BaraShale Lite drilling fluid improves efficiency, lowers costs

By Staff | February 20, 2018

Halliburton has unveiled a new drilling fluid system—BaraShale Lite—which contains a proprietary emulsifier to prevent lost circulation and washout while minimizing dilution and waste volumes.

The company released a case history describing how its water-based BaraShale is designed to maintain full salt saturation, helping to prevent lost circulation and minimizing waste disposal costs.

According to Halliburton, its BaraShale Lite solution has enabled customers to achieve significant cost savings on a well-by-well basis through greater drilling efficiencies. Total drilling times were reduced by 4 to 8 hours (7 percent), compared to offset wells drilled in 120 hours. Waste disposal costs were reduced by 70 percent because of significantly lower haul-off volumes, adding the benefit of fewer road trips and reduced road safety risks.

J.J. Miller, BaraShale product manager for Halliburton, spoke with North American Shale Magazine about the new product and outlined its potential uses.

“Now that we understand the concept of building an emulsion and increasing the amount of hydrocarbon or oil phase to lower the density, it’s going to be useful all over the world in areas that have low-fracture gradients,” he said. “They require this type of low-density fluid to avoid lost circulation issues. We’re looking at quite a few of those in the U.S. and around the world—as far flung as Canada and Venezuela.”

Why was this product developed?

For this particular fluid system, it came about because an operator was talking with us and strongly encouraging us to do something in this space. What led them to say that was in the past, they did not have one fluid system that was good for the intermediate section in the Permian. We were looking for more sustainable, more efficient, cheaper ways of drilling in one interval.  

What were the challenges you had to overcome?

The biggest thing for us was that we had to have a saturated brine phase for the fluid to prevent salt erosion and washout. We know that system is about a 10-pound-per-gallon density. So now we’ve got to be closer to a nine-pound density, but still have that saturation. The only way to get there is to put something lighter than that to it, and that’s where we got to an oil phase as part of the emulsion. Some others have tried the emulsion angle before. It’s really one of the core knowledge areas within Halliburton. We’ve been building these for a long number of years on the oil-based fluid side and learning what it takes to make it stable. For us, the biggest challenge was putting together a system that had oil emulsified into it. We knew it would be very stable and not separate into two phases over time.

What’s the process you go through to test a process like this?

It really goes back to a strong collaboration with the customer. Step one was sitting down with our operator and finding out for all of his properties of the fluid. What did they need to have for something they thought would work? Some of those included the target density range, which was nine pounds per gallon, but still with full salt saturation and temperature stability up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. One of the other factors here is that we wanted to have fairly low viscosity with this fluid. That helps them drill very quickly and not have unneeded pressures downhole. We also wanted to help in terms of easily removing drill solids.  

When did you know that BaraShale worked as intended?

I think it was two wells and it absolutely met all of the different performance indicators that we wanted to. This was back in May and June of last year. They were on the New Mexico side (of the Permian Basin). One thing we learned quickly is that basically all fluids and drilling wastes have to be hauled away from locations and disposed of. That results in an enormous expense for our operators out there. We’re able to drive a lot of efficiency with this new system.

What makes it more efficient?

With fluids, it’s been a case of dump and dilution with the typical water-based fluids used in that area. They were building up pretty massive volumes—hundreds and hundreds of barrels of fluid that they had to send back to dispose of after it had been pumped downhole. We took a bit different approach with BaraShale in that we intended to reuse it as many times as we could. It’s gone extremely well. With our starting operator, some of that fluid we built last summer is still circulating around. I’m sure it’s not 100 percent still there, but as we’ve gone along, we’ve not disposed of or discarded any of the active volume. It’s been essentially reused from well to well, some of it transported from the New Mexico side to the Texas side. It’s a little bit more like the oil-based mud now in terms of that transfer or that reusability.

What else have you learned from field operations with BaraShale?

We’ve been working on a technical paper for the AADE (American Association of Drilling Engineers) conference coming up in April. On the New Mexico side, one operator has now realized over a $1 million savings through a program with eight wells. We have several other operators we’ve been working with on this. Overall, we’ve achieved more than 30 well sections drilled as of today. We only had one operator that used it and decided it didn’t really fit the way they were doing things. Otherwise, all of our operators are continuing to use it today.