Research Papers: Petroleum Engineering

Designing Three-Dimensional Directional Well Trajectories Using Bézier Curves

[+] Author and Article Information
Jorge H. B. Sampaio, Jr.

Associate Professor
Petroleum Engineering Department,
College of Earth Resource Sciences and Engineering,
Colorado School of Mines,
1600 Arapahoe Street,
Golden, CO 80401
e-mail: jsampaio@mines.edu

Contributed by the Petroleum Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF ENERGY RESOURCES TECHNOLOGY. Manuscript received April 19, 2016; final manuscript received September 21, 2016; published online October 10, 2016. Assoc. Editor: Arash Dahi Taleghani.

J. Energy Resour. Technol 139(3), 032901 (Oct 10, 2016) (8 pages) Paper No: JERT-16-1180; doi: 10.1115/1.4034810 History: Received April 19, 2016; Revised September 21, 2016

A relatively simple, general, and very flexible method to design complex, three-dimensional hole trajectories can be obtained by using a 3D extension for Bézier curves. This approach offers superior results in terms of coding, use, and flexibility compared to other methods using double-arc, cubic functions, spline-in-tension functions, or constant curvature. The mathematics is surprisingly simple, and the method can be used to obtain trajectories for any of the four typical end conditions in terms of inclination and azimuth, namely: free-end, set-end, set-inclination/free azimuth, and free-inclination/set-azimuth. The resulting trajectories are smooth, with continuous and smooth change of curvature and toolface, better exploiting the expected delivery of modern rotary steerable deviation tools, particularly the point-the-bit and the push-the-bit systems. With the relevant parameters at any point of the trajectory (curvature and toolface angle) an automated system can steer the hole toward the defined targets in a smooth fashion. The beauty of the method is that the description of the trajectory is obtained with one single expression that handles the three space coordinates, instead of working with three separate coordinate functions. It uses a generalization of the well-known 2D Bézier curve. The concept is easy to understand, and implementation even using spreadsheets is straightforward. Besides, the conditions at both ends (coordinates and inclination/azimuth for set ends) the trajectory curve has up to two independent parameters. By playing suitably with these parameters, one can obtain a curve that favors the reduction of drag and torque during drilling, tripping, and casing running. In addition to the formulation for trajectory calculation, the paper presents the expressions to calculate the inclination, azimuth, curvature, and toolface at any point along the trajectory. Proper numerical examples illustrate the various end-conditions. The method can be used during the hole planning cycle as well as during the hole drilling for automatic and manual steerage.

Copyright © 2017 by ASME
Your Session has timed out. Please sign back in to continue.


Scholes, H. , 1983, “ A Three-Dimensional Well Planning Method for HDR Geothermal Wells,” 58th Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, San Francisco, CA, Oct. 5–9, SPE Paper No. 12101-MS.
Sampaio, J. H. B., Jr. , 2006, “ Planning 3D Well Trajectories Using Cubic Functions,” ASME J. Energy Resour. Technol., 128(4), pp. 257–267. [CrossRef]
Sampaio, J. H. B., Jr. , 2007, “ Planning 3D Well Trajectories Using Spline-in-Tension Functions,” ASME J. Energy Resour. Technol., 129(4), pp. 289–299. [CrossRef]
Guo, B. , Miska, S. , and Lee, R. L. , 1992, “ Constant Curvature Method for Planning a 3-D Directional Well,” SPE Rocky Mountain Regional Meeting, Casper, WY, May 18–21, SPE Paper No. 24381.
Struik, D. J. , 1961, Lectures on Classical Differential Geometry, 2nd ed., Dover Publications, New York.
Liu, X. , and Shi, Z. , 2001, “ Improved Method Makes a Soft Landing of Well Path,” Oil Gas J., 99, pp. 47–51.


Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Second-order Bézier curves (attractor CS4 not shown)

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Third-order Bézier curves with varying CS and fixed CE (attractor CS4 not shown)

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

Third-order Bézier curves with fixed CS and varying CE (attractor CE4 not shown)

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

Three-dimensional view of a free-end case with various values for dS (300 m, 600 m, 900 m, 1200 m, and 1500 m)

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

Three-dimensional view of a set-end case for dS=500 m and various values for dE (300 m, 600 m, 900 m, and 1200 m)

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 6

Three-dimensional view of a set-end case for dE=500 m and various values for dS (300 m, 600 m, 900 m, and 1200 m)

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 7

Three-dimensional view of a set-end case for dS = dE and various values of the parameters (300 m, 600 m, 900 m, and 1200 m)

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 8

Representation of unit vectors acting at a point of the trajectory

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 9

A first-order Bézier curve

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 10

Intermediate and Bezier points for a second-order Bézier curve

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 11

A second-order Bézier curve

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 12

A third-order Bézier curve



Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging and repositioning the boxes below.

Related Journal Articles
Related eBook Content
Topic Collections

Sorry! You do not have access to this content. For assistance or to subscribe, please contact us:

  • TELEPHONE: 1-800-843-2763 (Toll-free in the USA)
  • EMAIL: asmedigitalcollection@asme.org
Sign In