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Bent Sub And Mud Motor In Directional Drilling Guide

The most commonly used technique for changing the trajectory of the wellbore uses a piece of equipment known as a “bent sub” which is used only in directional well drilling (Figure 1) with Positive Displacement (mud) motor.

What is The Bent Sub In Directional Drilling

A bent sub (Drilling Subs) is a short length of pipe with a diameter which is approximately the same as the collars and with threaded connections on either end. It is manufactured in such a way that the axis of the lower connection is slightly offset (less than 3 degrees) from the axis of the upper connection. When made up into the Bottom Hole Assembly BHA ( Check BHA components & Design) it introduces a “tilt angle” to the elements of the BHA below it and therefore to the axis of the drill bit (check our Drill Bit Guide).

Bent Sub directional drilling
Fig 1 : Bent Sub Directional Drilling

However, the introduction of a bent sub into the Directional Drilling BHA means that the center of the bit is also offset from the center line of the drill string (Check Drill String Design Calculation ) above the bent sub and it is not possible therefore to rotate the drill bit by rotating the drill string from surface. Even if this were possible, the effect of the tilt angle would of course be eliminated since there would be no preferential direction for the bit to drill in. The bent sub must therefore be used in conjunction with a Positive Displacement Motor, PDM or a Turbine.

How To Use Bent Sub With Directional Drilling Mud Motor

The PDM is often called a mud motor and is used in far more wells than the turbine. The mud motor is made up into the BHA of the drill string below the bent sub, between the bent sub and bit . When drilling fluid is circulated through the drill string the inner shaft of the mud motor, which is connected to the bit, rotates and therefore the bit rotates. It is therefore not necessary to rotate the entire drill string from surface if a mud motor is included in the BHA.

Mud motors and turbines are rarely used when not drilling directionally because they are expensive pieces of equipment and do wear out.

Directional Drilling Mud Motor with bent sub
Bent sub In Directional Drilling BHA

A scribe line is marked on the inside of the bend of the bent sub, and this indicates the direction in which the bit will drill (this direction is known as the “tool face”). A directional surveying tool (quite often an MWD tool) is generally run as part of the BHA ( check our survey calculation guide), just above the bent sub so that the trajectory ( check our well trajectory calculations guide )of the well can be checked periodically as the well is deviating.

The Major Disadvantage Of The Bent Sub

The bent sub and PDM can of course only be used in the build up or drop off portion of the well since the bit will continue to drill in the direction of the tilt angle as long as the bent sub is in the assembly and the mud motor is being used to rotate the bit. This leads to the major disadvantage of using a bent sub and PDM to change the trajectory of the well.

When drilling a well, the “conventional” assembly (without bent sub and mud motor) used to drill the straight portion of the well must be pulled from the hole and the bent sub and PDM assembly run in hole before the well trajectory can be changed.

The bent sub and motor will then be used to drill off in a particular direction. When the well is drilling in the required direction (inclination and azimuth), the bent sub and PDM must then be pulled and the conventional assembly re-run. Otherwise the drill bit would continue to change direction. This is a very time consuming operation (taking approximately 8 hrs at 10,00 ft depth for each trip out of, and into, the hole). Remember however that the build up section of a well can be 1-2000 ft long depending on the build up rate (typically 1-3 degrees/100ft) and the required inclination and therefore the bent sub and mud motor will be, depending on the rate of penetration ( check also : Factors Affecting RPM), in the well for quite a long time time.