Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS3315742 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateApr 25, 1967
Filing dateApr 20, 1966
Priority dateApr 20, 1966
Publication numberUS 3315742 A, US 3315742A, US-A-3315742, US3315742 A, US3315742A
InventorsNicolson Kingsley M
Original AssigneeChevron Res
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Offshore deep drilling method from a floating platform
US 3315742 A
Abstract  available in
Images(4)
Previous page
Next page
Claims  available in
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

April 25, 1967 K. M. NICOLSON 3,315,742

OFFSHORE DEEP DRILLING METHOD FROM A FLOATING PLATFORM Original Filed Dec. 21, 1956 4 Sheets-Sheet 1 ATTORNEYS April 1967 K. M. NICOLSON 7 3,315,742

OFFSHORE DEEP DRILLING METHOD FROM A FLOATING PLATFORM Original Filed Dec. 21, 1956 4 Sheets-Sheet 2 INVENTOR KINGSLEV M. N/COLSON April 25, 1 967 K. M. NICOVLSON OFFSHORE DEEP DRILLING METHOD FROM A FLOATING PLATFORM Original Filed Dec. 21, 1956 4 Sheets-Sheet 5 25 T /19 INVENTOR K/NGSL EV M. N/COLSON ATTORN EYS April 1957 K. M. NICOLSON 3,315,742

OFFSHORE DEEP DRILLING METHOD FROM A FLOATING PLATFORM Original Filed Dec. 21, 1956 4 Sheets-Sheet 4 INVENTOR K/NGSLEY M. N/COLSON ATTORNEYS United States Patent 3,315,742 OFFSHORE DEEP DRILLING METHOD FROM A FLOATING PLATFORM Kingsley M. Nicolson, Santa Barbara, Calif., assignor, by rnesne assignments, to Chevron Research Company, a corporation of Delaware Continuation of applications Ser. No. 629,937, Dec. 21, 1956, now Patent No. 3,252,528, dated May 24, 1966, and Ser. No. 631,715, Dec. 31, 1956. This application Apr. 20, 1966, Ser. No. 543,887

2 Claims. (Cl. 166.6)

This application is a continuation of my prior application Ser. No. 629,937 filed Dec. 21, 1956, now Patent No. 3,252,528, issued May 24, 1966, and my prior application Ser. No. 631,715 filed Dec. 31, 1956.

The present invention relates to a method of drilling from a fully floating platform. More particularly, the invention relates to a method of drilling a vertical well bore into the underwater bottom whether or not the bottom is steeply dipping from a fully floating platform.

It is a particular object of this invention to provide a method of drilling a vertical well bore into an underwater bottom from a fully floating vessel without requiring a template or other guiding means for spudding in the well bore by suspending a drill string from the deck of a fully floating vessel with a substantial portion thereof held in tension when the lower end thereof including a drill bit and a weighted portion of said drill string touches bottom. Then, with only the weighted portion of the drill string exerting thrust on the drill bit the drill string is rotated from the working deck of the vessel. The borehole is spudded in vertically by drilling ahead with the drill bit until a consolidated rock bed or other competent formation is drilled into. Then, at least one conductor pipe is cemented in the borehole before the drill string is disconnected from the borehole.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a method for drilling into an underwater bottom from a fully floating platform without danger of contaminating the body of water with oil or gas encountered in the well bore by establishing pressure control over the borehole with a well head on bottom before the borehole penetrates potential reservoir formations. od, such well head is set on bottom with all work performed on the working deck of the floating vessel by maintaining continuous engagement between the underwater bottom and the floating vessel after the drill string hes been first spudded without templates or other means for guiding the bit into the bottom. In said preferred method of carrying out the invention, an assembled conductor pipe is lowered into the vertical borehole formed in the underwater bottom by the drill bit, but penetration thereinto is limited by assembling a landing flange to the upper end of said pipe before it is lowered. The conductor pipe is then cemented in position through a drill string extending from the deck of the floating vessel into the borehole; said cementing being performed after a guide assembly is lowered on at least a pair of guide cables so that it slides down along the drilling string extending downward from the working deck into the borehole. The guide assembly is latched to the conductor pipe above said landing flange. Following cementing of the conductor pipe and securing of the guide cable assembly to said conductor pipe, the interconnection between the drill string and the floating vessel is broken and the guide cables slacked to permit cement around said conductor pipe to set without vertical force being applied to it through the vessel moving under wind and tide action. Pressure control equipment, including at least one blow out preventer assembly is then lowered along the guide cables after they are again drawn taut between the well head and the floating vessel. Said pressure control equipment In carrying out the methice is desirably coupled to the top of the conductor pipe by a safety joint or other quick-connect joint that requires less than one full rotation of the pressure control means, guide lines or said conductor pipe.

In this connection an individually significant object of the invention entails the detachable connecting of a wellhead assembly to cemented-in conduit means in response to axial convergence of, and relative rotation between, the wellhead assembly and the conduit means vis-a-vis a safety joint. This detachable connection enables the wellhead assembly to be selectively detached from the conduit means and raised in slidable engagement with flexible guide means toward support means such as a floating vessel. This connection of the wellhead assembly with the conduit means prevents upward movement of the wellhead assembly and relative rotary movement between the wellhead assembly and the conduit means and also provides a drill pipe passageway in sealed communication with the interior of the conduit means. This drill pipe passageway is controlled, by means of the blowout preventer, from the support means so that the passageway, from the support means, may be selectively closed off or opened.

In the drilling of well bores to explore for oil, gas and the like through deep waters, it is necessary either to build a platform extending from the ocean bottom to a level well above the water surface or to drill from a floating platform. It is of course uneconomical to build large fixed platforms unless there is a high probability of finding oil. Accordingly, it is desirable to be able to drill a well bore from a mobile platform such as a floating platform. The greater mobility of a fully floating platform makes this type of drilling more attractive than platforms that have a floating foundation partly submerged by vertical anchors. While such restrained floating platforms provide easier drilling conditions, the cost of vertical anchors makes their use economically unattractive.

While in general it has been proposed to anchor a vessel over a drilling site and then drill into the underwater bottom with conventional rotary equipment, such underwater bottoms are seldom level and hard so that adequate pressure control equipment can be set directly on bottom. The function of such pressure control equipment is to maintain hydrostatic pressure in the well bore that will always be greater than that of any gas or oil encountered therein. Loss of such pressure control is known as a blow out. The problem of blow outs is of course a serious one from the standpoint of explosion and fire hazards in land operations. It is even more serious in offshore operations, such as those along the California coast, where any release of oil or gas could contaminate the ocean so that marine life is destroyed and the adjacent resort beaches ruined. Accordingly, it is considered imperative that adequate and complete well head control equipment he established before drilling is permitted in an underwater bottom where contamination of the water is possible.

It has been suggested heretofore that well head controls be located on the working deck of the drilling vessel to give easy access for maintenance and to assure its recovery when drilling is completed. In this system, a conductor pipe runs from the well bore up to the control equipment located on the deck of the surface vessel. This of course requires that the conductor pipe be flexible enough to permit lateral and vertical movement of the surface vessel while drilling. One serious problem in using pressure controls at the deck is that the wind and tide forces on the vessel can put an undue strain on the conductor pipe. Such strain, of course, makes the conductor pipe more susceptible to damage that can result in complete loss of well head control. For these reasons, it is desirable to position the well head control esuipment n the bottom. However, the pressure control equipment 5 quite expensive and therefore it is desirable that it be :ossible to retrieve it after the well is drilled.

While it has been suggested heretofore that well head .ontrol equipment be placed on bottom, the method of nitiating, or spudding-in the borehole, landing of conluctor pipe and control equipment, as well as retrieving his equipment as practiced heretofore frequently required he aid of a human diver, or other auxiliary equipment 1ot forming part of the normal drilling equipment. The :ost of diver service, in addition to rig time (i.e., rental :harges on drilling equipment, drill crew wages, etc.), nakes these operations unusually expensive. In general, :he cost of a diver service alone may run as high as $800 to $1,000 per day. Additionally, the time that a diver can operate, even in shallow water, is greatly limited by human, physical endurance. In deep waters, it is not feasible to use a diver even if one is required. Additionally, in water bottoms having a thick bed of unconsolidated sediments, diver service cannot be used without difficulty.

For the foregoing reasons, it is necessary and desirable that there be provided a system for drilling a vertical borehole into an underwater bottom irrespective of its slope or hardness and to a depth so that a conductor pipe can be set and cemented in a competent formation with at least an upper portion thereof extending above bottom to receive well head or pressure control equipment. (In this sense, competent means an earth formation, such as a consolidated shale bed, having sufficient compaction to give it strength and being impermeable so that the pipe can be bonded to it with cement.)

In accordance with a preferred method of carrying out the present invention, a drill bit is assembled on the lower end of a conductor pipe having a predetermined weight. The drill bit and conductor pipe are then connected to a drill-string through a vertically-reciprocable connection; said drill string in turn is rotated by a gimbaled rotary table positioned below a supporting drill derrick mounted on the working deck of the fully floating platform. The vertically-movable connection permits the entire string to hang freely as a pendulum below the vessel so that even in deep waters only the predetermined weight of the conductor pipe is imposed on the drill bit when the bit first touches bottom. Then without further guiding thereof, the drill bit is rotated with only said predetermined weight thereon and with a substantial portion of the drill string in tension during spudding-in. By such rotation and holding said drill string in tension above the weighted section the bit and drill string is maintained vertical even on very steeply dipping bottoms. Drilling then continues until the borehole is deep enough to receive the full length of the conductor pipe. A landing flange otherwise serving as a feeler for bottom indicates when the conductor pipe has been drilled deep enough into the bottom. Desirably, this depth is preselected so the conductor pipe will be sufficiently long to assure its penetration into a competent formation. After the landing flange has engaged bottom with the conductor pipe attached thereto and extending into the borehole, cement is supplied to the annual space between the conductor pipe and the borehole while connection between the drill string and borehole is maintained. Desirably, this is done without removal of the drill string from the well bore. Alternatively, the conductor or surface pipe may be cemented in the borehole using a cement string guided into the landed conductor pipe through a guide assembly lowered on at least a pair of cables along the drill string while said drill string is still in the well bore. In either method of cementing, said guide assembly is lowered to slide down along the drill string while said string is still in the borehole and to establish a continuity of connection between the deck of the drilling vessel and the conductor pipe in the borehole before cement is injected. This 4 continuity of interconnection between vessel and borehole just prior to the cementing operation is particularly essential to eliminate human diver service.

When the guide assembly, which desirably includes an enlarged funnel used to guide well head pressure control equipment into engagement with the conductor pipe, has been landed and interconnected, the drill string is disconnected from the borehole immediately above the landing flange. Then, the guide cables are released so that cement between the conductor pipe and the borehole may set without danger of the conductor pipe being pulled up by the cables due to action of wave and tide forces on the drilling vessel. Said conductor pipe not only serves to prevent slutfing of the underwater sediments into the well bore, but also provides a firm vertical anchor for blow out prevention equipment connected thereto as drilling proceeds below the cemented section of the conductor pipe down into potential oil and gas-bearing formations.

After said conductor pipe has been cemented in the borehole in accordance with the invention, drilling proceeds to a greater depth through blow out prevention equipment, and other well head control equipment, coupled directly to the conductor pipe. Such well head equipment is assembled to the conductor pipe by again tightening the guide cables and lowering it along them. Final assembly of said well head equipment to the con ductor pipe is desirably made through a quick-connect joint, otherwise known as a safety joint, which permits a fluid-tight connection without requiring significant rotation of the guide cables, blow out preventer, drilling head or other equipment that guidably slides down along the cables. In particular, this equipment is not rotated through as much as a full revolution so that the control hydraulic lines and the drilling fluid return lines will not become twisted during assembly. Thus, the hydraulic control means for remotely operating the well head equipment from the vessels deck can be connected prior to lowering of said equipment along the guide cables. At the same time, said guide cables are held nearly straight and vertical between the borehole and the drilling vessel. After assembly of said well head equipment and the drilling head, drilling proceeds by guiding a drill bit and the drill string along the guide cables and into the drilling head assembly and the borehole.

The drilling operation then proceeds under full pressure control of the well bore. This, of course, includes the use of drilling fluid that returns to the working deck through a mud return line connected to the borehole at a point intermediate the biow out prevention equipment and the drilling head. Upon completion of drilling, it is desirable to abandon said borehole, but prevent any possible seepage or other escape of oil or gas by setting a cement plug in the well bore of sufficient length to bond both to the uncased portion of the borehole and at least part of the cased section of the borehole. Such abandonment will of course occur where it is decided that production cannot be eS- tablished, or for other reasons, it is not desired to complete a producing well through this particular borehole. After cement has been spotted in the hole, the well head control equipment is disconnected through said safety joint, or other quick-connect joint, and then lifted by a drill string to the work deck of the drilling vessel. The guide cable assembly, then in turn, is retrieved either by increasing tension on said guide cables to sever a breakable link between the cemented conductor pipe or landing flange and the guide assembly, or by interconnecting said guide assembly with a portion of a drill string to lift the guide assembly and sever the breakable link to the cemented conductor pipe.

In accordance with another method of carrying out the present invention, the conductor pipe is drilled into the underwater bottom by a concentric drill string including a plurality of drill collars directly above the bit but below the section of drill string held in tension from the work deck so that the desired load is applied to the bit when it touches bottom. In accordance with the invention, no other guiding means is used to start said well bore in the bottom. The conductor pipe then is lowered directly behind said drill string, which opens a pilot hole and then underreams it to expand the hole to a diameter large enough to let the conductor pipe pass into the borehole. The landing flange assembled to said pipe limits its depth of penetration; in this method the landing flange and guide assembly are assembled to the conductor pipe and the complete unit is lowered from the deck on the guide cables while said drill string is still in the well bore maintaining continuity of connection between the borehole and the deck.

Further objects and advantages of the present invention, both in the method of its application to drill a vertical hole into bottom without templates or other guiding means while drilling from a floating vessel and the method of remotely establishing said well head control on bottom from the working deck of a drilling vessel will become apparent from the following detailed description of the method and its mode of operation as illustrated by the various forms of apparatus shown in the accompanying drawings which form an integral part of the present specification.

FIG. 1 is a schematic elevation view of one form of apparatus for drilling into an underwater bottom from a fully floating vessel in accordance with the method of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a vertical section of the lower end of the drill string illustrated in FIG. 1 after the landing flange has been seated on bottom and cementing of the conductor pipe has begun;

FIG. 3 illustrates the lower end of a conductor pipe, including a drill bit attached thereto, at the completion of cementing between the well bore and the conductor p p FIG. 4 is a vertical view, partly in section, illustrating the positioning of the guide assembly after it slides down the drill string and engages the conductor pipe in the borehole with the drill string still connected to the well bore;

FIG. 5 is a vertical view of the underwater well head or pressure control equipment being lowered along the guide cables to engage the safety joint that couples the conductor pipe to said wellhead equipment;

FIG. 6 illustrates an alternative method for opening a borehole into the underwater bottom with an independent drill string wherein the conductor pipe and guide assembly are preassembled concentric with said drill string for lowering therealong into the borehole as a unit and said unit is held suspended below the drilling vessel on guide cables that lower it to bottom;

FIG. 7 illustrates setting of another surface pipe to be cemented within the conductor pipe in the method illustrated in FIG. 6;

FIG. 8 illustrates a preferred method of severing the upper end of surface pipe as seen in FIGS. 6 and 7 to permit recovery of the complete safety joint with the well head control equipment when the well bore is to be abandoned.

Referring now to the drawings and in particular FIG. 1, there is illustrated a method of drilling a vertical well bore into an underwater bottom that may be steeply dipping from a fully floating vessel 10. As a first step, vessel 10 is suitably positioned and anchored over the drill site as indicated schematically by anchor lines 11. After the vessel has been positioned on the drill site, there is suspended through a central well 12 formed in vessel 10 to a drill string 14 that includes an assembled section of conductor pipe 13. In the arrangement of FIG. 1, conductor pipe 13 is to be cemented in hole 15, but is an integral part of drill string 14- that also includes drill bit 17, safety joint 19 and an upwardly extending, reduced diameter section 21 formed of a string of drill pipe. Conductor pipe 13 is assembled to a predetermined length depending on the depth of the unconsolidated sediments, identified generally as 23, and the depth needed to be drilled before a competent formation is found in the solid rock 25. Conductor pipe 13 is likewise selected to have a predetermined weight that will act as the only weight on bit 17 when the bit first touches bottom and irrespective of the depth of water between the vessel and bottom. In open water, vessel 10 will be subjected to periodic rise and fall, as well as pitching and rolling, due to wave and tide action. For this reason, the string of drill pipe 21 includes as an integral part thereof, a splined or sliding sleeve connection 43 that assures that the bit will rest on bottom with only the desired load thereon. In the arrangement of FIG. 1, drill string 14, including conductor pipe 13, is then supported by vessel 19 through a conventional derrick 27 that includes hook 29, travelling block 31, cable 33 and draw works 35. In drilling, it is to be noted that templates, pipes or other guide means are not required in accordance with invention to start and drill borehole 15 vertically into a dipping bottom where the upper end 21 of drill string 14 is held in tension so that the entire string hangs as a compound pendulum below rotary table 39. Drill bit 17 is rotated on bottom by rotary table 39 driven by any suitable power source such as motor 41. Preferably, motor 41 is a rotary hydraulic motor so that the motor can be driven through flexible hydraulic lines with the motor supported on the gimbaled bearings of rotary table 39. Rotary table 39 is so mounted to permit it to remain level when the vessel pitches and rolls.

For the purpose of indicating the condition when conductor pipe 13 has been drilled to the desired depth, and to limit its penetration a landing flange 45, formed as either a four-armed spider, or as a relatively flat plate of somewhat enlarged diameter, is clamped to the top end of conductor pipe 13. Thus, when conductor pipe 13 has been drilled to the desired depth, the driller will immediately be notified by an increase in torque at the rotary table and/or by a decrease in the weight supported by derrick 27 due to part of the weight of upper section 21 of drill string 14 being supported on flange 45. The drilling of the conductor pipe is desirably accomplished by using sea water as a drilling fluid. In the present arrangement this is illustrated by intake pipe 47 being interconnected to a pump 49 and to drill string 14 through hose 51 and swivel 53. During drilling-in with sea water, there is of course no return of the cuttings to vessel 10.

In the arrangement shown in FIGS. 1 to 3, drill bit 17 has an enlarged diameter and includes a core wiper arm 54 in the center of the bit that keeps the hole open thrdugh the center of conductor pipe 13.

When the conductor pipe has been drilled to suflicient depth to enter a competent formation, landing flange 45 touches bottom as seen in FIG. 2. The hole is then conditioned by continued circulation of sea water so that the hole is flushed of debris. After conditioning of thehole, cement is supplied by switching connections of valve 57 to pump cement from the mixing tank 59 through mud pump 49 and into drill pipe 14 through swivel 53 (FIG. 1). As best seen in FIG. 2, cement is cleared from conductor pipe 13 by dropping a ball 61 through a side-opening port or kelly cock 63 connected directly below swivel 53. When ball 61 seats on the top of cement chaser 65, pump pressure, as indicated by meter 50, will be increased to release chaser 65 from its seat in coupling 67 in the drill string lying directly above safety joint 19. Cement chaser 65 then cleans cement from the lower end of the conductor pipe as shown in FIG. 3. Core wiper 54 stops the downward travel of cement chaser 65 and prevents back flow of cement 69 from well bore 15 into conductor pipe 13. Desirably, enough cement is used so that substantially 7 ;he entire length of conductor pipe 13 is cemented in the 101e, but not enough is used so that cement balls up over the top of landing flange 45.

After the cement is placed around the conductor pipe, a guide assembly, identified generally as 71, is lowered on a pair of guide cables identified as 73. As seen in FIG. 1, guide assembly 71, initially hangs in the well 12 of vessel 10 below the rotary table. Guide assembly 71 includes a tubular member or bucket element 75 that gives the assembly substantial weight. The assembly is free to slide down along drill pipe 21 and over the outer portion of safety joint 19 when the guide lines are slacked from cable drums 76 on the vessel. When landed adjacent to, or on top of, landing flange 45, as in FIGS. 4 and 5, bucket member 75 is latched to the lower or stationary portion 77 of safety joint 19 by a pair of latch members 78 that engage groove 72 in lower member 77. Alternatively, bucket or weight member 75 may latch directly to conductor pipe 13 or to landing flange 45 if so desired. The function of latches 78 is to connect guide assembly 71 to the upper end of conductor pipe 13 by shearable links, such as pins 8i Pins 30 are breakable by an upward pull on bucket 75 of a predetermined magnitude that rotates latches 78 about pivot pins 82. The respective pins 32 pass through corresponding elongated openings formed through the pivoted end portions of the latch members 78. These openings are disposed to permit the latches to slide on the pins toward and away from the latching position as well as to pivot around the pins. A respective spring biases each latch to its latching position. Thus when the bucket member 75 is lowered over the portion 77 of the safety joint the radially disposed projections on the latter displaces the latch members outwardly to permit the bucket assembly to clear such projections until the latch members are in alignment with the groove 72. When the bucket assembly reaches this position the biasing springs force the ends of the latch members into engagement with the groove. The groove-engaging end portion of the latch members are notched to form a surface complementary to that of the upper radially disposed surface of the groove. This provides a secure engagement between the groove and the latches and prevents the latch members from being displaced radially by normal working stresses, as indicated in FIG. 5. As shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, guide assembly 71 has a pair of arms 79 that extend radially outward from the center line of the borehole to anchor the lower ends of guide cables 73.

As best seen in FIG. 1, guide cable 73 are normally maintained taut between bottom and floating vessel 10 by a weight 81 hung on sheave assembly 83 below cable drum 76. After bucket 75 of guide assembly 71 has been latched to conductor pipe 13 preferably, the upper portion or barrel section 85 of safety joint 19 is disconnected by retracting the locking sleeve 86 (shown in FIG. 2) from locking grooves in the stationary portion 77 (shown in FIG. so that the string of drill pipe 21 forming the upper section of drill string 14 can be raised and racked on the drill deck, ready for further drilling through the lower end of the cemented casing 13. The operation of this safety joint is described more fully in my Patent No. 2,950,929.

From the prior discussion and from the drawings, and especially FIG. 5, it is obvious that this safety joint enables the wellhead assembly including the blow out preventer 99 to be detachably connected with conduit means 88 and 13 in response to axial convergence and limited relative rotation between the wellhead assembly, which includes safety joint barrel 85, and the aforesaid conduit means which terminates in the safety joint mandrel 77.

As will be appreciated, the flexible guide cables 73 enable this limited relative rotation to take place.

This mode of connection is the obvious mode of operation involved in the coupling of the safety joint mandrel 77 to the safety joint barrel 85, in view of the prior description of the invention and the structure shown on FIG. 5, which structure is well known in the art.

Those conversant with the art will also recognize from the safety joint structure shown on FIG. 5 that the connection of the mandrel 77 with the barrel will prevent upward movement of the wellhead assembly, including the barrel 35 and blowout preventer 99, and will also prevent rotary movement between this wellhead assembly and the cemented-in conduit means 88 and 13.

With the operation of the safety joint having been reviewed, the previously interrupted description of the submerged wellhead preparation may now be resumed.

At this time, in accordance with the preferred embodiment of the present invention, guide cables 73 are slacked off so that conductor pipe 13 is left standing free in the well bore and supported on flange 45 while the cement sets. Thus, cement 69 is not worked by the conductor pipe or pulled up by the guide cables while it sets. Alternatively the drill string may remain connected to the conductor pipe after the cement is placed around the latter, the sliding connection 43 functioning to isolate the vertical motion of the vessel 10 from the conductor casing while the cement sets.

After cement 69 has set, conductor pipe 13 is securely anchored in a competent formation along the well bore. Drilling then proceeds through the conductor pipe, in a manner to be explained hereinafter, by drilling up ball 61 and the part of the cement at the bottom of the borehole. In accordance with the method illustrated by apparatus shown in FIGS. 1 to 5 inclusive, the well head or pressure control equipment is coupled directly to conductor pipe 13 through safety joint 19 heretofore forming part of the drilling string. In said method, as illustrated in FIG. 5, the barrel 85, including locking sleeve 86 illustrated in FIG. 2, of safety joint 19 are assembled below a well head assembly, identified generally as 87. While the well head or pressure control assembly will vary in accordance with the pressure conditions that are expected to be met in drilling ahead, in the present arrangement it comprises a pair of gate-type blow out preventers (hereinafter called BOPs) 89 and 91 assembled in series to the upper end of safety joint barrel 85. In a preferred form of apparatus for carrying out the invention, lower BOP 89 includes a pair of shearing rams constructed in accordance with my Patent No. 2,919,111, filed December 30, 1955. As disclosed in said patent, the opposite sides of the pipeengaging rams that normally encircle a section of drill pipe, similar to those in BOP 91, as seen in FIG. 5, are provided with shearing bars that override one another. The purpose of these shearing rams is to provide a system, such that if storm or other hazardous operating conditions require, the drill pipe in the borehole can be cut off at the well head without requiring each section of the entire string to be raised, uncoupled and racked before the hole can be abandoned. Such action is of course drastic in that the entire length of drill pipe would need to be recovered if the hole is to be used again; such apparatus provides a method for leaving the hole, but at the same time maintains full control of well pressures while abandoning the borehole under emergency conditions.

Upper blow out preventer 91 is of conventional design and may either completely close off the well bore, or grasp the sides of the drill pipe when the opposite rams 9t and 92 are actuated through hydraulic lines 93. Similar hydraulic lines 94 permit control of BOP 89 from the deck of vessel 10.

Immediately below blow out preventer 89, there is provided a mud fill-up line connection identified generally as 95. A valve 97, hydraulically operable through line 96 permits drilling fluid to be added under pressure to the well bore when drill pipe is out of the borehole. For additional safety in the operation of well head assembly 87, there is included another pressure controlled full hole blow out preventer 99 connected directly to and above BOP 91. BOP 99 is operable through line 100. By this arrangement of BOPs 99, 89 and 91, it is possible to hold control of the well even if control of one of said BOPs is lost by accident.

Above BOP 99, there is positioned a drilling head 101 whose function is to maintain a hydrauic seal around the rotating drill pipe; said drill pipe not only rotates but also reciprocates therein due to rise and fall of vessel due to waves. Drilling head 101 likewise places a back pressure on drilling fluid returning from the borehole around the outside of drill pipe 21 and forces said drilling fluid to flow back to the deck of vessel 10 by way of mud return line 103. Control of the back pressure on drilling fluid returns is by a packing locked by hyadrulic pressure applied through line 104. The returned drilling fluid of course contains the cuttings from the formation being drilled. These can be tested by conventional gas and Chip analysis methods. As indicated, return mud line 103 is connected through a side-opening flange member 105 positioned directly below drilling head 101.

As indicated above, various combinations of blow out prevention equipment, either of the full hole, or drill pipe engaging types may be assembled between the top of the cemented conductor pipe and the drilling head. However, desirably this entire assembly is made on the deck of vessel 10 or in the well 12 through the vessel and then lowered on a section of drill pipe 21A, as shown in FIG. 5. In positioning this equipment through center well 12 of the driling vessel an upper and lower pair of guide arms, indicated as 107 and 109 respectively, slidably engage the pair of guide cables 73. A spearing section of drill pipe 21A, preferably having a bull nose portion 111, extends downwardly through the entire well head assembly 87 and below safety joint barrel 85. In lowering assembly 87, rams 90 and 92 of upper BOP 91 are closed around a recessed collar portion 102 positioned a fixed distance above bull nose 111.

As indicated schematically in FIG. 5, bull nose 111 is guided along cables 73 by guide arms 107, 109 so that even with ship 10 rising and falling in the water, the well head assembly and in particular barrel 85 of safety joint 19 is guided over mandrel 77 of safety joint 19 by funnel 113 above bucket member 75. For this purpose, a funnel arrangement 113 has a suitably enlarged diameter'that is formed as an integral part of guide assembly 71. Thus, with guide cables 73 again drawn taut, well head assemby 87 slides down said guide cables while lowered by derrick 27. Through the latching of barrel 85 to mandrel 77 of safety joint, or quick connect unit, 19 a positive connection is made between the well head assembly and the conductor pipe.

As suggested by FIG. 5, each of the control hoses 93, 94, 95, 96, 100, 103 and 104 is connected to the well head assembly before it is lowered to engage the conductor pipe. Preferably, this is also accomplished on deck, although it can be performed directly below the surface of the water as in well 12 in vessel 10. These control lines preferably pass over the side of the vessel 10 and are wound on a reel assembly. In their assembly, the entire bundle is passed over the side and the lower end fished up through center well 12 of vessel 10. Thus, the outer ends of each of the hoses may be attached while the assembly is in the well or on the working deck and above water; then, the entire assembly is lowered along guide cable 73. After the well head assembly is connected to the conductor pipe in the manner explained hereinbefore, the rams 90 and 92 of BOP 91-areopened to release the drill pipe 21A, and the latter, together with the attached bull nose portion 111, is raised from the assembly and returned aboard the drilling vessel.

Drilling may now proceed to any desired depth with full pressure control over the well bore and with the well head located on the ocean bottom so that if required, for

safety of vessel or personnel, the well can be abandoned temporarily without loss of pressure control in the well. In such abandonment procedure, the hoses can be severed and the guide line 73 dropped with only buoys to mark their location at the ocean surface, and if need be, the drill pipe can be severed in the hole without danger of contaminating the ocean waters or the adjacent beaches.

As best indicated in FIG. 5, after the well head is assembled, the drill bit is assisted in entering and leaving the well head assembly by another funnel member 117 that is directly connected to upper guide arm 107. Funnel 117 and guide arm 107 are secured directly to drilling head 101. Additionally, the bit is guided by a collar arrangement, otherwise called a bit guide, that surrounds the drill pipe directly above the bit; said bit guide includes a pair of arms that engage and slide down along the guide cables to assist the bit in entering the drilling head.

There is illustrated in FIG. 6 another method of establishing well pressure control after drilling into the underwater bottom by the method of the present invention. In this embodiment, a hole opener bit arrangement, identified generally as 121, including a pilot bit 123 first touches and penetrates the'bottom to open a relatively small hole. Pilot bit 123 is then followed by an underrearner bit 125. In this system of drilling in, a desired length of conductor pipe or casing 127 is supported below the ships center Well 12 and is assembled to a landing flange assembly 129 and guide assembly 131, so that the entire assembly can be hung on guide cables 73 by arms 133. As shown in FIG. 6, the guide assembly 131 is secured by links 135 directly to landing flange assembly 129, rather than to the conductor pipe, but in the present case flange assembly 129 is welded to conductor pipe 127. The conductor pipe 127, landing flange assembly 129, and guide assembly 131 are all assembled below the rotary table prior to spudding in of the well, and as shown drill string 122 is lowered through conductor pipe 127.

After the borehole has been opened and underreamed to a suflicient depth and diameter to receive the preassembled length of conductor pipe 127, said conductor pipe and guide assembly 131 are lowered along the drill string in the same manner as guide assembly 71 is lowered along drill string 21 in the arrangement of FIGS. 1, 4 and 5. With the conductor pipe set in the well bore and guide assembly 131 connected to the vessel through cables 73, drill string 122 can be withdrawn to substitute a cement shoe for bit 121. However, if desired said drill string can include a cement shoe 'so that the drill need not be removed from the borehole to cement conductor pipe 127 in the borehole. The conductor pipe is cemented in the well bore in much the same manner as illustrated in FIG. 2. Where a cement tool is used, it is guided into the conductor pipe by a bit guide sliding down the guide cables 73 and into the borehole by funnel 137. Sufiicient cement is of course added to fill the annular space between the side of the well bore and the conductor pipe. Desirably, only enough cement is added at this stage so that the cement does not rise to the top of the conductor pipe as shown in FIG. 7. As will be explained later in connection with FIG. 7, this permits ports 141 in landing flange assembly 129 to act as cement openings when angther pipe or liner 143 is cemented within conductor pipe In accordance with the method disclosed in the arrangement of FIGS. 6, 7 and 8, the well bore is drilled to a greater depth before setting of blow out preventers or other well head control means. Such an operation is usually undertaken when a knowledge of the geology of the underwater bottom indicates that gas and oil under pressure will not be encountered during the first few hundred feet of drilling. Accordingly, drilling can proceed through the bottom of cemented conductor pipe 127, after that pipe is set to prevent debris or unconsolidated sediments from sloughing into the borehole. In practice, the conductor pipe will be set to a depth of about 50 to 75 feet, the depth of surface casing 143 may be of the order of 300 feet, and usually is deep enough so that a competent formation, such as a thick bed of impervious shale or other non-porous rock is encountered by the borehole. By going deeper into the earth before cementing surface casing 143, a much greater depth and higher pressures can be withstood by the pressure control equipment Without danger of high pressure oil and gas accumulations blowing out.

There is illustrated in FIG. 7 a preferred method of assembling the blow out prevention equipment, as well as the preferred method of cementing the surface casing into the deepened well bore. As there shown, surface casing 143 extends downwardly to about 300 feet and is run into the well through conductor pipe 127. The upper end of surface pipe 143 preferably includes a cement sleeve 145 that extends axially along the upper end of surface casing 143. Sleeve 145 is tapered at its lower end 147 so that it can be sealed by welding to the outer surface of the surface casing. The upper end of sleeve 14S frictionally engages coupling 149 on the mandrel 277 of a safety joint 213. The purpose of cement sleeve 1 55, as best seen in FIG. 7 is to permit the upper end of surface casing 143 to be cemented into conductor pipe 127, but to leave an annular space 15) that will not be filled with cement.

As further distinguished from the arrangement of FIGS. 4 and 5, a conically tapered portion of mandrel 277 of safety joint 21) seats within a conical section 157 of landing flange assembly 129 that serves as a tubing hanger for surface casing 143. In this way, casing 143 is supported throughout its length until it is cemented into the well bore as illustrated in FIG. 7. In the present embodiment, surface pipe 143 is hung in the well bore on safety joint 21% so that the drill string thereabove can be disconnected after cement has been set through cement shoe 151 at the lower end of pipe 143. "Pipe 143 is guided into the hole by bit guide 221 that will pass the barrel of safety joint 219 to let it rest above guide arms 133 of guide assembly 131. The upper end of mandrel 277 is sealed against cement by O-rings 161.

Deep drilling is then possible under full pressure control by landing well head equipment, identical to that of FIGURE 5, on safety joint 219. This couples the blow out preventers and the drilling head to axially cemented section of surface casing 143. After the desired depth is drilled, it may be desirable to abandon the well bore. When it is desired to leave the well, the surface casing will normally be left in the well bore with cement spotted therein to prevent any possible blow out from the borehole. Then, the entire assembly of well head equipment is recovered by severing the upper portion of surface casing 143 opposite annular section 15% between cement sleeve 145 and the casing. FIGURE 8 represents a preferred manner of severing casing 143 with a shaped explosive charge. The tubing can also be cut by a milling cutter run into the casing. Upon severance of the upper end of casing 143, the complete safety joint 219 and the well head equipment secured thereto can be withdrawn from within landing flange assembly 129. After release of the well head equipment, the guide assembly 131 can also be recovered in much the same manner as that illustrated in FIG- URES 4 and 5. That is, the lines or cables 73 can be tightened to sever pins 163 that hold links 135 to landing flange assembly 129. Desirably, guide assembly 131 is pulled free from landing flange assembly 129 by a special tool run into guide assembly 131 on a drill string. As indicated in FIGURE 3, weight or bucket element 165 of the guide assembly has a pair of dia metrically opposed J-slots 167 formed in its upper, inner surface. Slots 167 can be engaged by the lifting tool so that the drill derrick hoist can apply the necessary force to shear pins 163. In this way, only the cemented casing and landing flange assembly 129 are left on bottom.

Where only a single pipe is cemented in the well bore,

as in the apparatus shown in FIGURES 1 to 5, the conductor pipe also desirably has a cement sleeve surrounding its upper end. This is best seen in FIGURE 5, where the details of the connection between safety joint 19 and conductor pipe 13 are shown in vertical section. In this arrangement sleeve 88 is welded to conductor 13 at its lower end and slips over the lower coupling end of mandrel 77 of safety joint 19. In this embodiment, severance of conductor 13 within the cement sleeve allows recovery of landing plate 45 as well as safety joint 19.

In the foregoing detailed description of two forms of apparatus for carrying out the method of the present invention, it will be apparent that various modifications and changes can be made in both said method and the apipaartus without departing from the present invention. Accordingly, all such modifications and changes falling within the scope of the appended claims are intended to be included therein.

I claim:

1. A method of preparing a well in a formation underwater for well working operations, said method comprising:

lowering conduit means from support means downwardly through the water and positioning said c-onduit means at least partially within an opening extending downwardly into an underwater formation with an upper end of said conduit means submerged beneath water;

from said support means, conveying cementitious material to a zone exterior of said conduit means and within said opening;

sealingly cementing at least a portion of said conduit means to wall means of the opening in said formation;

guiding a well head assembly having a well apparatus passageway extending therethrough from said support means toward said conduit means by lowering said well head assembly in slidable engagement with flexible guide means extending downwardly from said support means;

prior to said guiding of said well head assembly, providing said flexible guide means supported by said support means and extending to the general vicinity of said submerged upper end of said conduit means, with said upper end of said conduit means being exposed;

axially converging and engaging portions of said well head assembly and said exposed upper end of said conduit means; interconnecting said well head assembly with said upper end of said conduit means and establishing said Well apparatus passageway in sealed communication with the interior of said conduit means;

mechanically and detachably interlocking said interconnected well head assembly and upper end of said conduit means to mechanically prevent disconnection of said well head assembly and said upper end of said conduit means; mechanically and selectively maintaining said interlocking of said well head assembly with said upper end of said conduit means, with said interlocking being selectively maintainable until said well head assembly is to be disconnected from said end of said conduit means and raised in slidable engagement with said flexible guide means; and

controlling the well apparatus passageway of said well head assembly from said support means whereby said well apparatus passageway may be selectively closed off or opened.

2. The method of preparing a well in a formation underwater for drilling, said method comprising:

suspending a landing assembly, comprising a landing base supported on conduit means, on a drill string extending downwardly from support means, with the conduit means having a bit on its lower end and a coupling portion on its upper end detachably connecting said conduit means to said drill string for unitary rotary movement therewith,

lowering said landing base, conduit means and bit by lowering said drill string from said support means,

forming an opening extending downwardly into a bottom formation by drilling a portion of said conduit means into a bottom formation by means of said drill string extending from said support means, limiting the extent to which said conduit means is drilled into said bottom formation by engagement between said landing base and said bottom formation with said conduit means being secured against downward movement relative to said landing base,

from said support means, conveying cementitious material to a zone exterior of said conduit means and within said opening,

sealingly cementing at least a portion of said conduit means to wall means of the opening extending into said bottom formation,

guiding a well head assembly having a well apparatus passageway extending therethrough from said support means toward said conduit means by lowering said well head assembly in slidable engagement with flexible guide means extending downwardly from said support means,

prior to said guiding of said well head assembly, providing said flexible guide means supported by said support means and extending to the general vicinity of said submerged upper end of said conduit means, and disconnecting said drill string from said coupling portion and raising said drill string to said support means to leave said coupling portion of said conduit means exposed,

axially converging and engaging portions of said well head assembly and said coupling portion of said conduit means,

moving said well head assembly downwardly and inducing relative rotation between said engaged well head assembly and coupling portion of said conduit means to interconnect said well assembly with said coupling portion of said conduit means and establish said drill pipe passageway in sealed communication with the interior of said conduit means,

mechanically and detachably interlocking said interconnected well head assembly and said coupling portion of said conduit means to mechanically prevent disconnection of said Well head assembly and said coupling portion of said conduit means, and

controlling the drill pipe passageway of said well head assembly from said support means whereby said drill pipe passageway may be selectively closed ofl? or opened.

References Cited by the Examiner UNITED STATES PATENTS Re. 24,083 8/ 1948 McNeill 175--7 987,266 3/1911 Smith 1759 2,187,871 1/ 1940' Voorhees 1758 2,512,783 6/1950 Tucker 1758 X 2,684,575 7/1954 Pryor et al. 1758 X 2,808,229 10/1957 Bauer et al 1757 2,891,770 6/1959 Bauer et a1. 175-7 2,923,531 2/1960 Bauer et al 1757 CHARLES E. OCO'NNELL, Primary Examiner.

R. E. FAVREAU, Assistant Examiner.

UNITED STATES PATENT OFFICE CERTIFICATE OF CORRECTION Patent No 3 ,315 ,742 April 25 1967 Kingsley M. Nicolson It is hereby certified that error appears in the above numbered patent requiring correction and that the said Letters Patent should read as corrected below.

Column 1, line 48, for "hes" read has column 2, line 72, for "esuipment" read equipment column 3, line 61, for "annual" read annular column 5, line 68, for "vessel 10 to" read vessel 10 column 7, line 49, "cable read cables column 9, line 16, for "hyadrulic" read hydraulic column 12, line 18, for "appaartus" read apparatus column 14, line 7, for "well assembly" read well head assembly Signed and sealed this 14th day of November 1967.

(SEAL) Attest:

EDWARD J. BRENNER Edward M. Fletcher, Jr.

Commissioner of Patents Attesting Officer

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US987266 *Mar 21, 1911 Foundation apparatus.
US2187871 *Aug 9, 1937Jan 23, 1940Standard Oil CoUnderwater drilling
US2512783 *May 4, 1946Jun 27, 1950Tucker Augustine JMarine drilling
US2684575 *Dec 22, 1950Jul 27, 1954Phillips Petroleum CoSubmergible type offshore drilling structure
US2808229 *Nov 12, 1954Oct 1, 1957Continental Oil CoOff-shore drilling
US2891770 *Jan 13, 1955Jun 23, 1959Continental Oil CoAnchoring method and apparatus
US2923531 *Apr 26, 1956Feb 2, 1960Continental Oil CoDrilling
USRE24083 *Aug 28, 1948Nov 1, 1955Union Oil Company of Californiamoneill
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US3380519 *Nov 3, 1965Apr 30, 1968Rockwell Mfg CoLanding base
US3426842 *Feb 1, 1966Feb 11, 1969Exxon Production Research CoInstallation of control lines on underwater well
US3672447 *Sep 10, 1968Jun 27, 1972Richfield Oil CorpMarine well drilling method and apparatus
US3677352 *Apr 20, 1970Jul 18, 1972Santa Fe Int CorpBlowout prevention apparatus for subaqueous drilling
US3974875 *Aug 22, 1974Aug 17, 1976Mcevoy Oilfield Equipment Co.Underwater well completion method and apparatus
US4053023 *Aug 22, 1974Oct 11, 1977Mcevoy Oilfield Equipment Co.Underwater well completion method and apparatus
US6244359 *Apr 5, 1999Jun 12, 2001Abb Vetco Gray, Inc.Subsea diverter and rotating drilling head
US6612369 *Jun 29, 2001Sep 2, 2003Kvaerner Oilfield ProductsUmbilical termination assembly and launching system
US9388635 *May 10, 2010Jul 12, 2016Halliburton Energy Services, Inc.Method and apparatus for controlling an orientable connection in a drilling assembly
US20130046417 *May 10, 2010Feb 21, 2013Halliburton Energy Services, Inc.Apparatus and a Control Method for Controlling the Apparatus
Classifications
U.S. Classification166/338, 166/358, 175/7, 166/352
International ClassificationE21B7/128, E21B7/12
Cooperative ClassificationE21B7/128
European ClassificationE21B7/128