 1999.

the hole to be higher than on the other. Generally, a no slip condition at the boundaries in the annulus is assumed. These include the boundary between the hole or casing and the uid, the boundary between the uid and the drillpipe, and the boundary between the uid and the cuttings bed. If the pipe is not rotating, the velocity of the uid particles at these boundaries is zero. When the pipe rotates, this boundary condition means that the velocity of the uid particles adjacent to drillpipe is equal to the rotational speed of the pipe, perpendicular to the hole axis, resulting in a pseudo-helical ow. The minor effects observed in tests conducted under this conguration using centralizers indicate that the shift and the increase of the annular velocities are minor and do not affect cuttings transport signicantly. On the other hand, the orbital motion of the pipe improves the transport of cuttings signicantly in two ways: First, the mechanical agitation of the cuttings in an inclined hole sweeps the cuttings resting on the lower side of the hole into the upper side, where the annular velocity is higher. Second, the orbital motion exposes the cuttings under the drillstring cyclically to the moving uid particles. Even though investigators have been aware of this phenomenon, it has usually been ignored for several reasons: First, the orbital motion of the string will generally reduce the cuttings concentration in the annulus, and therefore ignoring it was thought to be a conservative approach. Second, the dynamics of the drillstring in the wellbore is still not well understood. Also, the borehole simulators currently available that allow simulation of pipe rotation assume that the pipe does not orbitate. However, the reduction in cuttings concentration and improvement on bed erosion are too high to be ignored. Furthermore, recent advances in drillstring dynamics could eventually evolve into a complex cuttings transport simulator that accounts for orbital motion. As will be shown, the benet of pipe rotation to hole cleaning is a function mainly of rotary speed, hole inclination, and ow rate, mud rheology, and cuttings size. The latter two have the least effect. Experiments Over 600 tests were conducted at The University of Tulsa TUDRP cuttings transport facility. A full scale 8 in.100 ft
1 wellbore simulator Fig. 1 with 4 2 in. drillpipe was used. A data acquisition system records information every second. The information recorded allows monitoring of cuttings concentration mass in the test section throughout the duration of each test. A detailed description of the facility is given in Refs. 2 and 3.

Test Procedure. The test procedure was designed to study the effect of pipe rotation on: 1. cuttings concentration while drilling at steady state conditions, 2. bed erosion after drilling has stopped, 3. cuttings transport patterns. The following sequence of steps was used. First, a ow rate is established and the data acquisition started while the drillpipe is static. Injection of cuttings is then started and continued until steady state is reached, i.e., a constant concentration in the annulus has been established. Ten minutes into the steady state condi1086-055X/99/42/101/8/$3.500.15 101

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nulus. However, Fig. 3 shows how under the same conditions, rotary speed of 90 rpm does allow all the cuttings to be removed. Mud Systems. A total of ve mud systems were used: two bentonite muds and three polymer muds. The two bentonite systems had PV/YP equal to 7/7 and 20/20 PV 600- 300 , YP300-PV. The three polymer muds had low, medium, and high viscosities unfortunately the actual rheological properties are proprietary information we are unable to publish at this time. Cuttings Type and Size. Two types of cuttings were selected: 1 3 4 in. crushed limestone cuttings with a density of 2.56 g/cm and 1 3 10 in. river gravel with a density of 2.64 g/cm . The settling velocities of these cuttings in the mud systems at static conditions varied between 1.5 and 10.5 in./sec.
Fig. 1TUDRP cuttings-transport loop.

tion, pipe rotation is started. An increase in the cuttings collection rate occurs until a new steady state is reached and held for another 10 min. Then the injection of cuttings is stopped and erosion of the bed begins. The test is terminated once no more cuttings are leaving the annulus collection rateinjection rate 0 . The cuttings concentration at this point may or may not be zero, depending on the operating conditions. Figs. 2 and 3 show two tests in progress. Stage 1 represents the accumulation process, where the cuttings concentration in the annulus increases from zero until it reaches a constant value. In stage 2, the cuttings injection rate is equal to the cuttings collection rate and the cuttings mass in the annulus remains constant. Pipe rotation starts in stage 3 and continues until the end of the test. Erosion of the bed begins and continues until a new steady state is reached. This is the beginning of stage 4 in which the cuttings mass in the test section remains constant. At the end of stage 4, the cuttings injection rate is stopped, resulting in further bed erosion. The erosion is shown in stage 5 where the cuttings concentration decreases to its lowest value. Fig. 2 shows that under the given conditions, rotary speed of 50 rpm is not enough to remove all the cuttings from the an-

Pipe Motion. The drillpipe was constrained at its ends only, allowing it to assume several types of motion depending on several conditions. Pure rotation motion consisting of rotation about its own axis only existed at very low speed and the pipe did stay in contact with the hole. Furthermore, at low speeds, this motion was independent of the rest of the conditions. At higher speeds, the drillpipe would begin an orbital motion. The speed at which this occurs and the actual path of the drillpipe depends on bed height. The higher the bed height, the higher the speed required to start orbital motion, and the lower the deviation from pure rotation. The reason for this phenomenon is that the bed acts as a damper a constraint whose coefcient strength depends on its height. In an extreme case, a drillpipe that is buried in a cuttings bed would remain in pure rotation even at the higher speeds. The motion of the drillpipe was very realistic. The different types of motion observed are probably the closest representation of downhole conditions in an experimental cuttings transport ow loop. One of the most realistic phenomena observed was the creeping of the drillpipe up the casing wall, until gravity would prevent it from continuing. The combined result of its momentum and gravity would throw the pipe back to the center horizontally of the hole.

Fig. 2Test in progress, 50 rev/min. 102 Sanchez et al.: Effect of Drillpipe Rotation SPE Journal, Vol. 4, No. 2, June 1999

Fig. 3Test in progress, 90 rev/min.

Results and Discussion In Figs. 4 15, the cuttings weight in the test section at steady state conditions is plotted against rotary speed. The graphs show different ow rates for the three angles and two types of cuttings used. The injection rate was kept constant at 35 ft/hr. For comparison purposes, the scale of the axes are the same in all graphs. The results show that the level of improvement in hole cleaning as a result of drillpipe rotation can vary from moderate to signicant depending on several variables: cuttings size, ow rate, hole angle, mud rheology, and drillstring rotary speed. The gures show that rotating the pipe can result in as much as 80% reduction in the cuttings concentration. The following discusses the effect of these variables on the level of improvement. Rotary Speed and Flow Rate. As ow rate increases hole cleaning improvement increases, as expected, at all rotary speeds. However, the level of improvement was different at different rotary speeds. For example, at the highest inclination 90, Figs. 4 to 7 and low ow rates upper two curves, the reduction in cuttings concentration due to pipe rotation was higher in the upper range of pipe speeds, above 100 rpm. In other words, at low ow rates, increasing pipe rotation from 100 to 150 rpm was more

signicant than from 25 to 75 rpm. Looking at the higher ow rate lower curves, Figs. 47, a change in the shape of the curves can be noticed. In the lower ow rates, the slope of the curves in the region between 0 and 75 rpm is less less negative than above 100 rpm. However, at higher ow rates, the opposite is observed, the low speed regions have higher more negative slopes. One reason for this phenomenon is that at low ow rates, the pipe has more cuttings to act on, even after being rotated. In higher ow rates, the bed height is lower and the initial rotary speeds decrease it the most. At a lower inclination 65, Figs. 811, this pattern disappears, but still the higher the rotary speed, the least the annular cuttings concentration. In the 40 tests Figs. 1215, the benet of pipe rotation was independent of the rotary speed, increasing rotation from 0 to 75 rpm produced the same benets as from 100 to 150 rpm. Although the reduction in annular concentration due to pipe rotation is the least at this angle, it is still signicant. Rotary Speed and Mud Rheology. In general, rotary speed has slightly higher improvement on hole cleaning for the higher viscosity muds tested. This was true for the polymer and bentonite mud systems. It is believed that the most enhancement in hole

Fig. 4Cuttings weight in test section, Set 1. Sanchez et al.: Effect of Drillpipe Rotation

Fig. 5Cuttings weight in test section, Set 2. SPE Journal, Vol. 4, No. 2, June 1999 103

Fig. 6Cuttings weight in test section, Set 3.

Fig. 10Cuttings weight in test section, Set 7.

Fig. 7Cuttings weight in test section, Set 4.

Fig. 11Cuttings weight in test section, Set 8.

Fig. 12Cuttings weight in test section, Set 9. Fig. 8Cuttings weight in test section, Set 5.

Fig. 9Cuttings weight in test section, Set 6. 104 Sanchez et al.: Effect of Drillpipe Rotation

Fig. 13Cuttings weight in test section, Set 10. SPE Journal, Vol. 4, No. 2, June 1999

Fig. 14Cuttings weight in test section, Set 11.

Fig. 15Cuttings weight in test section, Set 12.

cleaning due to pipe rotation is a result of the mechanical agitation of cuttings on the low side of the wellbore and also whether the pipe lifts off from the low side to the high side as it rotates. It is speculated by the present authors that for ner drilled solids, smaller than what was used in the present work, more signicant effect of rotary speed on hole cleaning will be experienced for higher viscosity muds. Rotary Speed and Hole Angle. The major improvements in hole cleaning from pipe rotation were observed in the higher inclinations. The lowest improvement was achieved at 40 Figs. 12 15, while the highest was in the horizontal tests Figs. 47. A possible reason is that at high angles the mechanical agitation is more signicant. Rotary Speed and Cuttings Size. Figs. 47 show the results for the 90 tests. For the thinner mud (PV/YP 7/7), the cuttings concentration with the larger cuttings Fig. 4 was lower than with the smaller cuttings Fig. 5. For the thicker mud (PV/YP 20/20), the smaller cuttings were still harder to transport, but

the difference in the concentration of the two sizes was less. These gures show that at 90, the size of the cuttings, for the sizes used here, does not affect the level of improvement caused by the drillpipe rotation. Figs. 811 show the same plots for the 65 tests. At this inclination, cuttings size only affected the level of improvement when using the thicker mud. The average reduction in cuttings concentration as a result of pipe rotation was higher with the 20/20 mud than with the 7/7 mud. Still the difference was small and the same conclusion can be reached as for the 90 angle. Similar results can be observed from Figs. 1215 for the 40 angle. Bed Erosion Drillpipe rotation has a major effect on hole cleaning after drilling has stopped. The benets of rotating the pipe are in the residual cuttings concentration and in the time it takes to clean the hole. By residual cuttings concentration it is meant the amount of cuttings left in the annulus that cannot be cleaned even after drilling ceases. At low ow rates, the annular velocities are not high enough to erode 100% of the cuttings bed. A residual concentra-

Fig. 16Bed erosion at high inclination. Sanchez et al.: Effect of Drillpipe Rotation SPE Journal, Vol. 4, No. 2, June 1999 105

Fig. 17Bed erosion at high inclination, 125 rev/min.

tion was generally left when the pipe was not rotating. However, when the pipe was rotating, in most of the tests, it was possible to clean the annulus completely, even at low rotary speeds. Also, the time it takes to clean the hole can be drastically reduced with low rotary speeds. The bed erosion process is illustrated in Figs. 16 19 for the XCD mud. In Fig. 16, the test was started with no pipe rotation until the steady state condition was reached, with close to 975 lb. of cuttings in the test section. At this point, the injection rate was stopped and bed erosion began, continuing until the cuttings concentration had dropped to 625 lb. no more cuttings leaving the annulus. The pipe was then rotated at 50 rpm, reinitiating erosion, and resulting in an additional 125 lb. drop of

cuttings in the annulus. Similarly, increasing the pipe rotation to 75 and 125 rpm reduced the cuttings weight to 475 and 400 lb., respectively. No further erosion cleaning was possible at the given ow rate. From the graph it can be seen that in this case, it was the initial 50 rpm rotation that had the most benet in the cleaning process. A similar test was conducted under the same conditions and is shown in Fig. 17. In this case, the pipe was rotated during the entire test. The cuttings weight in the test section at steady state before stopping cuttings injection was only 750 lb., approximately, compared to 975 lb. for the previous test. Stopping cuttings injection caused the bed to be eroded down to about 375 lb.

Fig. 18Bed erosion at low inclination, 0 rev/min. 106 Sanchez et al.: Effect of Drillpipe Rotation SPE Journal, Vol. 4, No. 2, June 1999

Fig. 19Bed erosion at low inclination, 125 rev/min.

Figs. 18 and 19 show bed erosion at 40 inclination. Fig. 18 shows a test with no pipe rotation. After the injection rate was stopped, the bed was eroded from 425 to 75 lb. approximately. Comparing with Fig. 19, it can be seen that at this inclination pipe rotation did not affect cuttings concentration at steady state or bed erosion after cuttings injection had stopped as much as in the higher 65 and 90 tests. Cuttings Transport Patterns In high inclinations, above 50, the main effect of pipe rotation on the cuttings transport patterns is the formation of an unsteady bed leading to individual dunes as rotary speed increases. This was observed even at the lowest rotary speeds and at all ow rates. At the higher speeds, above 125 rpm, some cuttings can actually go over the pipe from one side of the annulus to the other. At lower inclinations, 40, the bed is about to start sliding down and rotating the pipe seem to help initiate it. In general, at this inclination rotation caused more disorder than in lower angles. Conclusions 1. Pipe rotation has a signicant effect on hole cleaning. 2. The reduction in the cuttings weight in the annulus can be as high as 80. 3. The decrease in cuttings concentration is a function of rotary speed, hole inclination, and ow rate. 4. In general, at 90 from vertical and low ow rates high rotary speeds produce the most benets. The opposite is true at high ow rates. In lower inclinations, no critical range of rotary speeds was identied but higher meant better. 5. Pipe rotation also improves bed erosion once drilling has stopped. Both the residual concentration and the erosion time are reduced. 6. The formation of unsteady beds and dunes were observed at even the lowest rotary speeds. 7. The motion of the drillpipe determines the contribution of pipe rotation to hole cleaning. Orbital motion is needed for signicant improvement to occur.
Sanchez et al.: Effect of Drillpipe Rotation

Acknowledgments The authors wish to thank Shell International Exploration and Production, Petrobras, BDM-DOE, and TUDRP for nancial support and permission to publish the results of this study. References
1. Jalukar, L.S.: A Study of Hole Size Effect on Critical and Subcritical Drilling Fluid Velocities in Cuttings Transport for Inclined Wellbores, MS Thesis, U. of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK 1993. 2. Larsen, T.: A Study of the Critical Fluid Velocity in Cuttings Transport for Inclined Wellbores, MS Thesis, U. of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK 1990. 3. Bassal, A.: The Effect of Drillpipe Rotation on Cuttings Transport in Inclined Wellbores, MS Thesis, U. of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK 1996. 4. Martin, M. et al.: Transport of Cuttings in Directional Wells, paper SPE 16083, Presented at the 1987 SPE Drilling Conference, New Orleans, 1518 March. 5. Kenny, P., and Hemphill, T.: Hole-Cleaning Capabilities of an Ester-Based Drilling Fluid System, SPEDC 3 March 1996. 6. Kenny, P. et al.: Hole Cleaning Modelling: Whats n Got To Do With It?, paper SPE 35099, Presented at the 1996 SPE Drilling Conference, New Orleans, 1215 March. 7. Luo, Y. et al.: Flow Rate Predictions for Cleaning Deviated Wells, paper SPE 23884, Presented at the 1992 SPE Drilling Conference, New Orleans, 1821 February.

Metric Conversion Factors in. 2.54* ft 3.048* lbm 4.535 924 gal 2.31*
*Conversion factor is exact.

E 00 E 01 E 01 E 02

cm m kg m3 SPEJ

R. Alfredo Sanchez is an application engineer with Reda Pump. Electronic-mail: He previously was a MS degree candidate at the U. of Tulsa, where he conducted theoretical and experimental research on cuttings transport. Sanchez holds a BS degree in mechaniSPE Journal, Vol. 4, No. 2, June 1999 107

cal engineering and a MS degree in petroleum engineering, both from the U. of Tulsa. J.J. Azar is Professor of petroleum engineering at the U. of Tulsa and a lecturer and consultant in drilling engineering. He has extensive experience in applied industrial drilling research. He holds a PhD degree in mechanical engineering from the U. of Oklahoma. Azar received the 1997 Distinguished Achievement Award for Petroleum Engineering Faculty and the 1998 Drilling Engineering Award. Currently the chairman of the Multilateral Technology Technical

Interest Group and a member of the Distinguished Achievement Award for Petroleum Engineering Faculty Committee, he also served on an 198586 Annual Meeting Technical Committee, as the 199092 U. of Tulsa Student Chapter Faculty Sponsor, and as a 199093 member of the Career Guidance Committee. Biographical information for Adel Ali Bassel is unavailable. Andre L. Martins is a petroleum chemist with s in Rio de Janeiro. Petrobra


Sanchez et al.: Effect of Drillpipe Rotation

SPE Journal, Vol. 4, No. 2, June 1999