Equivalent Circulation Density Optimization: Can Flow Regimes Significantly Affect the Relationship between Equivalent Circulation Density and Flow Rate?


Flow rate (Q) affects many drilling operations and parameters such as equivalent circulation density (ECD), hoisting and lowering the drillstring, and breaking gel strength during circulation. The aim of this work is to understand the relationship between ECD and Q based on flow regimes (e.g. laminar, transitional, and turbulent) to avoid or at least minimize the unwanted consequence during drilling practice. Field data from over 2000 wells drilled in Iraq were collected and analyzed to identify the physical relationship between flow regimes and ECD to enhance the drilling rates. After visualizing the whole dataset, a decision was made to break down the data into three parts based on flow regimes (e.g. laminar, transitional, and turbulent). Descriptive data mining techniques were utilized to establish the relationship between flow regimes and ECD. By achieving better control of ECD in the well, not only faster and cheaper operations are possible, but also safety will be improved. Previous studies and literature showed that flow regimes can tremendously affect ECD. Many studies have been conducted to understand the relationship between Q and ECD. Nevertheless, the consideration of flow regimes was not implemented in these studies. Inconsistency in the literature results was identified, some concluded the relationship between Q and ECD to be direct, and others showed it to be inverse. Thus, this paper will eliminate this discrepancy in the literature, and it will show that the flow regimes have a pivotal role in the relationship between Q and ECD. The results of this paper showed that if the flow regime is laminar, the relationship between ECD and Q is inverse. However, in transitional and turbulent flow regimes, the relationship between ECD and Q is direct. That is because, in the laminar flow regime, the cutting will fall out of suspension due to low Q, which will cause a cutting bed to be built and decreases ECD. As Q increases (entering the transitional and turbulent flows) the cutting bed will be eroded, and most of the cuttings will be suspended in the fluid which will increase ECD. This study examines and expands the understanding between how the characteristics of flow regimes affect ECD. Additionally, this paper will eliminate the discrepancy in the literature about this relationship between ECD and Q.

Meeting Name

SPE Eastern Regional Meeting 2019, ERM 2019 (2019: Oct. 15-17, Charleston, SC)


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Research Center/Lab(s)

Center for Research in Energy and Environment (CREE)

Keywords and Phrases

Data mining; Infill drilling; Laminar flow; Turbulent flow, Break down; Drilling operation; Drilling practices; Drilling rates; Equivalent circulation density; Flow regimes; Gel strengths; Laminar flow regimes, Suspensions (fluids)

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


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© 2019 Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Oct 2019