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An operator drilling an exploratory well in the Gulf of Mexico wanted to improve drilling performance over offset wells. Vibration issues in the Garden Banks field of the Wilcox reservoir had often led to tool failures and unplanned trips.

In an effort to improve drilling performance and reduce operational costs, Cobalt International Energy contracted Baker Hughes, a GE company (BHGE), to assist with drilling services, drill bits, and drilling fluids.

The operator needed to maintain a vertical hole with as little inclination as possible to fulfill the well objectives. Maintaining directional control (verticality) and vibration in the 26-in. section were key to the integrity of the well, planned to be drilled in excess of 30,000 ft (9144 m). The 26-in. section would drill through sediment, salt entry, and a salt formation.

Riserless drilling solution

Working in water depth of 4,566 ft (1391 m) with no riser between the drill ship and the sea floor, BHGE recommended a complete riserless drilling solution of a BHA comprising the Kymera™ hybrid drill bit, AutoTrak™ rotary steerable system (RSS), the OnTrak™ integrated measurement-while-drilling/logging-while-drilling service, and the CoPilot™ real-time drilling optimization service.

Download the PDF to read the full case study.

Challenges & Results


  • Deepwater well more than 30,000 ft in water depth of 4,566 ft
  • Maintain directional control while drilling 26-in. section through sediment, salt entry, and salt formation
  • Control vibration leading to frequent tool failures and unplanned trips
  • Keep riserless drilling fluid near salt saturation to provide a gauge hole while drilling the salt section


  • Drilled 26-in. section in one single run
  • Maintained verticality during the entire section (an average of 0.17° inclination)
  • Controlled vibration during the entire section
  • Achieved a net ROP of 157 ft/hr for the section (three times higher compared to the offset wells)
  • Drilled 1,274 ft of sediments with a net ROP of 219 ft/hr
  • Drilled 1,586 ft of salt with a net ROP of 128 ft/hr