A fixed PDC cutting element creates an inherent limitation because only a small portion of the diamond table contacts formation and as the cutter wears/chips, drilling efficiency declines. It is well documented that wear flats generate a high degree of frictional heat which breaks down the diamond bond and in extreme cases can even convert synthetic diamond back to graphite.

To solve the issue a research initiative was launched to investigate different methods to enable a PDC shearing element to fully rotate while drilling to increase overall cutting efficiency and bit life. Engineers investigated different retention methods and cutting structure designs to create the optimal driving force to accomplish the objective. Several designs were implemented that hold the cutter securely in place and allow full cutter rotation. These assemblies were modeled using an FEA-based system and then tested in the laboratory to evaluate function and strength. Experiments confirmed the new rolling cutter (RC) was able to shear an extended section of rock with a consistent force level (lbs). Conversely, the traditional fixed-cutter assembly required steadily increased force to drive the cutter the same distance. Examination of the rolling cutter's dull condition clearly indicated significantly improved durability and cutting efficiency.

The recent introduction of a new rolling cutter PDC bit that utilizes the entire 360° of diamond edge has delivered positive results in field trials. Initial testing was targeted at the highly abrasive Granite Wash formation in Western Oklahoma/Texas Panhandle where cutter wear is the predominant failure mechanism. Application challenges include low ROP and premature tripping for a new bit. A six-bladed prototype PDC bit was manufactured with rolling cutters strategically positioned in the shoulder area. The bit was run on a steerable motor through the horizontal interval with good results increasing total footage and ROP capabilities.

In the central USA the rolling cutter has been run more than 70 times and has increased average footage totals by 56% compared to 450 offsets drilled with conventional fixed cutter PDC bits from various manufacturers. The authors will present results of field tests and two case studies that document performance improvement in these challenging drilling environments. They will also outline plans for future development.

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