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Well Completion and Frac Efficiency Improvement through Site Specific Chemical Selection

Executive Summary

Proper attention to chemical selection, operator training and development/implementation to comprehensive field application processes has proven to greatly improve efficiency and, in turn, cost savings to well owners. When planning the many aspects of frac and completion processes, prudent selection of chemicals, including chemical input composition, proper blending and on-location delivery have confirmed essential if the desired operational efficiencies are to be achieved. This article discusses why knowing that the vendor provides a broad spectrum of chemicals, especially when inevitable, unanticipated field changes occur. It is equally important that the on-site service providers can instantaneously change its chemical types and concentrations, method of mixing and delivery when operational circumstances so dictate. Also included are testimonials from customers of the Philpott Energy and Transportation Company1 regarding the economics and cost/benefits of various chemicals based on actual field application experience. 

Determining True Cost 

Figure 1: Totes of Completion Chemicals

Every operator knows that when selecting frac and completion process chemicals, a one-size-fits-all philosophy is a recipe for long term headaches, project slow-downs and stoppages and, in turn, diminished efficiency. Such behavior leads to reduced profits to the drilling contractor and higher cost to the well owner, which diminishes customers’ loyalty. In today’s highly competitive environment, drilling contractors strive to place and keep themselves in a favorable light with customers. Anything short of this causes customers to look elsewhere to contract their business. 

In short, the issue of determining true chemical cost continues to be misunderstood and misrepresented. In most cases, total project costs go down considerably when all the elements of the operation are considered. When the one-off cost per gallon of chemical, or hourly cost of a piece of equipment, become the basis for whether to move forward with new technology, the project budget-to-actual costs are skewed. Employing a new process or technology has the potential to reduce the overall project cost by 10% or more. We still hear from shortsighted drillers that a highly engineered chemical has a higher cost than “what we’ve always used.” When a decision on what to buy is based on one-off costs of a chemical, the well owner will likely end up paying more when the entire project cost is considered. 

Enlightened drilling contractors, who at one time would select their chemicals based on one-off, price per gallon, found truth in the adage that such behavior is penny wise, but pound foolish. To the contrary, those contractors have reported that proven performance must be the key variable when selecting their chemicals. Although a well-engineered and formulated chemical can reduce pump pressure and minimize the likelihood of getting stuck, it may be marginally more expensive. Although initially more expensive, the superior performance gained will more than pay for itself by improving efficiency and minimizing downtime. A major drilling contractor recently told us that, “we don’t reduce hours, but days of location time by employing Philpott’s chemical and mixing systems.” This contractor reported that many of his customers recognized a pattern of his company spending less time on location and, thus, charging the owner less. Of course, his business continues to grow with these customers as do his and the well owners’ profits! 

Figure 2: Philpott Hydration unit

For more than a decade, Philpott has provided what has been dubbed best-in-class chemicals, on-location hydration equipment and prompt delivery services. Users of these products and services nearly always provide rave reviews of the Philpott chemicals and service crew efficiency. Initially, Philpott only provided chemicals from a single source, which was generally beneficial to all stakeholders in the process. However, as exploration and production (E&P) techniques changed, especially in the Marcellus and Utica shale basins, Philpott’s single-sourced chemicals experienced performance challenges. This was particularly true when the chemistry of produced water was recirculated or mixed with other chemicals. 

Expanding Product/Services Offerings 

In the 10-years that Philpott has been operating in the shale gas E&P sector, its team of highly experienced, company employed field technicians have seen a broad range of drilling techniques and associated chemical application successes and failures. This unique background comes not only from direct experience with Philpott products, but also from observations and technical discussions with location hands using chemicals provided by others. Because Philpott’s products most often are hydrated and delivered on location by Philpott personnel, Philpott Energy employees have become well-versed in the performance of many different chemicals, which other companies simply deliver in totes or pallets of buckets. By understanding the vast number of chemicals and having observed which work best in many different field situations, Philpott had the necessary data to build a chemical product line that now covers most every produced water situation. 

As discussed earlier, Philpott’s initial product offerings were provided with Philpott-owned, high precision, computerized hydration and mixing units. As an ongoing offering, this continues to allow Philpott chemicals to be delivered to locations in concentrated form and then mixed in real time to address specific and often constantly changing dosage requirements. While some other systems also require a technical operator to be on location, Philpott’s computerized hydration unit and software does the think work. Philpott’s technicians monitor dosages and introduction of the individual or combined chemical compounds throughout the completion phase. This process also helps eliminate waste by minimizing the possibility of pumping unnecessary volumes of chemicals. 

Although this combined offering of chemicals and precision mixing equipment remains Philpott’s premium, flagship offering, some operators require other types of chemical mixing. An example of this is batch mixing in which a vessel is equipped with a means for adding dry or liquid chemicals and mechanically agitating the mixture to attain a desired mixture. Like the Philpott computerized mixing unit, the chemical mixture connects to a manifold system for delivery to storage tanks or treatment pumps. Although not seen in practice of late, old-timers describe how they would even dump guesstimated volumes from buckets of chemicals into drums of water and mix it with a canoe oar before sending the mixture downhole. Although admittedly Philpott’s technicians have not yet tried the oar-and-barrel method, they are experienced in operating most every type of mixing technique. 

When it was time to identify and negotiate with chemical suppliers, Philpott Energy turned to its parent for support. With its well-known reputation for manufactured product quality, customer satisfaction and unmatched safety, Philpott Solutions Group management tasked its supply chain professionals to build its energy chemical suite of offerings. Since most oilfield chemicals are polymer based, Philpott’s 130-years in the business maintains a vast network of chemical input providers, custom blenders and related suppliers, which are already in place. By combining Philpott’s purchase volume with those from its other business units, coupled with its reputation as the platinum level, on-time payer, a broad product line at a premium value has been established. This full line of products is now available with or without dedicated field support from Philpott technician. 

Project Testimonials 

Testimonials from the field provide impressive, credible evidence of the quality and total project costs of Philpott’s chemicals and support services. To date, Philpott systems have supported completions of wells as deep as 31,000 feet with a 20,000-foot perforated lateral and a compilation of 103 frac plugs. Specific success stories follow: 

Endorsement 1: Head-to-Head Chemical Comparison 

Figure 3: Completion rig

This project had a total of four (4) wells on the pad. According to the project supervisor, “Two wells were contracted to Philpott and the other two to one of Philpott’s competitors. All four wells had significant deviations. During the first drill out, Philpott’s competitor got stuck. This concerned us greatly as the drill out using Philpott’s material was approaching what was known to be a similar tight spot. When the Philpott technicians saw increased torque & resistance in the drill string, they added a small amount of their pipe-on-pipe lubricant and slightly increased the total constant chemical dosage.” All were pleased when the driller and Philpott were able to complete the drill out without incident. When Philpott and its competitor moved to their second well on the pad, the issues were the same. According to the operator, “[Philpott’s competitor] got stuck at the deviation, while Philpott’s chemical and dosage recommendations moved the process through the deviations without interruption.” It was later communicated that the drill outs of the two wells supported by Philpott’s competitor were not able to reach bottom. However, the two Philpott wells were fully completed. 

Endorsement 2: Unanticipated Water Chemistry Change 

“On our location, we told Philpott to expect clean or fresh water to be supplied by our contractor. Because of the extreme, unanticipated well pressure encountered, the 8.7 lb. per gallon of clean water was insufficient to counterbalance and control the well pressure. The contractor brought in a heavier water with brine concentration, which increased the weight of the water to 9.5 lbs. per gallon to better stabilize the well pressure.” As would be expected, the heavier brine effected the performance of formula compound that was optimized for use in fresh water. The operator explained, “When well pressure is affected, the circulating pressure is adversely and unacceptably impacted.” After consulting with the company man on location, it was decided to switch to another Philpott high-performance, stand-alone friction reducing chemical to help reduce the circulation pressure. The recommendation. According to the Philpott technician, “We arrived on location and recommended that two (2) 17,500 feet. He said, “As we got deeper, though, the torque started going up to company man related, “Philpott was quick to react by immediately substituting the right, alternative chemical and eliminated what likely would have otherwise been substantial, costly downtime.” 

Philpott’s field technician explained that the alternative product used at this location has been proven to combat friction in a wider range of adverse conditions than most others available on the market. He said that the company man also had brought additional chemicals to the location from two other suppliers. The Philpott specialist reported that while Philpott’s chemical resulted in operating pressures well below the safety threshold, the other products were unable to limit the circulation pressure to 8,000 PSI (80% of the 10,000 PSI maximum). In fact, neither of the competitor’s products were able to achieve operating pressures of less than 9,400 PSI, a full 1,400 PSI above the safety standard. 

Endorsement 3: Philpott to the Rescue 

Although companies always wish to win business on their reputations and performance merits, call outs often come when a competitor fails to perform. In this case, a call came from a customer who sounded disgusted saying, “[Your competitor] got stuck in the well at 15,000 feet. This is killing us. Any ideas?” The customer admitted to being astounded at the almost immediate elimination of the encountered problem by implementing Philpott’s gallon sweeps of pipe-on-pipe be injected back-to-back. lt worked!” The customer reported delight to be drilling plugs at 4,900 foot-pounds. When we implemented Philpott’s recommendation to run a constant dose of pipe-on-pipe, torque dropped 900 foot-pounds, to a much more efficient and effective 4,000.” 

Endorsement 4: Dual Purpose Efficiency 

On a 10-well project in Marshall County, West Virginia, the newest Philpott friction reducer was introduced. According to the location supervisor, “Philpott’s chemical did a remarkable job.” He went on to say, “You really knocked it out of the park!” The customer was reacting to the chemical performance that brought up 50 plus inches of plug parts on multiple screen pulls without having to pump time consuming surface-to-surface circulations to clean the well. A review of the data on this and other projects demonstrated the chemical formulation greatly enhanced penetration and overall plug drill out efficiencies. This resulted in lower operating string torque and lighter pick up weights, both while drilling on a plug or setting just above to circulate and clean the hole. The company man said, “The product handled the variable water conditions by producing good viscosities and great friction reduction simultaneously.” This chemical, combined with Philpott’s hydration unit and specialized operators, provided premium chemical efficiencies by not requiring constant or additional amounts of pipe-on-pipe for reduction in torque over the entire depth of wells. 


Figure 4: Gas well head

Conscientious, well-informed chemical selection greatly improves the efficiency and, in turn, provides cost savings to well owners. Planning the many aspects of frac and completion processes, prudent selection of chemicals, including input composition, proper blending and on location delivery have proven essential of the achieving optimal operational efficiencies. Operators that trust that its vendor provides chemical choices, especially when the inevitable, unanticipated changes occur, benefit in the long run. It is equally important that the on-site service provider can instantaneously change its chemicals, method of mixing and ensure timely delivery when operational circumstances dictate. 

1 Although entering the Marcellus and Utica shale gas basin chemical provision business in 2009 by establishing its Philpott Energy and Transportation Company, parent company Philpott Solutions Group, Inc. has been in the polymer application business since 1889. Since the base inputs of chemicals used in shale basin frac and completion processes are polymer based, it was a seamless, natural expansion of Philpott’s polymer application expertise into the fossil fuel sector. Philpott proudly continues to apply its more than 130-years of experience to the USA energy sector.

Copyright © 2020 by Philpott Solutions Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Except as permitted under the United States Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this document may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a data base or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of Philpott Solutions Group, Inc.   

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