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Offshore Oil & Gas Technology

Fluid Circulating System
• The fluid circulating system is necessary to pump a
drilling fluid down the hole to aid in the drilling process.
• The drilling fluid is called the “drilling mud” because of its
physical appearance.
• Drilling mud is usually a mixture of water, clay (bentonite),
weighing element (barite), and various special chemicals.
• The surface portion of the fluid circulating system consists
of a mud pump, which forces the mud from the mud pits
up through the standpipe, into the kelly and down the drill
string through to the bit. The mud passes through the
bottom of the bit and returns up through the annulus (the
space between the drill pipe and the wall of the borehole).
• Mud pumps in the 1970s have rating up to 1750 input
horsepower and higher. They capable of pumping large
volumes of fluid at pressure exceeding 3000 psi.
Fluid circulating system
Source: Giuliano, Introduction to Oil and Gas Technology
• Back at the surface, the mud exits the hole through the
mud-return line and flows over a vibrating screen called
the shale shaker, which filters the rock cuttings out of the
liquid mud.
• The rock cuttings are dumped into earthern excavations,
or reserve pits, where such material is stored.
• The mud is often further filtered by desanders and
desilters, which remove fine-grained solids from the mud.
• The mud is then put into tanks, where it is recirculated
back through the pump and down the hole.
• As the drilling mud plays an indispensable role in the
process of drilling a well, the properties are carefully
monitored by a “mud engineer” during the drilling
operations to make sure that the mud has the proper
weight and chemicals to perform its various functions.
Fluid Circulating System
Fluid circulating system
Source: Gerding, Fundamentals of Petroleum, 3
Drilling Mud
• A Drilling mud is used to carry out the following functions:
– Carry cuttings and broken rock fragment out of the hole – without
it the hole will become clogged with rock cuttings
– Cool the drill bit and lubricate its teeth
– Lubricate and cool the bit, drill pipe and drill collar
– control formation pressure or subsurface pressure – the mud
helps counterbalance any high pressure oil, gas or water zones
encountered in the formation being drilled
– Clean the bottom of the hole
– Stabilise the well bore to prevent it from caving in
– Help in the evaluation and interpretation of well log
– Partial aid in supporting the weight of the drill string and casing.
– Prevent corrosion fatigue of drill pipe.
– Transmission of the surface-available hydraulic horsepower to the
– Act as medium for settling out of cuttings in the surface pit

Drilling Mud
• As drilling mud plays an indispensable role in the
process of drilling a well, it is important that the mud is
carefully designed and engineered, since the
consequence of not maintaining good mud properties
may result in drilling problems which will take a great
deal of time and therefore money to resolve.
• In view of the high cost of not maintaining good mud
properties, an operating company will usually hire a
service company to provide a mud engineer, a drilling
fluid specialist, on the rig to formulate, continuously
monitor and it necessary treat the mud.
• Drilling muds may be defined as a suspension of solids
in a liquid phase; the liquid can be water or oil.
• The two most common types of drilling fluid used are:
– Water-base muds
– Oil-base muds
Drilling Mud
Source: Dawe, Modern Petroleum Technology, Vol 1, Upstream
• Water-based muds (WBM), which are the more common,
are those drilling fluids in which the continuous phase of
the system is water (salt water or fresh water).
• Oil-base muds (OBM), are those in which the continuous
phase is oil.
• Although pure gas and gas-liquid mixtures are used, they
are not as common as the liquid-based systems.
• The use of gas as a drilling fluid is limited to areas where
formation are competent and impermeable. The
advantages of drilling with air in the circulating system
are: higher penetration rates; better hole cleaning; and
less formation damage. However, there are also two
important disadvantages: air cannot support the sides of
the borehole and air cannot exert enough pressure to
prevent formation liquid entering the borehole.
Drilling Mud
• Gas-liquid mixture (foam) are most often used where the
formation pressures are so low that massive losses
occur when even water is used as the drilling fluid. This
can occur in mature fields where depletion of reservoir
fluids has resulted in low bore pressure.
• Water based muds are relatively inexpensive because of
the ready supply of water. They consist of a mixture of
solids, liquids and chemicals.
• The main disadvantage of using water-based muds is
that the water in these muds caused instability in shales.
Shale is composed primarily of clays and instability is
largely caused by hydration of the clays by the water in
the mud. Shales are the most common rock types
encountered while drilling for oil and gas and give rise to
more problems per metre drilled any other type of
Drilling Mud
Power System & Rotary
• All the equipment in the rotary drilling rig is powered by
the power system, which is the heart of the entire rig.
• The central power plant powers the rotary table, hoisting
system, and the fluid circulating system.
• A typical large rig usually has more than 2000 hp
available for operating all the rig equipment.

• Powered by the prime mover, the rotary is the device
that turns the drill string, and ultimately the bit.
• The rotary drive transmits power to the rotary table,
which is set in the rig deck, and through which the drill
string is run.

Rotary System
Source: Berger, Anderson, Modern Petroleum - A Basic Primer of the industry, 3
Power Swivel
(or Top Drive system)
• An innovation in rotary drilling is a device called a power
swivel (also know as a top drive system).
• The top drive system replaces the functions of the rotary
table and kelly.
• This allows the drill string to be rotated from the top
using a power swivel, eliminating the need of a kelly and
a rotary table.
• A heavy duty motor (e.g. 1,000 hp) incorporated into the
swivel can deliver over 30,000 ft-lbs torque and can
operate at over 200 rpm.
• The power swivel is remotely controlled from the driller’s
console, and can be set back if necessary to allow
conventional operations to be carried out.
Power swivel (or top drive system)
Source: Gerding, Fundamentals of Petroleum, 3
Top Drive System
• The top drive system has the following advantages:
– It enables complete 90 ft stands to be added to the
drill string rather then the conventional 30 ft singles.
This saves rig time since two out of every three
connections are eliminated. It also makes coring
operations more efficient.
– When tripping out of the hole the power swivel can be
easily stabbed into the string to ream back if
necessary (e.g. to prevent stuck pipe).
– When tripping into the hole the power swivel can be
connected to allow any bridges to be drilled out
without having to pick up the kelly.