Project Description

Project Title: Downhole Kick Detection
Prime Performer: National Energy Technology Laboratory
Project Duration: Completed in 2016


Unexpected formation fluid influxes, also known as kicks, indicate the onset of a loss of well control. Even relatively low intensity kick events are responsible for substantial economic impacts to the oil and gas industry. Kicks are also dynamic events that can increase in intensity until a complete loss of well control occurs—a condition also known as a blowout. Blowouts allow petroleum to be released, which can result in considerable damage to human life, materials, and long-lasting environmental damage. One of the keys to preventing blowouts is to suppress kicks immediately after they initiate, when they are at their weakest. However, current kick detection methods are uncertain and slow-developing processes that allow kicks to gain intensity, making regaining well control more difficult for the driller once they are detected. Developing an improved kick detection method that provides earlier and more certain detection is essential for reducing the frequency of well control losses.

To address this need, NETL developed a kick detection technique that uses downhole measurements to provide data on the wellbore condition. If a kick has occurred, it will be reflected in measurements that are made available to the driller much faster than the kick fluid can travel, allowing the driller to take necessary action to regain well control before the kick strengthens.


The first phase of this project verified that downhole measurements could detect a kick and provide sufficient data quickly enough for the driller to suppress a kick and regain well control. This phase of the project was completed using basic research on fluid flow, physical instruments and measurements, data telemetry, and modeling. The key outcomes of phase 1 of this project include:

  • An improved, timely kick detection method using existing data commonly generated from logging, measurements, and seismic data while drilling with geophysical tools. For the first time, this method allows drilling operators to detect kicks as early as when they occur at the drill bit.
  • A U.S. non-provisional patent application was filed.
  • Proof-of-concept phase 1 technical report describing the technology was released.
  • Discussions with outside stakeholders associated with the Letton Hall Group, ExxonMobil, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and Saudi Aramco resulted in additional requests for copies of the report.


This project resulted in a patent-pending, low-cost, rapid, kick detection method that can be used to improve well control and reduce drilling risks.   Through Phase 1 of this study, the technology was conceived, tested and validated using numerical and conceptual, physics-based modeling methods.

Research Products

NETL’s Kick technology has also been reported on in several news articles.

Explore research products that are related to this project.

See related Phase 2 projects.

*Image Source: NETL

*Image Source: NETL


Kelly Rose
Principal Investigator
Offshore Portfolio Lead

Roy Long
Offshore Portfolio Technical Manager
Effective Resource Development

Grant Bromhal
Senior Fellow
Geological & Environmental Systems

Philip Reppert
Associate Director
Geological & Environmental Systems

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