4 Reasons To Plan Well Completion Before Your Budget



Drilling long highly deviated or horizontal wells is now an overwhelming trend in the industry. It is also now a comparatively easy task due to a decade or more of intense investment and research into advancing geoscience and drilling technologies. Drilling costs, while still a major cost of field development, have gone down as more and more wells are drilled. The industry worldwide has achieved remarkable progress with lateral lengths now routinely exceeding many thousands of meters.

However, when it comes to well completions, many companies still use completion strategies and technologies that served adequately  with shorter wells a decade earlier, but are now challenged. Producers are noticing a disturbing trend of disappointing or rapidly declining production from extended reach wells. Operations teams and executives are justifiably concerned about not recovering the reserves that extended reach drilling should deliver.

It can be challenging to figure out exactly which factors are driving the production shortfalls. Many of these extended reach wells only have three to five years of field comparative wells to benchmark and study.  All of those wells may be declining at the same disappointing rate.

The causes of well decline and economic well loss are complex and multi-factored.  Even knowing the causes, the cost of downhole intervention and remediation can be extremely high. In addition, those costs fall to operations teams long after drilling and completion have left the field.

Most of the causes could be avoided, mitigated, or managed with prudent forethought and early well completion planning. The completion budgeting process would involve understanding what solutions exist in the market that address emerging problems not previously experienced such as:

  • Not all formation zones across the extended reach well contribute equally
  • Some thief zones may actually be absorbing production that never reaches surface
  • The pressure profile along an extended lateral may allow no production from the toe even though thousands of dollars were spent to drill the length
  • Adding enhanced artificial lift capability to improve draw down often leads to early water influx, rising water cut and increased operating costs
  • Effective sand sampling and testing to understand the reservoir rock consolidation and particle size distribution across the reservoir is often overlooked or minimized to cut costs.
  • Landing liners and screens to target depth in long laterals without damage and distortion is a challenge
  • In the rush to meet a drilling schedule, wellbore clean up to remove residual filter cake that can damage near wellbore permeability is overlooked
  • Aggressive drilling muds required to stop formation collapse can make wellbore clean up difficult

If drilling and completions were planned simultaneously, four significant advantages could be achieved, and these clearly warrant early completion planning and budgeting:

  1. The completion can be designed to better manage the pressure profile along the lateral wellbore over the life of the well and that well life can be extended by changing the profile as the well ages;
  2. Recent innovations allow liners and screens to be circulated or floated into the wellbore, and circulation screen assemblies that add weight can be avoided as well as their associated costs;
  3. Effective completion technology choices could be made and deployed to avoid sand and water damage to the wellbore; and
  4. Considerable savings can be realized and proper well clean up could be performed while the drill rig is in place and using the same tanks and equipment.

Traditionally, the costs associated with rigs, crew and stand-by time are the greatest expenses in any well project. These expenses vary with well designs and configurations, location and logistic challenges,  as well as unexpected geophysical and equipment challenges below the surface. Most planners try to budget for the expected challenges and make an allowance for unexpected problems that can hold up rig drilling schedules, and lead to overtime for crews.

Though many companies have combined their drilling and completions teams, the functions too often continue to work in silos without truly integrating their schedules and planning.  Drilling and completions engineers have a huge opportunity to work collaboratively to ensure that:

  • Each section of the reservoir drilled contributes to the productivity of the well;
  • The well produces optimally to recover the maximum reserves; and
  • Minimum intervention is required over the life of the well to recover the reserves.