Title: Wellbore stability - Principles and analysis in geothermal well drilling

University Thesis
Year of publication:
Drilling Technology
United Nations University, Geothermal Training Programme
Place of publication:
Number of pages:
ISBN 978-9979-6
Document URL: Link


Drilling a stable geothermal well that experiences least drilling challenges is key to delivering a
successful well that meets the set objective of either being a production or reinjection well.
Wellbore instabilities encountered during drilling can add to the overall cost of the well by
consumption of more materials and extension of well completion time. Olkaria geothermal field in
Kenya is a high temperature field and wells are designed with 20" surface casing, 13⅜" anchor
casing, 9⅝" production casing and the production section is lined with 7" perforated liner.
Drilling progress is affected by various downhole challenges such as loss of drilling fluid
circulation and borehole wall collapse that lead to stuck drilling string, problems in landing
casings and liners and in extreme cases loss of irretrievable part of drill string and abandonment
of the well. Well sections with less drilling problems affecting drilling progress have high
percentage of time spent on drilling activity but wells that encountered downhole challenges have
less drilling time compared to other activities that do not add to the well depth.
Geothermal wells in Olkaria at well pad OW-731 and well RN-33 in Reykjanes Iceland have been used
in this report. Reassessment of minimum casing setting depths for 3000 m deep Olkaria wells was
made according to the The African Union Code of Practice for Geothermal Drilling (2016). The
criteria applied for this report was for the formation temperature and pressure to follow the
boiling pressure for depth (BPD) curve based on a water level at 700 m and the effective
containment pressure resulting to a vertical Production Casing depth of 1450 m. The pressure pivot
point is lacking in the directional well indicating need for a deeper production casing setting
depth. Minimum stress Sh calculated using Eaton´s formula and overburden stress Sv form the maximum
and minimum field stresses used to calculate effective hoop, radial and vertical stresses on the
wellbore wall. Maximum compressive hoop stress occurs at 90° and 270° and minimum hoop stress at 0°
and 180° in vertical well indicating the direction of minimum and maximum horizontal stresses
measured clockwise from North (0° azimuth). In directional wells, the hoop stresses are dependent
on the well inclination and azimuth. Directional wells at OW-731 pad are inclined to approximately
20° from the vertical at different azimuths but indicate difference effective stresses. Well RN-33
with an inclination angle of 30° at azimuth of 171° has the highest hoop stresses at 96°/276°
followed by OW-731D (200°), OW-731B (225°), OW-731A (135°) and OW-731C (270°) with the least
measured clockwise from North (0° azimuth).

Mohr´s circle diagrams using effective stresses at different depths and drilling fluid densities 0,
500, 800, 1000 1200 and 1800 kg/m3, indicate compressive failure that induces wellbore collapse
during loss of circulation at all depths. Tensile failure that can result in fracturing occurs in
all depths at 1.8 SG because of high radial stresses. Wellbore stability is maintained with
drilling fluid density between 0.8- stimated formation pressure and calculated minimum stress gives
a ratio of
0.60 to 0.73 for minimum stress that corresponds

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