Drilling Efficiency in Oil Sands Formations


Drilling in highly viscous oil sands presents operators with several unique challenges. Because the oil sand is poorly consolidated and very glutinous, it sticks to bottomhole drilling assemblies, casing shoes and production liners. These accretion problems can in-turn lead to difficulty tripping, lower rates of penetration, poor hole cleaning effectiveness, excessive torque/drag, and differential sticking during the drilling process. Given the common use of horizontal wells in the oil sands, these challenges are particularly prevalent. Difficulty running casing and production liners can also be a problem.


A critical enabler in overcoming poorly consolidated and sticky oil sand is custom drilling and completion fluids design. Halliburton’s highly effective fluids work to help eliminate or reduce accretion, maximize cuttings transport efficiency, minimize reservoir damage, reduce cost of steam injection and simplify waste management costs. Proper fluids modeling improves planning and customization of the specific well based on anticipated and actual conditions. For oil sands operators, the benefits can be significant:

  • Better drilling performance: reduced NPT due to accretion
  • Reduced cost associated with cleaning drill cuttings
  • Improved production performance by inhibiting reservoir clay migration into the wellbore
  • Reduced energy inputs and carbon impacts through reduced heat loss from steam injection wells in SAGD applications.

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