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A math-based model for deep-water oil drilling
Date:8/25/2011

Oil well control is one of the most important processes during drilling operations. In deepwater drilling, controlling pressure in the oil well is crucial, as excessive pressures in the drilled hole can result in blowouts, leading to disastrous events like the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill.

The deeper the well, the higher the pressure, and the higher the risks associated with tapping oil from wells. During drilling, when the pressure applied to balance the hydrocarbon pressure in a well is not great enough to overcome that exerted by gas and fluids in the rock formation drilled, water, gas, oil, or other formation fluid can enter the hole. This is called a "gas kick," which in worst-case scenarios can lead to blowouts.

In a paper published earlier this month in the SIAM Journal on Mathematical Analysis, author Steinar Evje presents new analysis of a mathematical model that has applications to the study of such gas kicks in deep-water oil wells.

The use of mathematical models is important for the development of tools that can help simulate, and hence, increase control in deep-water well operations. "Various gas kick simulators are being developed for the purpose of studying well control aspects during exploratory and development drilling," says Evje. "Simulators have become an important tool for the development of new, more efficient and safer drilling methods."

"A simulator for drilling operations is composed of a set of nonlinear coupled partial differential equations that describe the simultaneous flow of hydrocarbons in a well. This mathematical model represents a 'virtual laboratory' where the finer mechanisms related to a number of different physical effects can be studied in detail," Evje goes on to explain.

The main challenge presented in many of these models is the precise prediction of the pressure profile in addition to liquid/gas volumes and flow rates at various points along the oil well. "This
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Contact: Karthika Muthukumaraswamy
karthika@siam.org
267-350-6383
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
Source:Eurekalert

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