Ultimate Capacity of a Disposal Well in Drilling Waste Injection Operations

Abou-Sayed, A.S., Guo, Q., and Meng, F.
Presented at SPE/IADC Drilling Conference, Amsterdam, Netherlands, February 2003.


Drilling waste disposal through downhole hydraulic fracturing is often the preferred waste management option because it can achieve green operation and often has favorable economics. Most field situation comprise of injection in either dedicated well or in the annulus of an existing well. Containment of the disposed waste must be ensured and one of the questions in drilling waste injection operations is what the capacity of a disposal well or annular scheme is? The answer to this question depends on downhole waste storage mechanisms. It is evident from laboratory simulation studies and field operation experience that multiple fractures are created in drill cuttings injection (DCI) operations and the capacity of a disposal well is much larger than that estimated from single fracture simulations. More importantly, as more solids are injected into the disposal formation, the local stress is modified. Because of this change in local stress, fracture shapes and extents at the beginning of a DCI operation can be significantly different from the fracture shapes and extents at the end the operation. Modeling of this fracturing evolution process is necessary and essential to ensure the safe containment of the disposed waste and to estimate accurately the disposal capacity of a drilling waste disposal well. This paper presents a numerical algorithm for modeling the multiple fracturing and fracture evolution process during drill cuttings injection operations. Case studies show that the modeling results based on multiple fracturing have significant impacts on DCI operations engineering such as injection pressure requirement and disposal capacity. The results also provide insight into best practices for the containment of disposed waste, when injection can continue into a previous zone and when is there a need to inject into a different zone or when a new disposal well should be drilled. For the purpose of brevity, “disposal well” will be used to designate either a dedicated injector well or an annular injection scheme.