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How to run casing and openhole pressure tests

Prof. dr. Davorin Matanovi

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Leak-off test

PRESSURE TESTING below the casing seat is


generally performed for two reasons:
1.
2.

To test the cement job.


To determine the fracture gradient in the first sand below the
casing shoe.

If the cement job is faulty, remedial work can be


carried out before further drilling is attempted.

Usually, the next casing string depends on what can be


contained with the one just set.
So maximum permissible well-bore pressure that can be
imposed on the formation is valuable information for the
operator.

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Leak-off test

If for some reason the operator anticipates a need for a


total hydrostatic pressure in excess of the test pressure,
he should either retest with the drill string back in the last
casing string or set a liner before drilling ahead.

Testing initially to leak-off is an arbitrary decision that depends on


the operator's objectives. If experience shows the hydrostatic
pressure plus circulating pressures will not exceed 1920 kgm-3
(16 lb/gal.) then there is no need to increase the pressure to the
leak-off point that may reach 2160 kgm-3 (18 lb/gal.)
On the other hand, if the next casing string depends on what can
be contained with the last casing string then maximum advantage
can be obtained from a specific knowledge of the maximum
permissible well-bore pressure that can be imposed on the
formation. Thus, in this case the operator can profit from a
knowledge of the maximum leak-off and rupture pressure.

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Leak-off test
TESTING the well bore for maximum pressure limits can
be easy and accurate if certain specific procedures are
followed.
These procedures include correcting for mud gel
strength, displaying pressure and volume limits on the
test graph, having the proper pump rate, and running the
test long enough. Post-test analysis is also a critical
factor.
A properly run leak-off test (maximum pressure test)
provides the operator with a vital piece of information
the maximum equivalent mud weight his casing shoe
can stand before lost circulation occurs.

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Leak-off test
This must be known in daily operations
such as:
picking casing seats,
weighting up the mud, and
in critical operations such as shutting in a well
when it kicks.

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General procedure
Well-bore pressure testing is achieved by:
pulling the bit into the casing,
conditioning the mud,
closing the BOP,
then slowly pumping mud down the drill pipe
(or annulus) (0,048 to 0,08 m3min-1) until
pressures reach the maximum pressure
specified or the anticipated leak-off pressure
for uncased holes.
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General procedure
psi x 6895 = Pa

The leak-off pressure is the


point at which the exposed
formation, or cement job, just
starts to fracture as evidenced
by a change in slope of the
pressure-volume graph plotted.
A typical leak-off pressure plot
is shown in Fig. for a well
which has a short section of
open hole exposed.
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bbl. x 0,159 = m3

As shown, there is a constant pressure


increase for each determined volume (m3) or
(bbl) of mud pumped so that the points fall on
a relatively straight line.

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The line should parallel, or fall slightly


below, the "minimum volume" line
calculated (or previously measured) for the
drilling mud in the hole.

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General procedure
psi x 6895 = Pa

The straight-line trend continues


until point A where the points bend
to the right.
At point A the formation starts to accept
whole mud since a smaller pressure
increase is seen for the same volume of
mud pumped.

Point A is referred to as the leak-off


pressure and represents the point
where the formation grains just start
to fracture apart.
This leak-off pressure is corrected for
mud gel strength effects, then used to
figure fracture pressures and equivalent
mud weights.

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bbl. x 0,159 = m3

10

General procedure
psi x 6895 = Pa

As shown in Fig. it is necessary to


record several more points as the
curve bends over to insure that the
fracture limit has been reached.
At point B the pump should be shut
down,
the
instantaneous
shut-in
pressure recorded (point B), and the
well left shut in to observe the rate of
pressure decline.
This pressure decline is an indication of
the filtration rate which is useful
information when evaluating the quality
of the leak-off test.

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bbl. x 0,159 = m3

11

General procedure
After determining leak-off
pressure,
the
formation
fracture pressure can be
calculated by first subtracting
the mud gelation pressure
from the leak-off pressure
and adding the mud-weight
pressure.
(1)

Pff = Plo Pg + Ph
Pff = Plo Pg + m g H
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Where:
Pff - Well bore pressure
next to the formation
at fracture, Pa
Plo - Leak-off pressure,
Pa
Pg = Mud gelation
pressure, Pa
Ph - Hydrostatic pressure
of mud column
- Mud weight, kgm3
g gravitational
constant, ms-2
H - True vertical depth of
formation, m
12

General procedure
In terms of equivalent mud
weight:

(2)

EMW =

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Pff
gH

Where:
EMW Equivalent mud
weight next to the
formation when
fracture occurs, kgm3

13

Mud gelation effects


Equation (3) used to
calculate the mud
gelation pressure
when the leak-off test
is run down the drill
pipe.
Pumping down the drill
pipe:

(3)

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Where:
Pgdp - Gelation pressure in
drill pipe, Pa
L - Length of drill pipe, m
ddp - Drill pipe ID, m
Y - Gel strength of mud, Pa

Pgdp

L Y
= 4
d dp
14

Mud gelation effects

Equation (4) used


when the test is made
down the annulus.
Pumping down the
annulus:

(4)
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Where:
Pga - Gelation pressure in
annulus, Pa
L - Length of drill pipe, m
Y - Gel strength of mud, Pa
dh ID of hole or casing, m
Ddp - Drill pipe OD, m

L Y
Pga = 4
d h Ddp
15

Mud gelation effects


Pressure charts for Equations are given in Figs. 2 and 3.

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16

Field gel strengths


The most questionable quantity in Equations 3
and 4 is the gel strength of the mud.
In normal practice the gel strength is measured at the
surface in a rotational viscometer after the mud has
been quiescent for 10 min.
This method has been criticized because it is not
performed at down-hole temperature and pressure
and it does not reflect the properties of any
contaminated mud which may be in the annulus.

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17

Field gel strengths


The most questionable quantity in Equations 3
and 4 is the gel strength of the mud.
In normal practice the gel strength is measured at the
surface in a rotational viscometer after the mud has
been quiescent for 10 min.
This method has been criticized because it is not
performed at down-hole temperature and pressure
and it does not reflect the properties of any
contaminated mud which may be in the annulus.

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18

Field gel strengths


One way to take such factors into consideration is to
determine gel strength using field circulation data not
the field viscometer.
After the leak-off test is run, wait 5-10 min and then turn on the
pump with the BOP open.
Measure the pres-sure necessary to break circulation (Pbc)
while pumping at a rate equal to the rate used in the leak-off
test.
The pressure recorded is used to calculate the effective gel
strength, (Ye), of the mud using the equation:

(5)

Ye =

1,083 Pbc d h Ddp d dp

L d dp + d h Ddp

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19

Leak-off graph
Before starting the leak-off test it is
important to prepare a leak-off graph
which contains an "anticipated leak-off
pressure" line and a "minimum volume"
line.
These lines are used as instant guides
while the test is in progress.

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20

Anticipated leak-off

This line shows pressure expected so the test


can be evaluated when the curve bends over. It
has been found useful under the following
conditions.
1. Testing the casing for leaks.
Before drilling out, the casing should be tested for leaks.
Maximum test pressure specified will vary according to
which casing string is being tested.
USGS requires that on offshore leases the conductor string
be tested to 13,8105 Pa (200 psi), the surface string to
68,9105 Pa (1,000 psi) and the intermediate, liner, and
production strings be tested to 103105 Pa (1,500 psi) or
0,0138105 Pa/0,3048 m (0.2 psi/ft), whichever is greater.
In other areas the maximum test pressure is usually set by
the operator.
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21

Anticipated leak-off
2.

Testing the open hole.

The leak-off test run in


the open hole should be
at least as high as the
predicted
fracture
pressure value for the
area.
This predicted value is
obtained using data
from nearby wells and
equations presented by
various authors.
One method found most
useful
uses
the
equation:

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(6)

Pff = K S Pp + Pp
'
v

K - Effective stress ratio


S'v - Total vertical stress, Pa
Pp - Pore pressure, Pa
Pff - Formation fracture
pressure, Pa

22

Anticipated leak-off
(S'v) is often assumed to
be 0,6895105
Pa/0,3048 m (1.0
psi/ft) of depth.
This may not be
accurate, especially
when drilling
offshore in very deep
water.
When possible, it should
be determined using
density logs.

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Pff

= K (S

'
v

Po + Po

(6)

K - Effective stress ratio


S'v - Total vertical stress, Pa
Po - Pore pressure, Pa
Pff - Formation fracture
pressure, Pa

K=

Pff Po
'
Sv

Po
23

Anticipated leak-off

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Using Equation 6
and field data it is
possible to
determine the
effective stress
ratio, K, as a
function of depth for
a given area.
Fig. 4 shows a
typical plot of such
data.
ft x 0,3048 = m
24

Anticipated leak-off

Effective stress ratio


is in fact Poissons
ratio

Pff =

(Pob Pp ) + Pp

Pob pressure of
overburden formations,
Pa
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25

After PH is determined, the anticipated leak-off


pressure line is calculated using the equation:

Pa = Pff Ph + Pg

(7)

Where:
Pa anticipated leak-off pressure, Pa
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26

Minimum volume line


This line provides a guide
for determining if the
pumping rate is fast
enough when testing the
open hole.
The pumping rate should
stay equal to, or a little
below this line.
The line represents the
pressure
necessary
to
compress the mud in the
well bore until leak off
occurs.
It can be calculated with
Equation 8.
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(8)

Vi = Cm Vw P i
Where:
Vi - Volume of mud injected, m3
Cm - Compressibility of mud, Pa-1
Vw - Volume of well bore (drill
pipe plus annulus), m3
Pi - Injection pressure, Pa

27

Minimum volume line


The
compressibility
of the mud
can
be
calculated with
the equation:

Where:
Cw - Compressibility of water, Pa-1
Cs - Compressibility of solids, Pa-1

Cm = Cw % water + Cs % solids
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(9)

28

Fig. 5

Curves A and B represent the volume


correction which must be subtracted
from each curve when drill pipe is in
the hole.
Curve A is for 4-in. drill pipe and curve B is
for 5-in. drill pipe.
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Fig.
5
presents the
volume
of
fluid
(Vi)
required
to
pressure up
various size
casings and
open
holes
containing
water
for
each 7 MPa
injected
pressure.
29

Fig. 6
A
further
correction
must
be
applied if a
weighted
mud is in the
hole.
Fig. 6 shows
the volume
percent
correction to
be used as a
function
of
mud weight.
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30

As an example
It takes 0,36 m3 (2 bbl) of water to pressure
3048 m (10,000 ft) of 9 5/8-in. casing to 70105
Pa (1,000 psi).
If 5 1/2-in. drill pipe is in the casing, 0,04 m3 ( bbl)
must be subtracted from the 0,36 m3 (2 1/4 bbl),
leaving 0,32 m3/ 70105 Pa (2 bbl/1,000 psi).

If 1560 kgm-3 (13 lb/gal) mud is in the hole Fig.


6. shows that it takes only 85% of this volume,
or 0,32 m3/ 70105 Pa x 0.85 = 0,272 m3/
70105 Pa.
This value was used to construct the "minimum
volume" line of Fig. 1.
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31

Leak-off test procedure

The following steps are


general guidelines which
have been useful in
running the leak-off test.

Fig. 1

1. Construct a graph similar to


Fig. 1. The dashed lines
indicate
the
"minimum
volume" line and the
anticipated
leak-off
pressure line.
2. While coming out of the
hole, position the bit in the
casing above the shoe.
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32

Leak-off test procedure


3. If the mud is not of
a known, uniform
density it should be
circulated until it is.
Two
common
causes
of
nonuniform density are
barite slugs in the
drill
pipe
and
formation cuttings
in the annulus.
4. Close
the
ram
preventer
above
the drilling spool.
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Fig. 1
33

Leak-off test procedure


5.

Using a small pump (such as a


cementing
pump)
begin
pumping mud down the drill
pipe at a constant rate of 0,04
to 0,24 m3min-1.

6.

The
rate
depends
on
conditions. With no open hole
use 0,04 to 0,053 m3min-1.
With sandstone formations
exposed use 0,12 to 0,24
m3min-1 depending on the
amount of open hole.
Data obtained should fall very
close (within 0,08 m3min-1. )
to the "minimum volume" line
at leak-off.

Record on the graph the


pressure after each 0,04 or
0,08 m3 increment is pumped.
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Fig. 1
34

Leak-off test procedure


7.

Continue pumping until the


curve bends over, or until the
anticipated leak-off pressure
line is exceeded.

8.

Exceeding this line is often


caused by only shale being
exposed in the open hole.

When the pump is shut off,


keep the well shut in and read
an instantaneous pressure.

Then read pressure values


each minute for about 10 min.
These should also be plotted
on the graph as shown in Fig.
1.

Fig. 1
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35

Leak-off test procedure


Fig. 1
9.

Release the pressure and


record the volume of
testing fluid recovered in
the trip tank if one is
available.

The
volume
of
fluid
recovered
should
approximate the volume of
fluid pumped.

10. Compare the graph with


typical plots to be sure it
is a good test.
After the test is run the leak-off pressure is picked off the graph as that
point where the curve starts to bend over. Using this leak-off point,
correct for mud gelation effects then calculate the equivalent mud
weight which the casing seat can hold.
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36

Leak-off test procedure

The leak-off test should be run under the


following drilling conditions.

Casing pressure test. The test should be run before


drill out with the bit positioned in the float collars.
Pump rates should be 0,04 to 0,053 m3min-1 (0.250.33 bbl/min) and continued until the maximum test
pressure required is reached.
Hold the pressure for the designated period of time.
USGS requires a 30-min test in OCS waters.
This volume-pressure plot can be used as the
"minimum volume" line when running a leak-off test
in open hole.
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37

Leak-off test procedure

Cement job test. After drilling out 2,44 to


3,048 m (8-10 ft) below the casing shoe and
pulling the bit up above the shoe run the leak-off
test pumping at 0,04 to 0,053 m3min-1 (0.250.33 bbl/min).

The cement job at the casing shoe should be tested to


a leak-off pressure at least as high as the expected
leak-off pressure for the area.
Failure of the cement job to hold such pressures may
require the casing shoe be squeeze cemented.

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38

Leak-off test procedure

A poor cement job


will have a plot
similar to Fig. 7. Note
the departure from
the
"minimum
volume" line and the
low leak-off pressure
which is repeatable.

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39

Leak-off test procedure

Formation pressure test. On the first bit run


after setting casing, a test should be made on
the first trip for a new bit after drilling a sand
section. Procedures are the same as listed
above.

The pumping rate should be 0,08 to 0,12 m3min-1


(0.50-0.75 bbl/min).
The higher rate should cover the filtration loss to the
formation and thereby keep the volume-pressure
curve near the "mini-mum volume" line. Fig. 1 is an
example of this type of test.
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40

Leak-off test procedure

As drilling continues, several potential


problems may be anticipated which would
suggest running the leak-off test to
determine if the well bore has become
weakened since the last leak-off test.

Typical potential problems would be a lostcirculation zone, a transition zone, or a large


mud weight increase.

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41

Leak-off test procedure

If the second leak-off test is lower than the first, one


might suspect a failure of the cement job which would
require squeeze cementing, or a weaker formation has
been exposed which may require a liner.

Various logging methods are available to help define the


stratigraphy and suggest a solution.

When testing in a long section of open hole the pump


rate may need to be increased to as high as 0,24
m3min-1 (1.50 bbl/ min).
Before leaving a dry hole it is useful to run a leak-off
test to get additional formation fracture information
which will be useful in defining fracture gradients for
that area.
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42

An
example

This example shows how the


various steps perform the leakoff test.

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Assume 244,48 mm (9 5/8 in.)


casing is set at 3048 m (10,000 ft),
and the hole is then deepened to
3057 m (10,030 ft) after the
primary cement job has been
tested.
Mud weight is 1560 kgm-3 (13
lb/gal), and the mud has a 10-min
gel strength of 4,788 Pa (10 lb/100
sq ft).
Before the test, 3048 m (10,000 ft)
of 139,7 mm (5 1/2 in.) drill pipe is
in the hole.
A sand is exposed from 3048 m to
3054 m (10,000 ft to 10,020 ft) and
it has a pore pressure, P0, of
358,5105 Pa (5,200 psi).
43

An example

Mud gel pressure. In this case it was decided


to pump down the drill pipe when running the
leak-off test.

This gel pressure is obtained by entering Fig. 2


with 4,788 Pa (10 lb/100 sqft) gel strength value
then reading 4,83 105 Pa/3048 m (7 psi/ 1,000
ft) of pipe.

Due to mud gel strength, it will be necessary to


apply 4,83 105 Pa (70-psi) extra surface pressure
to overcome gelation forces.

For 3048 m (10,000 ft) of drill pipe, we need to


apply 4,83 105 Pa (7 x 10 or 70 psi). Equation 3
gives a similar answer.

If the contractor had decided to pump down the


annulus he would have needed 6,9 105 Pa (100
psi) extra surface pressure to overcome the
gelation forces.

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44

An example

In Fig. 3, a gel strength of 4,788 Pa (10 lb/100


sqft) and an annulus of 244,48 mm (9 5/8 in.)
casing x 139,7 mm (5 in.) drill pipe gives 0,69
105 Pa/304,8 m (10 psi/1000 ft) of annulus. For
a 3048 m (10000-ft) annulus, apply 6,9 105 Pa
(10 x 10 or 100 psi).
Equation 4 gives similar results.

Some operators pump down the annulus and drill


pipe.

If this was tried in this example the mud would, as


always, take the path of least resistance and flow
only down the drill pipe when leak-off occurred.
No major benefit is achieved by pumping down the
annulus and the drill pipe simultaneously.

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45

An example
psi x 6895 = Pa

Minimum volume line.


This line, as plotted in Fig.
1, was determined earlier to
have a slope of 0,272
m3/68,95105
Pa
(1,7
bbl/1000 psi) for the hole
conditions given above.

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bbl. x 0,159 = m3

46

Pff = K

'
Sv

Po + Po

Anticipated leak off. Using fracture


data for the area (such as that in Fig.
4) the effective stress ratio, K, is
found to be 0.85 at 3048 m (10000
ft).

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An example

The overburden stress gradient is


assumed to be 0,069 105 Pa/0,3048 m
(1,0 psi/ft) therefore S'V = 689,5 105 Pa
(10000 psi.)

The formation fracture pressure Pff


calculated with Equation 6 is 639,86
105 Pa (9280 psi).
Pff = 0.85 (689,5 105 - 358,54 105 )
+ 358,54 105 = 639,86 105 psi.
47

Pa = Pff Ph + Pg An example

The anticipated leak-off pressure is


determined using Equation 7.

Pa = 639,86 105 9,81 x 1560 x


3048 + 4,83 105 = 178,6 105 Pa

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This pressure is drawn on the leakoff graph (Fig. 1).

48

Leak-off data

Before shutting in the well the bit was


positioned in the casing just above the
shoe, and the mud circulated until 1560
kgm-3 (13 lb/gal) mud was going in and
coming out.

The BOP above the drilling spool was


closed and mud was pumped down the
drill pipe at a rate of 0,08 m3/min (0,50
bbl/min).

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When the kelly was removed the hole


stood full and no "U-tube" action of the
mud was observed.

As each 0,08 m3/min (0,50 bbl) was


pumped, the pump pressure was plotted
on the leak-off graph.
49

Leak-off data

Fig. 1 shows the results.

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At 175,13 105 Pa (2540 psi), point A,


the curve started bending over.
This was the leak-off pressure of the
sand exposed.
Pumping continued until point B,
then pressures were plotted each
minute for 10 min (point C).
At this time the fluid was bled from
the well into the trip tank and 0,96
m3 (6 bbl) of mud was recovered.
The volume recovered checked with
the amount injected.
50

Leak-off data

To verify mud gel strength pressure,


mud was pumped (after waiting 5 min)
down the drill pipe at 0,08 m3/min (0,50
bbl/min) and the amount of pressure
needed to break circulation was
measured as 17,9 105 Pa (260 psi).

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This value was picked at the maximum


pressure (Fig. 1, point D) measured
before the pressures fell back.
Using the 17,9 105 Pa (260 psi) gelation
pressure and Equation 5 the average gel
strength of the mud was calculated to be
7,22 Pa (15.1 lb/100 sq ft).

51

Leak-off data
This value is higher than the value
measured with the viscometer.
Pgdp is therefore 7,6 105 Pa (110
psi).

Ye =

1,083 Pbc (d h Ddp ) d dp


L (d dp + d h Ddp )

1,083 17,9 10 (0,222 0,1397 )


=
= 7,22 Pa
3048 (0,122 + 0,232 0,1397 )
5

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Leak-off data
Formation fracture pressure was
determined using Equation 1.
As equivalent mud weight, the
formation
fracture
pressure
becomes (Equation 2):
Pff = Plo Pg + m g H =
= 175,13 105 7,6 105 + 9,811560 3048 =
= 633,65 105 Pa
Pff
633,65 105
EMW =
=
= 2119 kg m -3
g H 9,81 3048
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Rock stress behavior


In the example, drilling mud started to leak off
when surface pressures reached 175,13 105 Pa
(2540 psi).
A better understanding of what is happening in the
formation as well-bore pressures increase helps to
dispel the belief that once the leak-off test is run the
formation fracture strength cannot be regained.

Some believe that a leak-off test can weaken the


formations significantly.
This belief is false.
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Stress theory
It has often been thought that a well-bore
fractures much like a pipe bursts when too
much internal pressure is added.
This is not so.
The fracture pressure of a pipe is determined
by tensile strength of the pipe, but the
fracture pressure of a formation is determined
primarily by overburden and tectonic
compressive loads on the rock grains.
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Stress theory
The tensile strength of most rocks such as
sandstone is small relative to the compressive
loads.
In this article, the tensile strength of the formations is
treated as equal to zero.

A well bore fractures when the mud pressure in


the well bore causes the rock grain stress to be
decreased from high-compressive stresses to
zero.
At this point, additional pressure causes a fracture to
form, and mud can flow into the fracture.
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Stress theory
Using the same well conditions as in the
example, and assuming the original
horizontal stress in the sandstone is 496,4
105 Pa (7200 psi), the rock stresses
around the well bore before and during
the leak-off test can be calculated.
To do this, first consider stress conditions in
the sand before the well was drilled.

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After the well is drilled


the rock stresses change
to those shown in Fig.
8b.
It is the horizontal stress
tangential to the borehole
wall, S't, which is of
primary concern when
rock rupture is being
considered.
The symbol S't describes
the
horizontal
stress
"tangential" to the well
bore wall, and S'r is the
horizontal stress radial to
the
well
bore.
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Stress theory

58

Stress theory
In Fig. 8a a block of
3048 m
sandstone is shown
with
a
vertical
689,5 10 Pa
stress S'v of 689,5
358,5 10 Pa
5 Pa (10000 psi)
10
496,4 10 Pa
on top and two
496,4 10 Pa
equal
horizontal
stresses, S'h, of
689,5 10 Pa
466,45 10 Pa
496,4 105 Pa (7200
466,45 10 Pa
psi).
5

526,8 105 Pa
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Rock grain stress


Well-bore fracture is imminent when
the rock grain stress decreases to zero.
In this example, rock grain stress (Sh) is
137 105 Pa (2000 psi) before the well is
drilled and 168,2 105 Pa (2440 psi) (St)
after the well is drilled. Sh and St are "grain
stress" or "effective rock stress, calculated
by:
Sh=Sh-Po and St=St-Po
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Rock grain stress


Because
of
the
presence of the well
bore, the horizontal
stress S't is not
constant but varies
relative
to
the
distance from the
well bore.
Fig. 9 is a plot of S't
for the 200,03 mm
(7 7/8 in.) hole.
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Note that it decreases


from 466,45 105 Pa Rock grain stress
(7640 psi) at the well
bore to near original
conditions of 497,7
105 Pa (7218 psi) 508
mm (20 in.) from the
center of the hole.
Likewise, if the pore
pressure is subtracted,
grain stress goes from
168,2 105 Pa (2440
psi) at the well bore
wall to 139,1 105 Pa
(2018 psi).

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The stress distribution


given in Fig. 9 can be
calculated
by
the
equation:
St = Sh [1 + (a2/r2)] - [Pw
- Po] a2/r2)
(11)
and
S't = St + Po

Rock grain stress

Where:
a = Radius of well bore, m
r = Radius under consideration, m

As well bore pressure


(Pw) is increased during
a leak-off test, horizontal
grain stress (St) is
decreased.
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Fig. 9 also shows the


stress distribution when
the
total
well-bore
pressure
has
been
increased to 634 105 Pa
(9200 psi) with the leakoff pressure of 175 105 Pa
(2540 psi) shown in Fig. 1.

Rock grain
stress

Note that the pressure of


2540 psi needed to initiate
leak-off is much higher than
the pressure required to
form a long vertical fracture.
Such a fracture is evidenced
by a large drop in pump
pressure and large volumes
of mud loss.
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Rock grain stress


If this occurs the remedy is simple. Bleed off
pump pressure.
This allows the fracture to close.
After a mud filter cake is formed across the
fracture on the borehole wall, it will have
regained the stress effect of the well bore, and
can again accept 175 105 Pa (2540 psi) pump
pressure.

This is the process of "healing the formation"


as practiced in regaining lost circulation.
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Fig. 1 shows a leak-off test


below surface casing at
914,4 m (3000 ft).

Leak-off
examples

In this case 3,048 m (10 ft) of


hole was made below the
surface casing.
Thus this test is primarily a
test of the cement job.
In this example the leak-off
occurred at 45,2 105 Pa (655
psi), the rupture pressure was
518,5 105 Pa (7520 psi), and
the propagation pressure was
43,8 105 Pa (635 psi).
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Considering the leak-off


pressure
as
the
maximum
permissible,
results in a maximum
mud weight of 1656
kg/m3 (13,8 ppg) as
shown below:
max

Leak-off
examples

45,2 105
= 1152 +
= 1656 kg/m 3
914,4 9,81

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Leak-off examples
This does not prove that all formation below
the surface casing will hold 1656 kg/m3 (13,8
lb/gal) mud.
It does show that no more than 1656 kg/m3 (13,8lb/gal) mud should be used unless a retest shows
an increase in strength.
An increase in strength has been noted in many
cases after several days of drilling.
It is uncommon for a zone which held only 1656
kg/m3 (13,8 lb/gal) as shown in Fig.1 to hold 1200
kg/m3 (10 lb/gal) later.
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Leak-off examples
A knowledge of this increase in strength might
be very helpful in many cases when drilling
into a pressure-transition zone.
The increase in strength, when it occurs, is
probably due to plugging of pore spaces by drill
solids.
It should be emphasized that this strength increase
may or may not occur.
It is not something the operator can assume will
happen.
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Leak-off examples
Open hole test Fig. 2 is a leakoff test where the drill string is
back in the surface casing, but
there is 1829 m (6000 ft) of
open hole.
It is noted that the leak-off
occurred at about 45,2 105 Pa
(655 psi).
Also it is noted that 4,16 m3 (26
bbl) of mud were required to reach
this point while in Fig. 1 only
0,608 m3 (3,8 bbl) of mud where
required for the casing-seat test in
Fig.1.
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Leak-off examples
The primary difference is
the amount of open hole.
In Fig. 1 only 3,048 m (10 ft)
of hole had been opened
below the casing seat.
In Fig. 2, 1829 m (6000 ft) of
hole had been opened.
The additional mud was
required because of filtration
and loss of mud to very
permeable sands.
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Leak-off examples
The leak-off pressure of 45,2
105 Pa (655 psi) in Fig. 2 shows
the formation just below the
casing seat will hold a 1656
kg/m3 (13,8 lb/gal) mud.
Again this does not ensure that all
the open formations below 914,4
m (3000 ft) will hold 1656 kg/m3
(13,8 lb/gal) mud, because 45,2
105 Pa (655 psi) imposed, say at
1829 m (6000 ft) would represent
only a 228 kg/m3 (1,9 lb/gal)
increase in mud weight.
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Leak-off examples
Thus the 1829 m (6000 ft)
formation has been tested to
only 1428 kg/m3 (11,9 lb/gal) in
the test shown in Fig. 2.
However, in young sediments
normally associated with most
offshore
and
coastal
area
formations the leak-off test results
taken just below the casing shoe
are generally indicative of the
maximum mud weight that can be
used.
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Test for first sand. Fig. 3 is a


leak-off test for the first sand Leak-off
examples
below protective casing.
It will be noted that the leak-off
occurred when the surface
pressure increase reached 134,4
105 Pa (1950 psi).
This occurred with a 1620 kg/m3
(13,5 lb/gal) mud in the hole,
and the surface pres-sure plus
mud weight represents a
formation resistance equal to a
mud weight of 2070 kg/m3
(17,25 lb/gal):

max

134,45 105
= 1620 +
= 2070 kg/m 3
3048 9,81
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Special considerations
Special considerations in running leak-off
tests include:
Pumping rate.
Decision to test to a leak-off pres-sure.
Which pressure to use if there is a difference in
drill pipe and annulus pressure.
Changes in line slope during the test.
Frequency of testing and the effect on formation
resistance.
What is the maximum mud weight relative to
that shown on a leak-off test.
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Special considerations
The pumping rate should be kept at a low value,
such as 0,04 to 0,08 m3/min (0,25 to 0,5 bbl/
min).
Tests in Figs. 1, 2, and 3 were run at 0,05 m3/min (0,3
bbl/min).
This means the normal rig pump should generally not
be used.
Exceptions would be with plunger-type pumps where
the suggested low volumes can be attained.
A cementing unit, with pump and volume tank is
generally to be preferred.

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Special considerations
If pumping rates are too high,
the leak-off test may follow the
pattern shown in Fig. 4.
There is no indicated leak-off
pressure; the formation suddenly
ruptured, and whole mud was
lost quickly.
Even this type test will probably
have no long-range detrimental
effects.
The primary problem is that the
objective of determining the leakoff pressure has not been
reached.
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Objections to leak-off tests


Some operators are repelled by the concept of
increasing surface pressure until some mud is
lost to the formation.
Others may feel that their drilling conditions do not
justify such tests.
If all the drilling is to be performed in formations with
a normal pore pressure, leak-off tests would not be
necessary.

The belief, commonly accepted in drilling, that,


once the formation is tested to leak-off, it will
never again hold that much pressure is an
out-dated concept.
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Objections to leak-off tests


There may, however, be valid reasons for not
testing to a leak-off pressure.
At times, surface equipment may not permit the surface
pressure necessary to reach the leak-off point.
If the maximum leak-off pressure is desirable under
these conditions a retest may be performed later, after
the mud weight has been increased.

Another reason for not testing to leak-off is that


the operator knows based on offset well data or
geologic information that future mud weights will
not be high enough to justify a test to leak-off.
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Fig. 5 shows what has been Pressure


ob-served in some tests.
differences
The pressure leaked off at 41,4
105 Pa (600 psi), continued to
increase to 62 105 Pa (900 psi)
where it leaked off again, and
then continued to increase to
the true leak-off.
However, if the pressure at
which this occurs is substantially
below that anticipated, pumping
should be continued to the
rupture pressure, because in all
probability some type remedial
action will be necessary.
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