Borehole hydraulics, hole cleaning and mechanical friction are important factors for well planning and drilling operations. Many studies aim to exploit and optimize the effect of different operational parameters. The effect of wellbore geometry on hole cleaning and mechanical friction has so far not received much attention. This paper presents results from experimental laboratory tests where hydraulics, hole cleaning and mechanical friction have been investigated for circular and non-circular wellbore geometries with a relevant oil-based field drilling fluid (OBM). The non-circular wellbore geometry was made by adding spiral grooves to the wellbore walls in order to investigate the effects on cuttings transport and mechanical friction. The study contributes to describe the function and ability of deliberately induced non-circular geometry in wellbores as means to achieve a more efficient drilling and well construction. Improving hole cleaning will improve drilling efficiency in general, and will in particular enable longer reach for ERD wells. Reduced mechanical friction may improve the drilling process and many operations during the completion phase.
The laboratory experiments were performed in an advanced flow loop setup reproducing field-relevant flow conditions. The flow loop consists of a 10 m long 4″ inner diameter borehole made of concrete. A free whirling rotational string with 2″ diameter provides a realistic down hole annular geometry. A field-relevant oil based drilling fluid (OBM) was circulated through the test section at different flow rates. To represent the effect of rate of penetration, synthetic drilling cuttings (quartz sand particles) were injected at different rates through the annulus in the horizontal test section. The test results show that borehole hydraulics and cutting transport properties are significantly improved in the non-circular wellbore relative to the circular wellbore. The effect of the mechanical friction is more complex, yet significantly different for the two geometries.