Drilling the deep lithology column using PDC bits in the Obayied field of Egypt's Western Desert has been extremely difficult. The field's lithology column represents an amplification of all of the typical lithology characteristics in the Western Desert. The highly interbedded sandstone, siltstone, and shale—along with the variance of such interbedding across the field—has been a significant challenge for well planners and has adversely affected cost per foot. The application is characterized as predominantly abrasive and impact-intensive in the same section, hence challenging for PDC bit durability. To efficiently drill the 8½-in interval, a fundamental change in PDC bit design is required.

Considering these formidable challenges, service providers had to evolve PDC bits to meet the constant demand of improving performance and reducing costs. Focus was concentrated on balancing new technology developments and the willingness to invest on field trials. To accomplish these objectives in the Obayied field, the operator and the service provider identified two main problems—developing an in-depth understanding of rock strength characteristics of each individual formation in the deep rock column and its variance across the field, and developing PDC bits that can survive such a challenging rock column with improved durability and ROP.

Recently, a novel conical diamond element (CDE) with extreme impact- and abrasion-resistant characteristics has been developed. The CDE has been incorporated at bit center in a new and innovative PDC design, solving the traditional challenge of the inefficient characteristic of PDC bit central area. In addition, a field-wide rock strength study based on sonic and gamma rays logs provided the transparency required for better planning and risk management to resolve the operational inefficiencies traditionally seen in the Obayied field.

The new PDC bits utilizing the CDE technology has been deployed in Obayied and has reduced consumption to just 3–4 bits per section in 2014, whereas that number was 8–10 bits per section averaged in 2006. The new bit has also reduced the average number of days to drill the section from as low as 6 days to reach TD instead of 20 days. Performance gains were achieved both in ROP and footage totals in the most challenging formations, including Alam Al Buwaib, Upper Safa, and Lower Safa. The authors will discuss the benefits of this industry collaboration that achieved exceptional performance improvement leading to dramatic cost savings in the Obayied field.

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