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Drilling engineering and environmental issues of oil & gas industry

Keywords: Drilling, Drill Bits, Drilling Fluids, No-Dig, Upstream industry & Environment
Fig. 1. A typical drilling rig operating in an Italian oil field (picture by Paolo Macini).
Fig. 2. Natural gas production: an offshore gas field in the Adriatic Sea (picture by Paolo Macini).

Drilling engineering research concens the study of bit performance evaluation, the analysis of inhibitive drilling fluid and the optimization and testing of new formulations of fluids utilized in trenchless (or no-dig) drilling.

Drill-bits are the most important tools utilized in oil and gas well drilling. Bit selection is vital from both the technical-economic standpoint, and for the optimization of the drilling process, since it can save drilling and roundtrip time. The research implemented a novel approach to bit performance evaluation, based on the analysis of large databases and the definition of a new drilling model, allowing the comparison of specific energy, cost per meter and a Bit Index, taking into account al large combination of drilling parameters, including a more precise lithological description of the well.

Drilling fluid properties are the key element of any drilling operation. The principal studies concern the formulation and the rheological study of fluids utilized in trenchless drilling, whose purpose is the installation of a pipeline in the subsoil by limiting the excavation of open pits. Lab evaluation and characterization of new drilling fluids have been performed in laboratory and tested in the field.

Another field of research is the evaluation of clay inhibitive effects of water based drilling fluids containing non toxic additives (polymers, glycols and inorganic electrolytes), formulated to reduce the mechanical instability of clay formation during drilling.

The environmental research concerning exploration, production and utilization of hydrocarbons is twofold. On one side there are studies on environmental sustainability of the upstream industry, aimed to the implementation of strategies of sustainable management of hydrocarbon production in environmentally sensitive areas. On the other side, research is focused on anthropogenic soil subsidence caused by underground fluid withdrawals. The research activity of the Department concerns both regional subsidence studies (including modelling) and specific researches on measurement techniques, and in particular extensometric and in-situ Radioactive Marker Technique measurements.

Offshore drilling and related problems of environmental safety is another important research field of the Petroleum Engineering group. The research is supported by funds provided by the Italian Ministry for the Economic Development.

Main publications

Macini, P., Mesini, E., Panei, L., Terlizzese, F., Land subsidence, seismicity and pore pressure monitoring: the new requirements for the future development of oil and gas fields in Italy, NISOLS 2015, Nagoya (Japan), 15-19 Nov. 2015,, doi:10.5194/piahs-372-533-2015.

Macini, P., Mesini, E., Come e chi produce energia: petrolio, gas e shale gas, ovvero le fonti fossili, in “Energia per l’Italia” (pag. 79-111), a cura di Giovanni Caprara, Bompiani, 2014, Milano. ISBN 978-88-452-7688-0.

Macini, P., Drilling Engineering, in “Petroleum Engineering – Upstream”, edited by P. Macini & E. Mesini, in “Encyclopaedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS)”, Developed under the Auspices of the UNESCO, Eolss Publishers, Oxford, UK,, 2010.

Macini, P., Mesini, E., The Petroleum Upstream Industry: Hydrocarbons Exploration and Production, in “Petroleum Engineering – Upstream”, in “Encyclopaedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS)”, Eolss Publishers, Oxford, UK,, 2011.

Macini, P., Magagni M., Da Dalt, G., Valente, P., Bit Performance Evaluation Revisited by Means of Bit Index and Formation Drillability Catalogue, Paper SPE 107536, IADC/SPE Middle East Drilling Technology Conf. & Exhib., Cairo, Egypt, 22–24 Oct. 2007.

Macini, P., Magagni, M., Da Dalt, G., Valente, P., Bit performance evaluation by means of bit index and formation drillability catalogue, OMC 2007, Offshore Mediterranean Conference, Ravenna, Italy, 28-30 Mar. 2007.

Macini, P., Magagni, M., Da Dalt, G., Valente P., How Minimum Interval Concept Can Improve Bit Performance Evaluation, Paper SPE 103590, IADC/SPE Asia Pacific Drilling Technology Conference & Exhibition, Bangkok, Thailand, 13–15 Nov. 2006.

Macini, P., Magagni, M., Valente, P., Recent evolution of drill bits for hard and abrasive formations, Proc. 15th MPES 2006, Turin, Sept. 20-22, 2006,Vol 2,1255-1260 (ISBN 88-901342-4-0).

Macini, P., Magagni, M., Valente, P., Bit Performance Evaluation in Southern Italy, Proc. 15th Intl. Symp. on Mine Planning & Equipment Selection (MPES 2006), Turin, Sept. 20-22, 2006, Vol 2, 1261-1266 (ISBN 88-901342-4-0).

Macini, P., Magagni, M., Valente, P., Drill-Bit Catalog and Bit Index: a New Method for Bit Performance Evaluation, Paper SPE 94798, 2005 SPE Latin American and Caribbean Petroleum Engineering Conference, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 20-23, 2005.

Macini, P., Drill bits for horizontal wells, Rudarsko-geolosko-naftni Zbornik (Zagreb University Bulletin), 8, 111-115, 1996.

Macini, P., Mesini, E., Rock-Bit wear in ultra-hot holes, Paper SPE/ISRM 28055, Proc. Int. Conf. “Eurock ‘94”, 223-230, Delft, Aug. 29-31, 1994.

Galazzo, D., Macini, P., Maestrello, R., Mesini E., Fluidi di perforazione per HDD: dal laboratorio al cantiere, Quarry & Construction, 565 (2010), pp. 101-107 (ISSN 2036-9034).

Macini, P., Mesini, E., Compaction of water/gas bearing formations: experiences in Northern Italy, Proc. IAH Intl. Symp. “Aquifer System Management”, Dijon, May 30 – June 1, 2006.

Macini, P., L’eredità dell’incidente nel Golfo del Messico e le tecnologie per la sicurezza nell’industria petrolifera, 1° Congresso dei Geologi di Basilicata, Potenza, 30 Nov. – 2 Dic. 2012.

Macini, P., Offshore Drilling, Encyclopedia of Hydrocarbons, Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani, Vol. I, Cap. 3.4, 373-384, 2005. Macini P., Drilling Rigs and Technology, Encyclopedia of Hydrocarbons, Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani, Vol. I, Cap. 3.1, 303-336, 2005.

Macini, P., Mesini, E., Brighenti, G., Considerations on Strategies of Sustainable Management of Oil and Gas Fields in Italy. Land Subsidence, Associated Hazards and the Role of Natural Resources Development, IAHS Publication 339, 2010 (ISBN 978-1-907161-12-4).

Research projects

MACINI, P., Scientific coordination of several Research Contracts signed between the University of Bologna and Eni S.p.A., Div. E&P concerning research themes related to drill bit performance evaluation.