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00061040

00061040

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Copyright 2000, Society of Petroleum Engineers Inc.This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE International Conference on Health,Safety, and the Environment in Oil and Gas Exploration and Production held in Stavanger,Norway, 26–28 June 2000.This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review ofinformation contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, aspresented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject tocorrection by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect anyposition of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Papers presented atSPE meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees of the Society ofPetroleum Engineers. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paperfor commercial purposes without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers isprohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuousacknowledgment of where and by whom the paper was presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O.Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836, U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435.
Abstract
Over the years the industry has seen major changes in drillingfluids technology, especially in the field of organic-phasefluids (OPF) such as diesel, mineral oil and synthetichydrocarbon base fluids. Environmental concerns have driventhe development of 'traditional' oil-based fluids away fromdiesel and through to the less toxic, more biodegradablesynthetics such as esters and olefins. Many companies arenow considering the overall picture regarding the disposal of wastes and are looking for alternative uses for drillingbyproducts, thus turning wastes into useful raw commodities.While organic-phase fluids evolved, research into water-based fluids (WBF), which are generally considered lessharmful to the environment, concentrated on duplicating thetechnical performance of oil-based fluids, the absence of oilydischarges being the environmental benefit. A more holisticview of the overall impact of WBF discharges and concernsabout the persistence of some WBF chemicals has nowfocused development on alternative ways to further reduce theimpact of water-based fluids on the environment andaccelerate recovery of the impacted areas.The key to reducing the environmental impact of drillingfluids is typified by the standard waste management hierarchy.The areas to consider are source reduction, recycling/re-use of the product, recovery of useful or valuable materials andtreatment prior to disposal.The focus of this paper is how new technologies can beused to bring about these changes and to discuss the variousways in which the amount of drilling fluid by-products can bereduced. The paper also describes ways in which new drillingfluid developments such as salt-free drilling fluids or the useof colloidal weighting agents can be designed to optimizewaste management and reduce the amount of waste. Thesetechnologies also facilitate the re-use and recycling of drillingfluids and their components.
Introduction
To significantly reduce the environmental impact of drillingoperations, the process of drilling a well needs to be viewedholistically and environmental benefits need to be tied tofinancial savings.For example, which is more advantageous, drilling quicklywith an “expensive” fluid that saves four days rig costs andthus reduces overall CO
2
emissions or using a “low-cost” fluidwhich does not perform as well as the expensive one andresults in increased rig costs and emissions.It is equally important to ensure that the fluid used to drillthe reservoir section maximizes recovery of the availablehydrocarbons and reduces the need to drill more wells.This paper uses some of the concepts of life cycle analysis
1
to consider the total impact of the various stages of drilling.Factors that should be considered when trying to optimize theoverall waste management strategy include total materialsused as well as solid, liquid and gas emissions. One of the keypoints of an effective waste management strategy is the wastemanagement hierarchy. Figure 1 ranks the desirability of eachstage of the hierarchy. The best solution is to avoid producingthe waste, but if this is unavoidable, then the amount of wasteproduced should be minimized. Steps should then be taken tomaximize the recovery, re-use and recycling of materialsbefore reducing the amount of material for final disposal
 2
.
Avoid - Reduce Well Intervention
Reduction of the total number of operations/interventionsrequired to extract hydrocarbons will result in a reduction of both the total energy budget and the overall environmentalimpact. It is also important to recover the maximum amount of hydrocarbons (or energy) from the reservoir. This means thatin addition to drilling to the reservoir quickly and efficiently, itis also necessary that drilling practices do not reduce theproductivity of the reservoir causing an increase in the overallenergy costs.For example, use of a single non-damaging fluid to drillfrom the upper hole section down through to the reservoir andcomplete the well would reduce or eliminate the use of spacers
SPE 61040Can advances in drilling fluid design further reduce the environmental effects of waterand organic-phase drilling fluids?
J. M. Getliff, SPE, M-I
L
.
L
.
.
; A. J. Bradbury, SPE, M-I
L
.
L
.
.
; C. A. Sawdon, SPE, M-I
L
.
L
.
.; 
J. E. Candler, M-I
L
.
L
.
.;G. Loklingholm, STATOIL A/S
 
2J. M. GETLIFF: A. J. BRADBURY: C.A. SAWDON: J. E. CANDLER AND G. LOCKLINGHOLMSPE 61040
for fluid displacements thus reducing the mud volume losseswhen displacing to brine.Similarly if resistivity logs are required from a well thathas been drilled with an oil-based mud, traditionally it wasnecessary to displace the oil-based mud and replace it with amore conductive water-based fluid, an operation that is costlyin both time and energy consumption. Use of a conductiveorganic-phase fluids for both drilling and logging, eliminatesthe need to displace to a water-based logging fluid and thusreduce the overall energy consumption and environmentalimpact of the operation.Likewise 'smart' filter cakes that enhance oil productionwithout the need for acid intervention to optimize reservoirproductivity will reduce the total number of steps or amount of energy required to extract the oil, thus reducing theenvironmental impact.
Minimize - Source Reduction
Better drilling practices and improved wellborestability.
Drilling to the reservoir as efficiently as possiblereduces the amount of waste produced (chemicals, rock debrisand energy) and helps to reduce the environmental impact of drilling operations
. Washout and eccentric hole cansignificantly increase the amount of cuttings produced and thesubsequent amount of drilling fluid and cement used. Awellbore drilled in-gauge requires less drilling fluid andproduces fewer cuttings requiring disposal. Use of a smallerdiameter hole and casing also reduces the total volume of waste material produced. Similarly if the wellbore can bestabilized or lined in some way then one or more casing pointmay be omitted. In all these cases, there is a reduction in time,costs and the total energy required to drill the well.
Liquid discharges and waste management.
As the drillingwaste is transported out of the wellbore by the drilling fluid, alarge part of the waste treatment concerns separating the solidsfrom the liquid phase and the subsequent disposal of both thesolids and in some cases the liquid effluent. Commonproblems found with liquid effluents are high saltconcentrations or conductivity and a high biological orchemical oxygen demand. Although it is feasible to treat suchliquid effluents prior to disposal, as discussed previously, if possible it is best to minimize the amount produced in the firstplace. Alternate weighting materials also provideopportunities to reduce the amount of drilling fluid dischargesand provide much-improved solids removal efficiency.
Reducing the environmental effects of saline discharges.
On land, the focus of the environmental impact is not alwayshydrocarbon discharges, which are relatively easy to remediateunder the right circumstances, but saline discharges.Chloride contamination of soils and ground waters is causefor concern in many parts of the world and groundwaterprotection is a significant consideration for drilling operations.When thinking about the environmental effects of salinedischarges it also is important to consider the nature of theenvironment where the drilling operations are beingperformed. For example, potassium chloride can be used forshale inhibition in the North Sea, but it is toxic to mysidshrimp at high concentrations. Its use is therefore restricted inthe Gulf of Mexico where the mysid toxicity test is aregulatory requirement.
Ch oride-free water-based fluids.
Brady,
et al.
5
and Reid,
et al.
6
discuss improvements in organic polyols which havesignificantly reduced the gap between water-based and oil-based mud performance. Conventional water-based fluidsrequire the additionof salts such as potassium chloride toimpart shale inhibition
5
.
 
As discussed above, the discharge of saline drilling wastes onshore can result in unacceptablecontamination of lakes, rivers, groundwater or soil. Currentpractice in many countries is for the saline liquid to be heavilydiluted prior to discharge in order to comply with localconsent limits.Brady,
et al.
5
showed that a polyalkylene glycol,specifically designed for salt-free water-based fluids, providesefficient drilling and reduces the final volume of liquideffluent discharges.On comparative wells the total volume of liquid dischargedcan be reduced from 172,650 bbls (27448 m
3
) with a standardKCl PHPA polymer drilling fluid to 5,577 bbls (887 m
3
) witha salt-free polyalkylene glycol-based fluid.The latter fluid also showed improved drillingperformance, reduced mud consumption and reducedtreatment costs prior to discharge.
Salt-free organic-phase drilling fluids.
 
Hydrocarbondischarges can have a significant environmental impact bothon and offshore, but are generally a lot easier to manageonshore and are thus viewed as a smaller problem than salinedischarges. From the previous discussion, it can be seen thatavoiding the use of chloride-based salts in either water ororganic-phase drilling fluids has potentially significantenvironmental benefits.While previous work has shown that it possible toformulate 100% organic-phase, salt-free drilling fluids,
7
inmost organic-phase drilling fluids chloride salts are used toprovide the water activity level and minimize the osmotictransfer of water to the formations drilled.
8
Salt-free organic-phase fluids can be expensive and prone to watercontamination. Replacing “standard” salts with another“osmotic regulator” used in organic-phase drilling fluidsreduces or avoids many of the problems associated with salinedischarges. Formatesalts have been used successfully inwater-based muds
but can have cost disadvantages. Suchmaterials are biodegradable but do not contribute towardsalternative uses for the drilling fluid byproducts which isdiscussed later in the paper. In some parts of the world,nitrates have been successfully used in the formulation of organic-phase drilling fluids and there is anecdotal evidencethat the resulting wastes have a beneficial effects on someplants when the cuttings are landfarmed. If these types of drilling wastes are to be used as soil enhancers (rather than just landfarmed) then it is essential that the appropriatenutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium arepresent in the correct percentages for good plant growth.Likewise it is important that there are no adverse effects onseed germination and soil invertebrates, etc.
Environmental improvements to organic base fluids.
Thedevelopment of better organic-phase drilling fluids has, overthe years, reduced the impactof drilling operations on health,safety and the environment.
 
Table 1
overviews theintroduction of organic base fluids of reduced environmentalimpact over the years 1980 to the present. The acute effects of 
 
CAN ADVANCES IN DRILLING FLUID DESIGN FURTHER REDUCESPE 61040THE ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS OF WATER AND ORGANIC-PHASE DRILLING FLUIDS?3
the fluids on marine organisms has now reached a plateau of very low toxicity.
The aerobic biodegradation is broadlysimilar for many of the recent fluids.
Anaerobicbiodegradation is much slower for all of the fluids especiallyat high concentrations and low temperature
conditionssimilar to those found in seabed cuttings piles.Opportunities for further reducing the environmentalimpact of oil base fluids will likely come from thedevelopment of novel organic fluid chemistries. Such fluidscombined with alternative treatments for contaminatedcuttings and the development of new water-based drillingfluids will reduce the impact of drilled cuttings on theenvironment, especially if combined with improved solidsremoval and treatment techniques. This last combination isdiscussed further on in the paper.Chemical technology has advanced significantly in recentyears and many companies are now looking at ways toformulate organic-phase drilling fluids with biodegradableemulsifiers and salts. One objective of this work is to producea specially designed organic-phase drilling fluid for use onland. Such a fluid will provide all the technical features of agood oil-based mud such as shale inhibition and lubricity, butshow positive soil enhancement when spread on the land andbe easily and rapidly treated by biological means leavingminimal recalcitrant residues.Careful selection of the hydrocarbon base fluid and to acertain extent the choice of biodegradable emulsifiers isexpected to result in a highly biodegradable mud systemwhich can be easily and rapidly landfarmed or degraded in abioreactor. The use of linear rather than branched or cyclichydrocarbons is expected to result in much faster treatmentrates than diesel base fluids. However, as discussed above it isan added benefit if the byproducts can act as a soil enhancer oragricultural fertilizer. The fluid is currently being evaluatedfor its impact on soil flora and fauna.
Reuse, Recycle and Recover
Most oil and synthetic based fluids are reused and althoughsome water based drilling fluids can be reused the biggestobstacle to efficient recycling of WBM is the rapid build up of entrained drilled solids.It is clear that reduced dischargescan also be achieved byimproved solids-control efficiency.
Improved separation of drilled solids from the fluid, and fluid from the drilled solidswould reduce discharges and mud dilution requirements.Enhanced solids control, apart from reducing the wastevolume, will allow more drilling fluid to be recovered in goodcondition and subsequently re-used.
Particle size, density and fluid viscosity.
 
Conventionaldrilling fluids, solids-removal efficiency and wastemanagement are limited by particle size, density and fluidviscosity. API barite and fine drilled cuttings have broad,overlapping size distributions. This can greatly reduce solidsseparation efficiency.Less than perfect drilled solids removal is tolerated inorder to avoid unacceptable losses of barite, compromisingboth solids removal efficiency and barite recovery. Poor shaleinhibition means softer or disintegrating cuttings at the shakerscreens. This results in an increase in the proportion of cuttings that cannot be removed at the shakers on the first passthrough the solids-control equipment. Re-circulation andfurther attrition of the drilled solids can rapidly increase thelevel of low-gravity solids in the drilling fluid. This requires adump-and-dilute approach to maintain drilling fluid properties.Conventional drilling fluids often exhibit high plasticviscosity. This leads to restricted flow rates when reachingpump pressure limit. This can result in inefficient cuttingstransport and the formation of cuttings beds. Poor holecleaning will increase the residence time of cuttings in thewellbore and, in doing so, can exacerbate effects of inadequateshale inhibition and mechanical attrition on the break down of the cuttings.High fluid viscosity can adversely affect the efficiency of shale shakers, hydrocyclones and centrifuges. Hydrocycloneperformance can be extremely sensitive to viscosity, withtypical median cut sizes of a 3-in. cone,
 changing from 20 to50 microns as the plastic viscosity increases from 6 to 24 cP.High viscosity can move the cut or separation into the domainof shaker screens making hydrocyclones essentially redundant.Similarly centrifuge performance decreases with increasingplastic viscosity because the particle settling velocity fromStokes law is inversely proportional to the fluid viscosity.
Weighting agents and solids control equipment
.
Many of the centrifuges used offshore are arranged in so called 'bariterecovery mode' whereby their primary use is to reclaim bariteweight material, rather than separate drill cuttings. Traditionalbarite recovery, though economically rational, compromisessolids separation efficiency, resulting in greater economicaland environmental cost.
 
Optimum use of modernhydrocyclones can reduce the cut point down to less than 20micron. Unfortunately this cut would still include both finecuttings and conventional weight materials. At the momentfull flow centrifugation is available only in limited offshoreenvironments.
Weighting agents and waste management.
When usingtraditional weighting agents, the above factors conspire tolimit solids-control-removal efficiencies such that there is stillconsiderable discharge of drilling fluid due either to dumpingor to fluid adhering to cuttings as they are discharged.However, new forms of colloidal weighting agents based onbarite or calcium carbonate appear to offer a real chance of greatly improved solids control and reduced environmentalimpacts.
Alternate weight materials.
For improved solids control, theweight material needs to be differentiated from the generateddrilled cuttings. Two approaches are either the use of solids-free brine fluids or alternate-sized particulate materials. Brineshave several advantages specifically the capacity of enhanceddrilled solids separation and the capability to tailor therheology to match the hole cleaning requirements. However atintermediate and higher brine densities (>12 lb/gal), brines areexpensive, corrosive and may cause hole destabilization.Brines also have HSE limitations that can restrict theirenvironmental acceptability.An alternative approach is to change the particle size of thesolid weight materials to differentiate them from the generateddrilled cuttings. The ability to significantly reduce the particlesize, whilst controlling the inter-particle interactions results ina very flexible, low-rheology drilling fluid. This opposes theoften quoted statement that fine particle sizes lead to high

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