Settling Tanks – Operating Principles

Since that is unlikely in the near future, the settling tank is extremely important. If the shaker screen were always adequate, never developed a tear that passed oversize solids through, never had to be bypassed during drilling, etc., the major justification for a settling tank (or “shale trap,” or “sand trap”) would disappear. Some information has been published on the subject, but the following points are cardinal:

White color settling tanks
Settling tanks

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A special case of liquid/gas fluid is the diesel/nitrogen or synthetic-oil/ nitrogen mixture. These systems have low viscosities and are used primarily in reentries or horizontal slim holes. They tend to require more fluid than water-based fluid systems. Annular velocities of 150–200 ft/ min are common in the horizontal section of the hole. In the drilling of slim holes, hole volumes are less than they are in the drilling of conventional holes, but strong surging occurs. A closed pressurized separator system is used when drilling with an oil/gas system (Figure 19.1.).



Foam in the hole is an emulsion of air or gas in water, but at the flowline a proper foam breaks to a mixture of droplets of water in an air stream. With proper foam breaking at the end of the flowline, there is a quickly separating mixture of gas or air with a small amount of water and a small skim of foam (Figure 1.). During use of a shale shaker, the screen will generally appear ‘‘wet’’ with a skim of foam. This is the result of the chemistry of the system, and while it appears wet with foam, the water volume is very small.

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Tank arrangement-3

2. Auxiliary tank system-Trip Tank
A trip tank should also be a component of the tank system. This tank should have a well-calibrated, liquid-level gauge to measure the volume of drilling fluid entering or leaving the tank. The volume of fluid that replaces the volume of drill string is normally monitored on trips to make certain that formation fluids are not entering the well bore. When one barrel of steel (drill string) is removed from the borehole, one barrel of drilling fluid should replace it to maintain a constant liquid level in the well bore. If the drill string volume is not replaced, the liquid level may drop low enough to permit formation fluid to enter the well bore due to the drop in hydrostatic pressure. This is known as a kick. Fluid may be returned to the trip tank during the trip into the well. The excess fluid from the trip tank should be returned to the active system across the shale shakers. Large solids can come out of the well and plug the hydrocyclones if this drilling fluid bypasses the shakers.
The addition of trip tanks to drilling rigs significantly reduces the number of induced well kicks. The obsolete or old-system drillers filled the hole with drilling fluid with the rig pumps by counting the mud pump strokes (the volume was calculated for the displacement of the drill pipe pulled). The problem here was that a certain pump efficiency was estimated in these calculations. If the mud pump was not as efficient as estimated, slowly but surely the height of the column of drilling fluid filling the hole decreased. This caused a decrease in hydrostatic head, and if formation pressures were greater than the hydrostatic head of the drilling fluid, a kick would occur.
Another common way to induce a kick was to continue filling the hole with the same number of strokes used for the drill pipe even when reaching the heavy-weight drill pipe or drill collars were pulled. Both the heavy-weight drill pipe and the drill collars have more displacement per stand than the drill pipe; therefore a reduction in the height of the column of drilling fluid in the well bore would occur and problems would result.
A slug tank or pit is typically a small 20- to 50-barrel compartment within the suction section. This compartment is isolated from the active system and is available for small volumes of specialized fluid. Some drilling-fluid systems may have more than one of these small compartments. They are manifolded to a mixing hopper so that solids and chemicals may be added and are used to create heavier slurry to be displaced partway down the drill pipe before trips. This prevents drilling fluid inside the pipe from splashing on the rig floor during trips. These compartments are also used to mix and spot various pills, or slurries, in a well bore. The main pump suction must be manifolded to the slug pit(s).
Proper agitation is needed for this tank because there will be many different types of slurries mixed during drilling operations. Some will be easy to mix, while others will take a lot of energy to mix properly. The addition of a mud gun or guns would be beneficial in mixing various pills as well as keeping solids from settling in the bottom or corners of this tank.
The reserve tank(s) are for storage of excess drilling fluid, base fluids, or premixed drilling fluid for future mixing/additions. It could even be a completely different type of mud system for displacing the existing drilling fluid.
Land drilling rigs do not have reserve tanks in their systems. Extra tanks are rented as needed for their operation. These tanks are typically called fractionalization (frac) tanks.
Marine drilling rigs incorporate reserve or storage tanks in their design. The volume and number of these tanks depend on the space available and the available deck load capabilities of the rig. If more storage volume is required for marine drilling rigs, extra storage tanks can sometimes be installed on deck depending on space and deck load availability.
The type of drilling fluid stored in the reserve tanks will dictate whether it needs to be agitated. Since the type of fluids stored will vary, adequate agitation should be available if required.