[Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the November issue of E&P Plus. Subscribe to the digital publication here.]  

In the evolving pursuit of consistent performance drilling, slim-hole curve-lateral intervals in New Mexico’s Delaware Basin present unique challenges for optimization through both drill bit design and motor performance. The engineering partnership of Matador Resources Co. allowed Patterson-UTI Drilling, MS Directional and Taurex Drill Bits to work jointly to solve these challenges.


The need to reduce drilling and completion cycle times along with improving capital efficiency is a consistent theme in the upstream E&P sector.

Polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) cutter technology has rapidly improved in terms of performance and reliability over the past few years, highlighting some of the reliability concerns in slim-hole tools.

While rotary steerable tools have been a solution for different parts of the Permian Basin, the technology has proved to have its own limitations, which can be cost prohibitive.

The high hydrostatic and lithostatic pressures encountered while drilling deep Delaware Basin targets often decrease buildup rates in the curve and reduce penetration rates in the lateral. Additionally, the interbedded nature of these strata, consisting of sandstones, shales and carbonates, creates a challenging drilling environment.

For a bottomhole assembly (BHA) to drill through this target without premature drill bit or tool failure, it must be able to withstand excessive shocks and vibrations, high-torque events as well as provide directional control while drilling varying rock types.

In addition to these challenges, tortuosity and frictional forces complicate BHA behavior. Unfortunately, isolated optimization strategies to mitigate these challenges can often be contra-dictory by nature.

A collaborative approach to parameter management, directional control, tool reliability and penetration rate is imperative for improved BHA performance. Ultimately, the operators of today require equipment and downhole tools that can endure harsh drilling environments, particularly in extended-reach, slim-hole lateral applications for reduced overall lateral footage costs.

(Source: Patterson-UTI Drilling Company LLC)
The PTEN+ Performance Center is a central command center dedicated to rig monitoring, intelligence and analytics staffed with systems analysts and engineers who collect and analyze data to ensure its rigs are maximizing performance and returns. (Source: Patterson-UTI Drilling Company LLC)

Technology solution

MS Directional’s MPact motor division has introduced the V+ (5⅝-inch) high performance lower end specifically designed for 6¾-inch hole size. In doing so, it optimized every design feature for maximum benefit. This resulted in a performance drilling motor that exceeds other options available on the market.

The V+ utilizes Mpact’s enlarged two-piece transmission design with a torque capacity of 12,500-plus ft-lb. The Mpact V+ has provided a direct benefit to operators yielding up to 50% reduction in lateral slide and 20% increase in total ROP on average.

(Source: MS Directional)
MS Directional’s engineering team developed the Mpact V+ 5⅝-inch lower end motor for companies that need maximum drilling performance for 6¾-inch hole applications. (Source: MS Directional)

Equally crucial is appropriate PDC cutter selection. The deep Delaware Basin lithology rapidly leads to several forms of premature cutter failure. This application demands PDC cutters with high axial and torsional impact toughness without sacrificing thermal and abrasion resistance.

Taurex’s rapid cutter development and robust cutter selection procedures have led to unrivaled durability in this application. Taurex’s recent design optimization strategies have centered on precise wear measurements and sophisticated data analytics performed after every drill bit run. These careful measurements are performed in house at Taurex’s Automated Metrology Laboratory, which quantifies drill bit wear data autonomously with unparalleled accuracy. Evaluation of wear data has allowed the identification of underlying relationships between drill bit wear, drilling parameters, cutters and design characteristics to drive scientific recommendations. The superior accuracy and reliability of drill bit wear analysis accelerates the speed of learning for superior optimization strategies, maximizing drill bit performance faster than ever before.


Matador Resources Co. utilizes its real-time operating center, MaxCom, to monitor its operations and drilling performance 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. The MaxCom team, consisting of engineers and geologists, utilizes data analytics and real-time data to optimize drilling performance and target the best rock in each reservoir. This interdisciplinary teams approach enables a data-driven decision process while maintaining flexibility in their engineering design. The MaxCom and drilling engineering teams have worked together to tailor their well design based on well and tool performance data. As a result of the well engineering, along with the aforementioned improvements in tool technology and reliability, Matador has had eight-plus runs with this particular BHA design delivering an average footage drilled of 9,914 ft per run at more than 73 ft/hr. Additionally, this performance has been replicated across various horizons and asset areas within the basin.

Matador’s longest run to date with this assembly drilled 12,052 ft in 173.5 drilling hours for an average ROP of 69.5 ft/hr. Independent of the on-bottom performance increase of this assembly, this run could save between 24 and 40 hours, pending hole conditions faced in various parts of the basin. At an assumed rig spread rate of $2,500 per hour, this has the potential to save between $60,000 and $100,000 to the well’s drilling costs. These savings exclude other tangible savings related to a new BHA, such as a new bit, motor, MWD and agitators.

Tools to improve drilling efficiencies

Additionally, Patterson-UTI’s APEX-XK 1500 is designed for safe, fast-moving and fit-for-purpose drilling. From mobility to drilling, the rig’s operations improve value by increasing the time a bit is on bottom, reducing nonproductive time and rig move cycle time. The APEX-XK 1500 is equipped with the latest in AC drilling technology, which allows the driller to set strict drilling parameters, enhancing the ability to deliver superior drilling rates in the toughest drilling conditions.

Through the PTEN+ performance center, these technologies are extended to 24/7 real-time monitoring, communication and automation. Additionally, the rig is equipped with a high-torque top drive, racking capacity of 25,610 ft of 5 inches for extended laterals and three mud pumps with 7,500-psi fluid ends.

Furthermore, MS Directional’s most recent MPower fleet Mercury MWD enhancements have provided the latest data compression rates all while improving mean-time-between-failure hours in excess of 3,000. Technology in conjunction with its Remote Optimization Center provides ongoing support with best practices for drilling excellence.

In addition, Taurex’s drill bit design software, BitLogic, can accurately model forces exerted on individual PDC cutters. This complex rock-bit interaction capability provides Taurex with the ability to predict behavior of the bit in different strength formations and mitigates cutter damage while achieving superior penetration rates. BitLogic’s analytical capabilities coupled with the empirical data collection ability of Taurex’s Automated Metrology Laboratory have resulted in unparalleled speed of learning, which has translated into unprecedented drill bit performance.

Acknowledgement: The authors of this article would like to thank those involved with the Delaware project: the Matador Resources Co. drilling team, Patterson-UTI operations and marketing personnel, Derek Koller and Bret Barre with MS Directional as well as Casey Kitagawa, Dustin Lyles, Dustin Marrs and Michael Chai with Taurex Drill Bits.