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PDC bits optimized

for shale development
With the rapid increase in drilling activity in North America’s unconventional
shale plays, there has been a significant push to develop application-specific
technologies to increase economic feasibility.

New shale PDC bits

Steven Segal, Smith Bits
From the drill bit perspective, the prob-
lem was solved with a fundamental

T he influx of tailored tools has

helped operators improve well con-
struction efficiency, reduce drilling
steel-body approach to PDC drill bit
design and optimization. Historically,
steel-body bits have been aimed at low-
costs, and maximize production. To cost/low-profile applications with little
continue this trend, the industry has difference between models and practi-
renewed its focus on improving hori- cally no ability to upgrade the technol-
zontal drilling performance through ogy for a specific application. This has
shale formations. Analysis of several changed with the introduction of
shale plays has revealed that PDC bit Smith Bits’ new Shale PDC Bits.
profile plays a major role in increasing With well-defined goals and a thor-
performance. While the industry has ough understanding of the application,
successfully increased on-bottom ROP, design engineers and material special-
thereby reducing drilling time and ists re-examined steel-body PDC bits.
costs, it also must reduce flat time It was apparent that the steel body
between successive bit runs. would allow designers to successfully
address application challenges and
Application challenge provide a cost-effective shale PDC
The unique extended-reach horizon- bit solution.
tal shale drilling application has cre- Manufacturing bits from steel gives
ated a new set of specific challenges. greater flexibility in the design criteria
Smith Bits, a Schlumberger company, and allows increased blade heights to
has extensive experience drilling long optimize the overall blade/body config-
horizontal sections through sand and uration for shale drilling. Due to the
limestone, and the logical tendency generation of large amounts of cut-
was to continue the established trend tings, it was critical that the body geom-
of using matrix body PDC bits for etry be configured for their rapid
shale applications. However, early in evacuation. This poses additional chal-
the campaign it became clear that lenges on the steel body as drilling
matrix body PDC bits did not perform mud entrained with cuttings can cause
to operator expectations in the new steel erosion. The problem was solved
environment. After field and labora- using advanced computational fluid
tory analysis, engineers identified sev-
eral key issues, including bit balling,
directional behavior, and tool face The Shale PDC bit body design and material
control responsible for premature improve cuttings evacuation and reduce
bit failure that prevented operators shale packing during connections and overall
from optimizing horizontal produc- short makeup length to achieve desired dog-
tion zones. leg severity. (Images courtesy of Smith Bits)

Febr uar y 2011 |


Computational fluid dynamic analysis enhanced cutting structure/bottomhole cleaning (left), cutting cooling and cuttings evacua-
tion and recirculation avoidance (right).

dynamics that simulated the at-bit flow regime to ensure string from bit to rig floor. This allowed the design engi-
precise nozzle placement and orientation along with neer to fine-tune the cutting structure by optimizing
blade contour angles to optimize fluid flow at, along, blade geometry, cutter positions, and overall length of
and above the bit. the bit, delivering maximum ROP potential while ensur-
Further improvements were made to the specialized ing the smooth directional response required to success-
hardfacing materials that help protect the steel from the fully complete the well.
erosive drilling fluid. This focused engineering effort
has improved bit life in the horizontal section, allowing Performance results
operators to drill an entire section with one bit run. Combining and updating technology has led to a
The new extended-reach shale application created an step change in shale drilling performance. The new
additional challenge for the drill bit: successfully maneu- bits are setting new performance benchmarks in the
ver the drilling assembly horizontally through the shale Haynesville, Marcellus, and Eagle Ford plays.
formation. The use of the positive displacement motor In the Marcellus application, the target ROP goal for
became essential in drilling these wells. Effective tool drilling the horizontal leg with an 83⁄4-in. bit was 50 ft/hr
face control is critical so drillers can effectively “steer” (15 m/hr). Using the advanced modeling/simulation
the bit within the shale formation. Previous bits had package, the bit was designed for the application and
steerability issues that led to loss of directional control, run successfully, achieving ROPs in excess of 65 ft/hr
resulting in poor borehole quality. (20 m/hr), a 30% improvement over the operator-set
target. In the Haynesville, a new 63⁄4-in. steel-body PDC
Predicting performance bit has been drilling horizontal sections in a single run
The solution to optimize directional bit behavior was at ROPs that are 10% to 20% faster than the best offset
accomplished using Smith Bit’s 4-D simulation and performance.
modeling tool IDEAS to accurately predict drill bit and The new generation of steel-body PDC bits is allowing
bottomhole assembly performance. Using advanced operators to reduce costs and increase overall drilling
computer workstations running detailed finite element efficiency in a variety of North American shale
analysis, the modeling tool analyzed the entire drill- applications.

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