Maximizing Operational Efficiencies and Reducing Well Cost Through Effective Drilling-Waste Management – Journal of Petroleum Technology

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Drilling at remote sites, such as artificial islands, comes with challenges, not least of which is drilling-waste management. Drill cuttings, generated from the wellbore during drilling, traditionally are the focus of attention, and a solution is available to treat this waste stream at source. In many projects, however, slop waste and, in some cases, conductor drilling waste is also generated. Until now, no one process has been able to treat these two additional waste streams at source. Adopting traditional waste treatment methods for these waste streams at a remote site could increase project overheads by more than 200%, vs. a conventional wellsite. Therefore, it is important to maximize efficiencies when it comes to recycling all drilling waste streams, recovering value, and reducing disposal requirements at remote sites.

This paper outlines how a single process using modular equipment, originally deployed to process drill cuttings, has now been developed to deal with all three key waste streams. The process was developed when a major operator in the UAE required a solution for the treatment of conductor drilling waste produced at one of the region’s largest fields at an artificial island complex. The solution developed allows for conductor drilling waste, created by a piling rig, and legacy slop stored at the location for nearly 7 years to be treated on site using a single process. This was done in addition to day-to-day drilling-waste management, resulting in economic, operational, safety, and environmental benefits.

This achievement was primarily through the identification by a company of capacity within its thermal drilling-waste-treatment technology to eliminate the waste streams generated at source. Opening the operating window of the technology eliminated significant haul-off costs; reduced emissions and health, safety, and environmental risk; and improved operational efficiency.

The new strategy was implemented in 2019. Since then, the solution has dealt successfully with a legacy waste stream amounting to 7 years’ worth of conductor drilling waste and 40,000 bbl of stored slop waste, in addition to ongoing drill cuttings treatment. Removing both of these waste streams has achieved significant operational, safety, and environmental savings, including the elimination of onshore transportation, processing and landfill costs; elimination of island services and storage; a significant reduction in skip-lifting operations and waste handling; a reduction in manpower requirements by the use of existing equipment and personnel; and a reduction of risk to the environment posed by the storage of the waste streams. The operator now also has significantly more land area available for other purposes.

By processing at source, clear tangible savings have been achieved in all areas of the operation. This strategy allowed the operator to set new standards with regard to drilling-waste management in the UAE. It has also driven a discussion globally about how to deal with multiple waste streams by opening the operating window of existing single-process systems instead of requiring additional processing equipment.

Download the complete paper from SPE’s Health, Safety, Environment, and Sustainability Technical Discipline page for free until 16 June.

Find paper SPE 202873 on OnePetro here.