Lost circulation is one of the most persistent and costly drilling problems that drilling engineers have been struggling with for decades. The main reason why some of the remedial procedures are not working as planned is the lack of information, such as the location of the loss zone. The pinpointing of the zone of loss will allow the treatment to be applied directly to the point of loss rather than to the entire open hole.
This paper presents an approach to predict the location of loss zone from the transient mud circulation temperature profile altered by the mud loss. A numerical model in estimating the transient mud circulating temperature profile during a lost circulation event is developed. The temperature profile in both the flow conduits (drillpipe and annulus) are modeled using mass and energy balance. The flow rate of drilling mud decreases in the annulus above the loss zone as part of the fluids lost into the fractures, which in turn alters the heat transfer between the drillpipe, annulus, and formation. The wellbore is divided into two multiple sections, which account for single multiple loss circulation zones. Rigorous heat transfer in the formation is included. Case studies are performed and numerical solution results are presented and analyzed. According to the results, temperature alterations induced by mud loss include: 1) Declines in both bottom-hole temperature (BHT) and mud return temperature over time, and 2) Discontinuity in the first order derivative of annulus temperature with respect to depth at the location of loss zone; meanwhile, the temperature alterations are mainly controlled by the mud loss rate and location of loss. By matching the simulated results with the distributed temperature measurements at different times, the depth of the loss zone can be identified. This piece of information is important for the spotting of LCM (lost circulation material) pills, the optimization of overbalance squeezing pressure, as well as the consideration of setting the cement plug or additional casing.