Several metals are present in most drilling muds (Table 1). Concentrations of individual metals may vary depending on the composition of the base ingredients and additives. The metals of greatest concern because of their abundance in drilling muds and cuttings and their potential toxicity to marine organisms include arsenic, barium, chromium, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, mercury, nickel, and zinc. Some of these metals are added intentionally to drilling muds as metal salts and organo-metallic compounds, if approved by local regulations. These metals are included in the added metals category. Most metals in drilling discharges are trace impurities in drill cuttings and major mud ingredients, particularly barite, ilmenite, and clay.
A major component in drilling operation success is drilling fluid performance. The cost of searching for hydrocarbon reserves becomes more expensive when drilling occurs offshore, in deep water, and in hostile environments. These drilling environments require fluids that excel in performance. Measuring fluid performance requires the evaluation of all key drilling parameters and their associated cost. Simply stated, the effectiveness of a fluid is judged by its influence on overall well cost. This chapter discusses the various fundamentals of drilling fluids and their performance in assuring a safe and expeditious drilling operation at minimum overall cost.
Drilling fluids are generally categorized as “water-based” or “oil-based”, and as “weighted” or “unweighted” muds.
Use of traditional cuttings handling systems based on washing the cuttings. By cleaning the cuttings, the oil content in the cuttings can be brought down to approximately 100g oil content per. kg drilled cuttings, which is the average allowable discharge of oil per. well. This again means that the cleaned cuttings can be dumped to sea after cleaning is performed.