Air Drilling Reduces Drilling and Servicing Costs and Increases Oil & Gas Production Rates

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Air and generated nitrogen foam based, under-balanced drilling (“UBD drilling”) techniques accelerate well drilling and workovers, reduce costs and boost gas and oil production by creating a low pressure zone that draws petroleum products to the well. A report by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, states that “using UBD is a sound and economical procedure with an average of $500,000 being saved per well,”… with 19 days being cut from the average drilling time per well.

“Some customers see our service as an added expense. They should see it as an investment in the future. It boosts drilling rates, reduces servicing costs and enhances production.” - Ray O'Dell

In oilfield exploration and production, normally when costs are cut, production is reduced. Short cuts just do not work. It is the law of logic – correct? Omni Compressed Air, Ltd. defies logic every day. “We use our proven compressed air and nitrogen services to boost production from existing wells, while at the same time we reduce service and exploration costs,” says Dee Moorhouse, one of the owners of the Midland-based company.

Omni Compressed Air works with oil and gas exploration and production companies to reduce well drilling, completion, and workover costs, while at the same time, increasing production to its maximum potential. Today most companies use over-balanced drilling (OBD) and servicing procedures that utilize heavy fluid based mediums for material removal.

This process creates high pressure in the well and can sometimes irreversibly damage the oil and gas formation. Omni’s air and generated nitrogen foam based, under-balanced drilling (“UBD drilling”) techniques accelerate well drilling and workovers, reduce costs and boost gas and oil production by creating a low pressure zone that draws petroleum products to the well.

The technology is not new. A report by the Society of Petroleum Engineers in September, 1984, states that “using UBD is a sound and economical procedure with an average of $500,000 being saved per well,”… with 19 days being cut from the average drilling time per well.

According to the report, “the major advantages of UBD are: lower cost, reduced drilling days and reduced trouble time.” Omni cites those advantages, but adds others such as: reducing formation damage, increasing the rate of penetration (ROP) and bit life, allowing the well to be tested while drilling is underway, reducing the number of trips into the hole, minimizing differential sticking of pipe, limiting lost circulation problems, facilitating early production while drilling, and providing access to depleted or low pressure reservoirs. When using UB services for completions, the customer is left with a cleaner well bore and has recovered several thousand barrels of frack fluid.

The use of UBD technology is not limited to the U.S. The Sichuan Basin, one of the largest gas producing areas in China, has complex geological conditions, that require low drilling speeds resulting in major problems. In recent years, UBD has been used and has increased the average penetration rate by 2.6 times and cut the average drilling cycle from 138 days to 57.4 days. At the same time the yield from UBD horizontal wells is 3 – 8 times more than vertical wells.

“We work with companies every day that are experiencing problems created by using the standard over-balanced drilling and servicing methods,” states Ray O’Dell, a partner in Omni Compressed Air. “Reducing or eliminating down-hole pressure during both drilling and servicing helps to avoid potential problems, while at the same time allowing production to resume much faster."

“If air drilling was beneficial back in the day of shallow wells and vertical drilling, it is even more beneficial today with horizontal drilling and high volume fracking. New drilling and production methods have boosted oil and gas production. However, using over-balanced drilling techniques increases the pressure inside the well, which increases drilling time, circulation problems, and it impacts how readily the gas and oil can flow from the well,” O’Dell explains.

“We find that many of our customers call us when they have to reduce hydrostatic pressure to solve a problem,” Moorhouse adds. “In reality, if they would use our compressed air or nitrogen foam services from the beginning, they probably wouldn’t encounter the problems in the first place.”

The explosive growth of fracking in the Permian Basin has increased the demand for Omni Compressed Air’s? services. “Wells that have been fracked using over-balanced production techniques naturally have sand and particles that tend to reduce oil and gas flow, and it can also cause tubing to stick and pumps to fail. We can use compressed air and nitrogen foam to clean out the well. If this was done when the well was put into production, it has the potential to dramatically reduce these problems. When we provide the service to existing wells, we can solve the problems, and we can also improve the production flow of the well at the same time,” explains Moorhouse.

“Some customers see our service as an added expense. They should see it as an investment in the future,” O’Dell emphasizes. “If a well is clean when it begins production, you reduce the likelihood that you will lose production due to problems created by sand and debris left in the well. That is money in the bank.”

“Another benefit of using UBD during drilling and servicing a well is the time saved in getting the well back into full production. “When we clean out a well, we are not adding any materials down-hole,” explains O’Dell. “In fact, we are removing the particles and left over frack debris commonly left by over-balanced completions. This means there is nothing left to block the flow of oil and gas. You have immediate production capability. When using UB techniques to clean out a well, the production zones are allowed to produce thus bringing excess sand and debris out of the formation during the actual clean out. When over-balanced drilling and servicing methods are used, production is restricted by the hydrostatic pressures of the drilling mud/fluid and the formation slowly recovers. However, due to the potential blockage caused by OBD, it may never reach its full potential,” O’Dell concludes.

Shell Oil Company, uses UBD drilling and servicing on more than 80% of the wells they drill, and estimates that UBD has the potential to improve well production by 800%. Thanks to the improved flow of oil and gas, fewer wells are needed to drain a reservoir and the overall environmental footprint is smaller.

Omni Compressed Air, Ltd., originally called Redman Air Drilling, was founded in 1978 by Bob O’Dell. The company’s main focus was air drilling in the Austin Chalk. The company relocated to West Texas in 1987 doing workovers and completions because at the time air foam units were not capable of providing sufficient air volumes to properly clean wells and handle excessive fluid influxes.

Today, the company uses the very latest in compressed air and nitrogen foam technology to service wells throughout the Permian Basin area. “We have more than 50 pieces of portable equipment, and we can be onsite in a matter of hours,” says O’Dell.

Omni’s air foam unit’s newer, larger air-end design delivers up to 1500 SCFM at 2500 PSIG. Air foam is ideal for sand cleanout, bridge plug drilling, fluid recovery, fishing, and deepening projects in lost circulation zones or pressure depleted reservoirs. Air foam and N2 foam increase penetration rates while minimizing formation damage. They also feature self-contained, D.O.T. approved drop deck trailers for maximum portability and quick rig up times. All units feature a Sullair compressor capable of discharge pressures of 350-500 PSIG. With one booster, discharge pressure climbs between 2000-2550 PSIG. And, for extreme jobs requiring even more compression, Omni can stack an additional Super Booster to reach pressures of up to 5000 PSIG.

Omni Compressed Air’s customers have set many drilling records, drilling at paces up to 200 ft. per hour while utilizing Omni’s equipment and services. Omni’s air services are generally used in the following types of projects: dust drilling, drilling with membrane nitrogen, mist drilling, aerated fluid drilling, foam drilling, percussion hammer drilling, directional drilling, and payzone drilling. “If you want to speed up the drilling process and eliminate a lot of problems in the future, air drilling is the answer. It can increase drilling penetration rates by 5 to 7 times, eliminate lost circulation, differential sticking and formation damage,” states Moorhouse.

Omni is a leading provider of air foam, N2 foam and air packages for drilling in the Permian Basin area. “There are other companies who provide similar services, but we bring almost 30 years of proven experience, plus when you work with us – you are working with the owners of the company. We will be onsite to ensure everything is done correctly and that we maximize the benefits of the services we provide,” says Moorhouse.

Drillers, Pumpers and others involved in the oil and gas industry need to recognize that there are ways to reduce costs and increase production at the same time. Compressed air drilling and well servicing may be an old method, first used decades ago, but combined with the latest technology, it has the power to cut costs and at the same time boost productivity and profitability.

Omni Compressed Air is growing to meet the needs of the Permian Basin and is currently expanding operations into the Eagle Ford Shale and other markets. “Right now, we are focused on providing our customers the best service possible,” explains O’Dell. “We have learned that if you provide excellent service and use the best technology available to solve a customer’s problems, company growth takes care of itself.”

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