One important requirement for a drilling fluid is the ability to transport the cuttings out of the borehole. Improved hole cleaning is a key to solve several challenges in the drilling industry and will allow both longer wells and improved quality of well construction. It has been observed, however, that drilling fluids with similar properties according to the API standard can have significantly different behavior with respect to hole cleaning performance. The reasons for this are not fully understood.

This paper presents results from laboratory tests where water based drilling fluids with similar rheological properties according to API measurements have been tested for their hole cleaning capabilities in a full scale flow loop. Thorough investigation of the viscoelastic properties of the fluids were performed with, among other instruments, a Paar-Physica rheometer.

Improved understanding of the fluid properties relevant to hole cleaning performance will help develop better models of wellbore hydraulics used in planning of well operations. Eventually this may lead to higher ROP with water based drilling fluids as obtained with oil based drilling fluids. This may ease cuttings handling in many operations and thereby significantly reduce the drilling cost using (normally) more environmentally friendly fluids.

The experiments have been conducted as part of an industry-sponsored research project where understanding the hole cleaning performance of various oil and water based drilling fluids is the aim. The experiments have been performed under realistic conditions. The flow loop includes a 12 meter long test section with 2″ OD freely rotating drillstring inside a 4″ ID wellbore made of concrete. Sand particles were injected while circulating the drilling fluid through the test section in horizontal position.

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