As oil and gas wells become deeper, drilling longer intervals is becoming a major milestone for drill bit companies, as the process comes with a variety of challenges affecting the durability of drill bits. Among the major challenges are thermal and impact damage in polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) cutters, which can significantly affect the performance and longevity of a drill bit. While cutter technology development remains an important arena to address said challenges, there exists a need to also address these through the design process. This paper presents the development and deployment of a new drill bit analysis method that addresses thermal damage by optimizing the design, which has been field validated across the globe.

The analysis involves estimating the thermal input load and the available cooling rate for every cutter on a drill bit during drilling conditions. The data is then used to optimize and apply changes to the design. The analysis considers all the critical and relevant operational parameters to calculate these indices. The outcome of the so-called thermal index analysis enables the design team to make informed decisions to improve the design of the drill bit and to minimize the extent of thermal damage in cutters.

The improvements made in the design include changes in cutting structure to affect cutting forces and, eventually, the thermal input load during the drilling process. This stage in practice can bring down the temperature of the cutting edge by 20%, as calculated analytically. Another major change that can affect the results is hydraulic design of the bit, which includes the location of the nozzles as well as their orientation and size. In test cases, the cooling rate improved by 50% while keeping the same flow rate though the bit.

Several field trials have validated the correlation of thermal index analysis to drill bit dulls. This analysis is now in the field evaluation and testing phase, where it is being used during the design process to improve bits with thermal damage. The field-testing phase has been primarily conducted in thermally challenging applications across the Middle East, North Africa region, and in West Texas.

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