Field-Tested Fluid Advancements

Jerry Noles, technical director for downhole fluids and dispersal company Coil Chem LLC, "If you are going to be the best, you better test your products in the Bakken."
By The Bakken magazine staff | February 08, 2014

Jerry Noles is everything the Bakken shale play should be about. He has worked for more than 30 years in snubbing, well control, work over and coiled tubing in various oilfields. He worked on the second horizontal well ever drilled in the Barnett Shale and he is credited with completing the first successful coiled tubing, horizontally directional drilled well in the Lower 48. Like so many other service providers in the Bakken, he’s learned how to leverage his experience into the Bakken. In 2009, Noles helped start a chemical and fluid manufacturing company designed specifically for the Bakken with Danny Wesley, now president, and Jason Watts, now vice president of manufacturing. Coil Chem LLC now has two locations in North Dakota and its path  from a startup to a proven entity in the Williston Basin shows that innovation, efficiency gains and technology advancements aren’t limited to large equipment or major strategy changes. In the case of Noles, technical director and CEO for Coil Chem, developing a system to disperse precise chemical doses into the wellbore has helped several Bakken operators reach total depth (TD) faster and remove previously irremovable wellbore plugs.

Downhole Chemistry and Cake-Making
The Oklahoma-based company started developing a better fluid mixture for friction reducers, drilling fluids, rod lubes and several other products in 2009. For an entire year, Noles and the team researched the variables the chemical mixtures should address. During its research efforts, the company developed a fluid mixture delivery system that has also helped the company solve a major issue on the well site. “The manufacturers of the chemicals really didn’t understand the applications of the products, and the applicators really didn’t understand the properties of the products,” Noles said of his research into the process of deploying friction reducers or other chemicals into the wellbore during drilling or completions. Because of the disconnect, Coil Chem has since built its own chemical manufacturing facility in Louisiana and its own self-contained unit designed to disperse the chemical mixtures in a precise way.

When a customer calls Coil Chem in North Dakota, a team from either Dickinson or Alexander will drive a self-contained unit to the well site. Once the team is on site, the unit will be hooked into the water storage or frack tank set-up. When the high-pressure pump is turned on, the Coil Chem unit will sense the draft and begin dispersing a pre-set, programmable mixture of chemicals into the water stream. If the high-pressure pump turns off, slows down or ramps up, the Coil Chem unit will respond in unison, eliminating the waste potential or inaccurate mixing of any product If a customer is happy with it's fluid introduction system, the company can also supply it's downhole products in bulk.

The dispersal system has become a crucial component of the company’s services. “We needed something that would work to introduce the chemicals and would automatically adjust to the exact dosage ratio required,” Noles said. “We needed a system that was more reliable than a worker standing on a batch tank pouring in fluid and keeping track of the ratio by counting the number of buckets laying on the ground.”

The idea behind Coil Chem’s products is to provide a pre-mixed, quality-assured product. The team doesn’t buy off-the-shelf chemicals, it buys the raw ingredients and formulates its own mixtures in Louisiana. To date, the company has worked in every shale play in the U.S. and ships products and dispersal units internationally. Regardless of where a well is, the well bore trajectory and basic geometry of a horizontal well doesn’t change radically from shale play to shale play, Noles says.

 “We want to provide chemistry that removes the decision making process for field level operators,” Noles says. “I make the analogy that it is a lot like baking a cake. If someone shows up and they drop off the ingredients and they say bake a cake, every chef in the place without a recipe is going to bake that cake differently. They will also bake it based on their experience level and their preferences.” The Coil Chem approach, to use the analogy, is to provide a premix batter so the only thing the people on location have to do is add water.

The process has already paid large dividends for customers in the Bakken. When Noles and his team first started servicing clients in the play, operators were experiencing random successes and failures in multiple wells. “We had customers that were leaving anywhere between 10 percent to 20 percent of their plugs intact. They had already drilled and fracked the well, the just couldn’t remove those zonal isolation plugs from the wellbore. They were leaving potential reserves in place that they had already paid for,” he says. By utilizing the friction reducer and the pipe lubricant products, Coil Chem was able to help the companies better access the well bore and remove the plugs.

The chemistry and dispersal system is also helping drilling teams reach total depth more quickly. A drilling rig operator who deployed the system for the first time on a well in the Bakken posted a lateral length drilled over a 24-hour period of 1,700 feet. Using the drilling fluid and dispersal unit developed by Coil Chem, the same operator recorded a lateral length best of 3,200 feet over a 24-hour period. The estimated savings from the drilling efficiency gains were $200,000 according to the operator.

To date, the most popular products in the Bakken are the friction reducers and pipe-on-pipe material. For Noles, the Bakken has been the ultimate proving grounds for his company, and a play that will help his company anywhere in the world. “The thing about the Bakken is that the longer the lateral, the greater the technical capacity has to be. The Bakken is a great market for us because we designed our products for it.” The suite of products combined with the dispersal units were formulated for the harshest conditions, Noles said, including pressure and temperatures. The products were also formulated to stay productive in longer length laterals, a trend that is fast becoming the norm in the Williston Basin. “The Bakken has really set the benchmark for extended laterals. What is learned in the Bakken will be used in other shales,” he says. “If you are going to be the best, you better test your products in the Bakken.”