Fracture gradient is one of the critical information which drilling engineers need to know in order to design drilling programs. For the well control stand point, the fracture gradient directly affects on how much influx volume can be successfully contained in the wellbore. If the wellbore pressure is over the fracture pressure, formations would be broken down and this situation will result in loss of drilling fluid into formations. Additionally, it might lead to well control situation because of loss of hydrostatic pressure. Fracture gradient is quite straight forward for land operation because it will not be reduce due to water column. However, the fracture gradient will be reduced in deepwater environment. In this article, we will discuss why water depth can cause the reduction in fracture gradient.
Basically, the fracture gradient is related to fluids occupying in pore spaces of rock and weight of rock which are called overburden pressure. Generally, the overburden of a typical sedimentary is about 1.0 psi/ft (19.2 ppg). Rocks will be fractured when the wellbore pressure exceeds the confining stresses acting on it. If we make a general assumption that the overburden pressure causes the minimum confining stress of the rock. Then the formation fracture gradient will not be 1.0 psi/ft if the location is offshore.
Note: this assumption is made in order to help you get more understanding on how and why water depth can decrease the formation fracture gradient.