A New Approach to Remove Water-Based Drill-In Fluid Filter Cake

Elkatatny, S.M., and Nasr-El-Din, H.A.
Paper presented at SPE 154192, SPE EUROPEC Conference, 4-7 June, 2012, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Water-based drilling fluids consist of xanthan gum, starch, sized calcium carbonate and salt particles to increase mud density was used to drill horizontal wells. Available chemical methods of removing filter cake like mineral acids, esters, oxidizers, and chelating agents are limited at certain conditions. A drilling fluid was designed based on calcium carbonate particles and an ester of lactic acid. The objective of the latter is to remove calcium carbonate once the drilling operation is complete and there is a need to remove the filter cake. Extensive lab work was done to; 1) determine thermal stability of the drilling fluid (70-72 pcf) for 24 hrs, 2) characterize the filter cake using a computer tomography, 3) assess potential formation damage for different rock types (limestone and sandstone) using a modified HPHT filter press, and 4) determine the removal efficiency of the filter cake and the return permeability. The results obtained showed that the drilling fluid has stable rheological properties up to 300oF over 24 hrs. CT scan showed that the filter cake contained two layers, one layer closed to the rock surface, which contained a mixture of calcium carbonate and acid-precursor and one layer closed to the drilling fluid that contained a mixture of XC-polymer and starch. The polymer layer was removed by using 10% solution of alpha amylase. The rest of the filter cake was removed by lactic acid that was produced from the hydrolysis of the ester. The removal efficiency of the filter cake was nearly 80% and the return permeability was about 100%. The decrease in CT number of the core after the removal process indicated that the filter cake was completely removed. This paper will discuss the development of this new drilling fluid and will give recommendations for field applications.