Abstract

Hydrate formation poses a risk to deepwater drilling operations. Most current studies on the hydrate formation and its impact on deepwater drilling operations have focused on the risk associated with hydrates inside the wellbore. Few researchers have studied the risk of hydrate formation outside the wellbore, and the risks to deepwater drilling are still unclear. In the South China Sea, there have been several events of hydrate growth on the outer surfaces of the subsea wellhead. The mechanisms of hydrate growth on the outer surface of the subsea wellhead are analyzed, and the gas source is predicted by analyzing the logging data of the adjacent wells. A model for the wellhead stability is developed, and the impacts of hydrate formation on the stability of the subsea wellhead are analyzed. The gas source, temperature, pressure, solid surface roughness, and relative static subsea environment are found to be the key factors in the formation of hydrate in the marine environment. The risk of hydrate formation to wellhead stability is subtle, but to blowout preventer (BOP) could be significant. Hydrates may cause BOP control failure in which the BOP could not be closed in the event of emergency; hydrate formation between the BOP and the wellhead may cause BOP not to be separated from the bottom of the wellhead. A tool was designed for controlling the formation of hydrates, with particular tilt angle and surface roughness. Because the appropriate tilt angle can divert the gas bubbles to avoid the hydrate formations at the wellhead. The designed hydrate control tool successfully mitigates the risks to drilling operations.

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