A Deep Step Forward | 354 (November-December 2021)

In October 2021, LUKOIL successfully completed its exploratory work at the Block 12 offshore MEXICO. The company drilled its first offshore exploratory well in the Golf of Mexico – Yoti West – 1 EXP.

2021-11-29 13:29 Views 165

Lenar Akbarov

Director of Drilling and Wells Operations, LUKOIL Upstream Mexico

The operations completed 14 October after 71 days of execution. The well was delivered ahead of schedule and within the approved budget (9 days ahead, field cost saving estimation is $10 MM USD). The well was located at a sea depth of over 200 meters, while its own depth hit 3640 meters.

The project’s high speed and low costs did not come at the expense of safety – all work was conducted in adherence to the strictest ecological and safety standards. Just like at its other offshore projects, LUKOIL strictly adhered to its “zero emissions” standard in Mexico. All waste products, including drilled cuttings, were transported from the offshore rig to a proper disposal site on land for future utilization.

Another major challenge for operations team was a global pandemic and its restrictions to overcome. The team of professionals managed to develop a protocol and strictly follow it during the project execution, which allowed having ZERO COVID related cases on the rig offshore.

Before drilling could begin, the team had to go through the long process of completing all of the necessary documentation and signing over 50 contracts for drilling and exploratory services.

No less important to the project’s success was learning to work effectively with the regulatory organs of the Mexican government. LUKOIL was the only operator this year who managed to get a drilling and environmental permits way before spud of the well under new government administration. Other operators experience a significant delays with the National Hydrocarbon Commission (CNH) permit which affected their time and budgets.

LUKOIL faced many challenges during the drilling phase. One of them involved crossing regional faults in top section of the well. The work was done successfully without riser and Blowout Preventer (BOP) latched to the well head. This approach became a standard practice in the region.

Operations were executed in the middle of the hurricane season in Gulf of Mexico. This also contributed to the complexity of the project; getting personnel, materials and equipment to the rig was no easy task. The team had to suspend operations due to hurricane “Grace”. Proper planning and close weather monitoring allowed leaving the rig connected to anchors and avoiding personnel evacuation form the rig while waiting to hurricane to pass by. The pore pressure and formation fracturing gradient uncertainty was another challenge faced by the operations team. The results of the studies did not predict a high pore pressure encountered in the isolated sand lenses that resulted in multiple well control incidents, major hole stability problem, massive mud losses, ballooning events in the long intermediate section of the well.

Nonetheless, LUKOIL well operations team met all of these challenges with considerable success. Yoti West-1 Exp drilled through 25 meters of net pay confirming presence of hydrocarbons. As a result of the drilling, a seismic model of the region has been confirmed. Subsurface group will continue to study the geological data, including formation samples, which was obtained in the process of well construction. Based on the results of drilling this exploration well, it was decided to continue exploration work at Block 12.

LUKOIL’s social responsibilities at its international projects over the past few years demonstrate the company’s far-reaching commitments in Mexico. The company in collaboration with one of the leading service companies arranged a course “Drillwoks Geomechanics – Drilling Engineering Workflow” for the selected students of the state of Tabasco. Three top students form leading universities of the same state had an opportunity to be part of the well delivery process. At the end of internship, each student prepared and presented an individual projects to the top management of the company.


The theses of the projects: “Well’s Top Section Riserless Drilling”; «Challenges of Pore Pressure and Fracture Gradient Prediction on Exploration Wells»; «Seismic Re-evaluation Based on the Key Well Events».

The General Director of LUKOIL Upstream Mexico Oleg Shurubor says: “We proud to be the first Russian oil company that drilled exploration well and made a discovery in the Gulf of Mexico. This is undoubtedly a result of a hard work, tight collaboration and team spirit within the group of professionals who managed to deliver a complex project”.


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