A while back on Oily Stuff we looked at some odd stuff that comes OUT of oil and natural gas wells, besides oil and natural gas. Now I think we should take a gander at the really weird stuff homo sapiens have learned to put INTO oil and gas wells the past 140 years. The things people do to try and make money, or keep from losing money, in the oil biz is amazing...
In the early 1900's some hands from Southeast Texas decided that mud, not water, if pumped down hole and circulated back to surface, would get drill cuttings out of the hole easier and, because mud is heavier than water, maybe it could keep Mama Nature from pushing back so hard, so often, and making all those giant messes everywhere. So what did they do? Well, they herded some damn cows thru a water pit a bunch of times, back and forth, and that's how they made drilling mud. Problem solved...next?
Since then the oil and natural gas industry has gotten sophisticated about mud and it's now possible to spend the same amount of money on mud to drill a deep high pressure, high temperature well that it would take to build a 4 bedroom house, with a swimming pool, for the family rug-rats to flounder in after school.
We can make mud heavier, lighter, thicker, thinner, slick it up, slick it down, make it where water leaks out of it quicker, or not at all; make it more alkaline, less alkaline, put sugar in it, salt, lignite, caustic soda and every chemical known to man for a host of reasons we think, works. If water based mud doesn't work we'll jerk that out of the hole and put oil base mud in the well. That shits then gets all over your coveralls if you don't know how to handle it. Yuck!
When we are drilling a well and find something loosey-goosey down there in the dark that won't support the weight of the mud column, and lose circulation returns, then we start adding more shit to the mud, called lost circulation material. A fella could write a book about lost circulation material. We put cotton seed hulls into mud, cedar mulch, cellophane flakes, walnut hulls, pecan shells, ground-up formica, chunks of corn cobs, chicken feathers, sugar cane stalks, shredded rope,
fancy polymers and plastics by the truck load. We'll bullhead the stuff, spot it, gunk squeeze it, slug it, pump various pills and pads... whatever it takes. We hydrate it, dehydrate, move the drill pipe, don't move it, rotate it, don't rotate it and let is sit for hours while catching naps in the doghouse, all in hopes of regaining circulation so we can carry on to our original place of destination.
Mud over a shale shaker can be a beautiful thing, man
I roughnecked on a deep HP/HT well in Louisiana one time long ago and the bill on LCM got as high as $2.5MM; we finally gave up and moved a half a mile away to do the same damn thing again. We put radioactive tracer material in that mud to see where the stuff was all going and never did find out. We finally set a string of casing thru where we thought it was going, got to TD and it ended up being a dry hole, just like the first one would have been. Total bill to condemn the prospect, two wells: $13,000,000. And that was 45 years ago !!
If a pay zone is too tight and won't come in flowing on its own, in the old days we use to drop nitroglycerine torpedoes in them and explode the rock into smithereens, and sometimes the hands standing around the well watching, too.
Now days all anybody has on their brains is cramming millions of pounds of sand into wells with water as thick as jello, at really high pressures, to break the rock all up into little tiny fractures. It's a revolution !
Frac-tree with 'goat head'
Hell, there was a time in 1967 in the Four-Corners area of New Mexico the US government was going to drop an atomic bomb into a damn well to see if would produce better. Come to think of it, that might make the Eagle Ford Play more economic, for sure.
I use to stage frac vertical Austin Chalk wells in the late 1970's. We would cover a stage with pea gravel, or road salt from up north in ice land, then dump a plug of bentonite with a wireline bailer, let it get hard, perforate and frac the next stage; rinse and repeat. I always get a kick out the "new technology" that the US shale oil phenomena claims it invented. Phfttttt.
When we work on production wells there is a giant menu of things to chose from to fix a well, make it produce more, or less, or ruin it altogether.
We put anti-sludging additives, biocides, corrosion inhibitors, foamers, de-foamers, oxidizers, friction reducers, scale inhibitors, viscosifiers, corrosion preventatives, de-emulsifiers paraffin eater-uppers, algaecides, water clarifiers, iron sequestering agents and six different kinds of acid, including pickle juice, into oil and gas wells. To squeeze every drop of oil out of every reservoir in the world we add nitrogen to the mix, carbon dioxide, oceans of water, take gas out of the formation, strip the good stuff out of it, and pump the gas right back down from where it cometh; hell, you can stuff oxygen into a reservoir and try and set the whole damn thing on fire, below ground, if you want.
If your wells needs cleaning, add Clorox or Tide detergent as a surfactant; that stuff will help get all your solids out the well and make your rig tank look like a bubble bath. Try pumping a pill of brake fluid to make the walls of your casing look like brand new (sorry, that sounds like a TV commercial).
Need to find a hole in the tubing? Dump a gallon of aluminum paint down the string and start out of the hole. Bingo!
Now days you can pump oil eating microbes down hole that will fart a lot after supper and help raise your GOR !
In this cased hole gravel pack situation, left, I have retrieved the L packer assembly and now want to pump thru the bottom of the screen from 2,226 to 2,238 ft. to fluff up the gravel so that I can try and pull the entire BHA out the hole. How do I get fluid past the tell tale (tattle tale) screen section at 2,159 ft. to the bottom of the screen?
Pump a big wad of paper towels, what else?
Here's an old gas well that has a casing valve cut out; the wing valve on the tubing hanger is open to relieve pressure. We might be able to plug the spool leak and get some mud in the damn thing to kill it with the help of a "junk shot," more affectionately called by us well control hands, shit shot. The wad of crap you pump might consist of cut up panty hose, shredded sash cord, pieces of underwear rags, golf balls, Titlelist, whenever possible, copper lamp wire, marbles, balls of monofilament fishing line, lots of it, etc, etc. Hey, they're called shit shots for a reason! By the way, it worked!
If your drilling/milling up a cast iron bridge plug that looks like this...
and it starts spinning when your bit gets to the rubber sealing element, drop some of these down hole to give yourself a good "bite." Works like a champ...
There is absolutely no need whatsoever to be putting any cows down your oil wells, however. That is a myth.
There are 10,000 different kinds of tools and gadgets in the oil industry used today to send down hole and fetch stuck, lost, twisted in two pieces of this or that, or stuff that we otherwise might accidentally drop down a well bore...
... so, it is not necessary at all to be sending qualified personal downhole to be looking for shit with a headlamp. In Louisiana they might call this a coon-ass fishing job...
In the really old days, way too many wells use to be plugged by stuffing these things down the hole...
What is my favorite, all time "weirdest" thing to be shoved into an oil and gas well if, for instance, you think your production packer might be leaking?
Pinto beans, of course. They fall down the tubing to casing annulus as far as the packer and when they hydrate they swell up and will stop almost any leak. Then, when you pull the packer, there is a big wad of refried bean mush that can be circulated right back out of the hole and you can start all over again with new packer rubbers. Necessity is the Mother of Invention.