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Deepwater Salt Section Drilled in Single Run

Case study: Operator in Gulf of Mexico uses rotary steerable system
to place 143⁄4-in by 16-in salt interval of directional well as planned


Kick off and simultaneously drill and under-ream 14 3/4-in by 16-in salt interval of deepwater well in one run.


Drill planned trajectory using PowerDrive rotary steerable system, 14 3/4-in polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) bit, and 16-in under-reamer.


Reached section TD, as planned, in one run. Avoided severe shocks.

Drill and under-ream simultaneously

An operator in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico planned to kick off and simultaneously drill and under-ream a well's 14 3/4-in by 16-in hole section in salt. The plan called for drilling out of the 16-in casing shoe and continuing vertically to the kickoff point, building inclination at a rate of 1.5º/100 ft to 30º, and continuing the tangent section through the salt base to the 13 5/8-in casing point at 21,911 ft MD. Although severe shocks and vibrations had been encountered in offset wells while drilling salt, the goal was to drill the section in one run.

Deepwater Salt Section Drilled in Single Run

Reach TD in one run

The operator achieved the goal of drilling the section in one run, using a BHA with a PowerDrive rotary steerable system (RSS), a 14 3/4-in PDC bit, and a 16-in under-reamer located 90 ft behind the bit. At the start of the run, the PowerDrive RSS was programmed to drill vertically and held maximum angle to just 0.10º until the kickoff point was reached. Angle was then built to 30º, using downlinked commands to steer the PowerDrive system, and that inclination was held until the wellbore exited the base of the salt.

A flow check was then performed and drilling proceeded until the base of salt was confirmed on the log at 21,119 ft. The well was circulated bottoms up and the salt exit strategy completed, successfully drilling through the rubble zone. The section was then drilled to TD, following the planned trajectory.
Deepwater Salt Section Drilled in Single Run

Avoid shocks

The PowerDrive RSS drilled the 14 3/4-in by 16-in hole section as a single run. Shocks during the run were minimal and occurred mostly while off bottom. Contributing to the absence of the severe shocks encountered in offset wells were

  • a 7-bladed PDC bit with 16-mm cutters in tandem with a matched reamer
  • real-time monitoring of shock and vibration levels with interventions when required.
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