Sunday, November 30, 2014

Waterjetting 27e - Borehole Back Pressure Effects

In the earlier posts on this chapter of waterjet technology I have dealt with the changes in cutting performance when a waterjet stream cuts in to material that is either under pressure, or contains internal stresses that may not be obvious at first glance. In this post I will focus, instead, on the changes in performance when the borehole becomes filled with water under pressure.

Figure 1. 12-inch cores of sandstone that have been drilled by the same jet drill, at the same speed, but at borehole pressures of 0, 500 psi, 1,000 psi, 1,500 psi and 2,000 psi. (Jet pump pressure 10,000 psi; 970 rpm; 40 inches/min ROP)

The water used in the test also contained a small amount of polyethylene oxide (Polyox) that, at the time, was the only polymer readily available to enhance jet performance under water, although there are now liquids such as Superwater that similarly help.

It can be seen that even the change in pressure to 500 psi is sufficient to dramatically shorten the distance that the jet cuts through the material on a single pass, and the range then only shortens a little as pressure further increases. But the hole drilled at 2,000 psi is barely large enough to let the high pressure lance and nozzle assembly pass.

First an explanation of the equipment that we used to run the tests. A triaxial cell was used as the basic vessel to hold the core. This is so-called since it allows pressure to be applied around the rock core, and also since the cap can slide within seals, axial pressure given the third of the orthogonal directions for loading.

Figure 2. Triaxial cell used for the drilling experiments.

A valve was fitted on the flow line of water out of the chamber (just above the pressure dial) and this controlled the fluid pressure in the cell. The diameter of the outer (reaming) jet was 0.04 inches, and the rapid decay in range with the increase in pressure led to a second experiment, to see how changing the diameter changed the results. The equipment was modified for this test, the feed pipe to the nozzle was bent, so that, as it made a single circuit over the underlying rock, it would trace out a circular path rather cut a single hole. Then the top of the sample was cut at an angle so that, with the rotation the distance from the jet to the target would vary and the range of the jet could be seen. (Figure 4).

Figure 3. Modified equipment to find the effective jet range against back pressure.

A simplified factorial experiment was run with three nozzle diameters and five back pressures, measuring the depth of cut into the sandstone in each case.

Figure 4. The resulting cut when a 0.03 inch diameter jet was rotated over sandstone with a 1,000 psi back pressure in the cell. The 10,000 psi jet was brought up to pressure with the jet at the greatest standoff (hole at the bottom) and the back pressure was set before making a single pass over the sample. The depth of cut was averaged over several readings made along its length.

The data was then plotted (with the curve smoothed here for simplicity in discussion).

Figure 5. A plot of range of jet cutting ability as a function of hole back pressure for three different nozzle diameters.

The graph shows that, for this set of conditions, the larger the jet the better, and that the first 500 psi of back pressure has an immediate effect on jet cutting effectiveness. Jet size should be at least 0.064 inches when drilling against back pressure in the hole. There was a significant improvement in cutting ability when the polymer (at 300 ppm) was subsequently added to the water, in a later series of tests. The small number of tests carried out, however, were too small a sample to provide more than guidance as to concentration since all three levels tested (100, 200 and 300 ppm) all showed considerably improved depths of cut (increasing to a depth of almost 2 inches against a back pressure of 2,500 psi) when contrasted with the performance levels shown above. The polymer tests were carried out with a jet nozzle diameter of 0.064 inches.

There are two parts to the effect of the borehole pressure. The first is simply one of increasing the resistance of the water to jet penetration, and lowering the effective jet pressure (since that is effectively the jet pressure less the borehole pressure).

It is important to recognize that it is not just the drop in effective pressure that causes the effect. To check that this was the case a hole was drilled with the same conditions otherwise as the left-hand rock sample in Figure 1, except that the jet pressure was dropped to 5,000 psi. Thus the differential pressure of the jet across the nozzle was less than that in the case of the other four rock samples shown in Figure 1. Yet the hole was of the same approximate irregular geometry as that shown by the left-hand core of Figure 1 even with the lower differential pressure with the prominent cone cut ahead of the bit that is not evident in the other cases.

Mike Hood has shown the effect of loss in cutting range by using back-lit shadow images of a jet at different back pressures.

Figure 6. Illustration of the effect of fluid back pressure, the shadow image of the jet shows how back pressure reduces the range.

As mentioned above, the effects extend beyond reducing the jet range, and lowering the jet differential pressure. The increased confinement on the rock will compress the grains of the rock more tightly together, making it more difficult for the pressurized water to penetrate into the rock structure. This combines with the higher pressure required to grow the cracks to effectively reduce the ability of the jet to penetrate into the rock.

At the same time, if you listen as the back pressure is increased (we used a Lichtarowicz Cell the increasing pitch of the sound shows (as does the damage induced) that the collapse of the cavitation bubbles generated around the edges of the submerged jet is becoming more intense as the pressure increases. I have discussed how this can be used as a benefit in breaking up rock in an earlier post.


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