Determining Wellbore Stability Parameters Using a New LWD High Resolution Ultrasonic Imaging Tool


Constantin-Laurian Ciuperca (Weatherford) | Davide Di Tommaso (Weatherford) | Mike Dawber (PetroAcoustics) | Jonathan Tidswell (Angus Energy)


SPE - Society of Petroleum Engineers

Publication Date

March 5, 2019


SPE/IADC International Drilling Conference and Exhibition, 5-7 March, The Hague, The Netherlands

Paper ID



A new LWD ultrasonic imager for use in both water- and oil-based muds uses acoustic impedance contrast and ultrasonic amplitude measurements to obtain high-resolution structural, stratigraphic and borehole geometry information. Following extensive testing in the Middle East and the US, this paper presents results from the first European deployment of the new 4.75-in. high-resolution ultrasonic imaging tool.

An ultrasonic transducer, which operates at high frequency, scans the borehole at a high sampling rate to provide detailed measurements of amplitude and traveltime. A borehole caliper measurement is made, based on the time of arrival of the first reflection from the borehole wall. A second measurement detects formation features and tectonic stress indicators from the change in signal amplitude. The amplitude of the reflected wave is a function of the acoustic impedance of the medium. Resulting impedance maps have sufficient resolution to detect sinusoidal, non-sinusoidal and discontinuous features on the borehole wall.

Breakouts, drilling-induced fractures, and tensile zones were used for stress direction determination. Breakout identification was obtained both from amplitude images and oriented potato plot cross sections derived from traveltime measurements.

The orientation of natural fractures is parallel at the maximum stress direction, indicated by drilling-induced fractures and tensile zones. The World Stress Map confirms the maximum stress direction determination.

It was also possible to detect certain key-seat zones and investigate borehole conditions to prevent issues during the subsequent casing job.

The new LWD ultrasonic imaging technique represents an important alternative to density and water-based mud resistivity imaging, which has several limitations. Unlike the resistive imaging LWD tool that is very sensitive to standoff, the higher tolerance of the ultrasonic imaging tool enables the amplitude and traveltime ultrasonic images to contain fewer unwanted artifacts.