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At the heart of any successful drilling operation, one can reasonably expect to find that an
adequate mud system was used. However, the attempt to progress beyond mud system
adequacy often tends to result in poor over-all drilling performance.

We can and do create unnecessary complications by placing unrealistic demands upon drilling
fluids systems. Adequate muds are frequently engineered to the point of being all but unusable.
Adverse effects upon all subsequent down hole operations are the result. No simple
explanations exist for the inclination of drilling personnel to sophisticate a mud system to
unworkable levels. The best method of avoiding such common traps is to firmly fix the intended
purpose of the mud system.


Drilling fluids are concocted and manipulated to accomplish some or all of the following tasks:

1. Clean the hole

2. Contain pore pressures

3. Clean the bit and other in-hole tools

4. Lubricate the hole

5. Cool the bit

6. Protect formation productivity

7. Assist in formation evaluation

8. Retard or prevent corrosion

9. Prevent adverse effects of H2S and CO2

10. Cure baldness

11. Assist in cementation

12. Stabilize weak or incompetent zones

13. Deposit a thin filter cake

14. Reduce filtrate invasions

15. Powering down hole tools

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16. Transmit MWD information

How can a single system deal with all these requirements simultaneously? Well, no system
can. Attempting too many goals with a single system will almost certainly result in singular
system failure.

Let us examine each of the above objectives individually, and then return to our central

The very essence of the mud system is "getting the dirt out of the hole". This aspect of hole
cleaning is so important to overall drilling success that a separate chapter has been devoted to
the subject under the title "Lifting Capacity". However, operating personnel seldom compute nor
have access to the mud system value of CLEANING CAPACITY. Rather, we frequently must
deal with vague and sometimes misleading rheological values.

The symptoms of poor hole cleaning are:

1. Excessive torque

2. Drag on connections

3. Tight hole on trips

4. Fill on bottom during logging runs or on trips

Presence of these symptoms calls for enhancement of cleaning capacity. The mud engineer is
told to increase the lifting capacity. Unfortunately, he may not be sure how to proceed.

Hole cleaning is adjusted by changing annular velocity, fluid density and mud viscosity. Before
proper adjustments can be made, however, operating personnel must have a firm
understanding of fluid viscosity and the mathematics of hole cleaning.

As is shown in the section on control of mud viscosity, it is difficult or maybe impossible to

thicken the mud to enhance the hole cleaning while simultaneously dispersing the system to thin
the filter cake. Many of the polymers used in conjunction with inhibited potassium muds, in fact,
exhibit very poor hole cleaning rheology. Some oil muds used to protect sensitive zones are
both inadequate in lifting capacity and produce high frictional pressure losses. Poor bit
hydraulics and low annular velocity (one of the parameters that can be adjusted upward to
enhance cleaning capacity) result from the use of such mud.

Many examples can be cited wherein the attempt to accomplish secondary objectives resulted
in destroying the primary objective of an otherwise adequate mud system. The primary objective
of the mud is to clean the hole. Hole cleaning is fully discussed in the chapter entitled "Lifting

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Mud density is adjusted to balance or somewhat overbalance pore pressures encountered while
drilling. Barite, hematite or ilmenite is commonly used for density control. Properties for these
three materials are given in Table 4-1.

Table 4-1. Properties of Various Weighing Materials

Weight Specific Average Average Chemical

Material Gravity Ws ppg lbf /bbl Formula
Barite 4.2 35.0 1470 BaSO4

Hematite 5.2 43.3 1819 Fe2O3

Ilmenite 4.8 40.0 1680 TiO2.FeO

Weighting formulas given by Equation 4-1 and Equation 4-2 are frequently used.

W 2 − W1
X = Equation 4-1
W s − W1

W 2 − W1
Y= Equation 4-2
WS − W 2

In mud systems, density control and solids control are interdependent operations. More
detailed discussions of mud density control are presented in the section on "solids control".

Bottom-hole cleaning of the bit and drilling assembly is a necessary and noble expectation from
the mud system. However, it must be remembered that mud chemistry is seldom altered to
effect bottom-hole cleaning. Mechanical energy from the rig pumps is primarily responsible for
hydraulic action. A separate chapter in the text, "Hydraulics", has been devoted to bottom-hole

Significantly, separate chapters are not devoted to other topics from our list of desired mud
system tasks.

This subject is hardly worthy of discussion for the overwhelming majority of drilling operations.
Occasionally, drilling personnel become concerned with drag, torque or some other symptom
that indicates the need for hole lubrication. The symptoms are generally treated by the

• Fine to coarse walnut hulls have proven to reduce drag and torque.

• Some oil muds give good hole lubrication.

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• While generally considered to be a poor practice, the addition of up to 8% diesel

oil to mud is often effective in reducing torque.

• Specialty fluids consisting of fatty acids, complex alcohols and mineral oils are
sold by most mud companies to reduce torque and drag.

• A well-hydrated bentonite content in the filter cake is often best for hole

In some cases, the need for improved hole lubrication is the result of directional drilling or the
development of many small doglegs in essentially straight holes. However, most often the
symptoms of torque or drag are the result of poor hole cleaning.

Refer again to the list of hole symptoms in the section entitled "Hole Cleaning". If one proceeds
to treat the well for torque and drag by the addition of lubricants when insufficient cuttings
removal was the cause of problems, then hole cleaning may suffer by an increasing amount.

Alternately, some lubricity treatments may be short-term cures and long-term causes of more
problems. If torque or drag has developed due to poor mud cake properties, an operator may
be tempted to add diesel fuel to the mud. The oil additions will probably result in immediate

Oil additions to mud invariably result in inefficient solids removal. In the above scenario, the oil
provided a rapid benefit; however, within a few hours or days, as drilling progresses, solids
content will increase in the mud. Native solids provide poor cake quality. Torque increases and
the process starts over once again.

High priced proprietary additives such as heavy alcohols or dispersed asphalt may be even
worse than less expensive diesel oil. They provide short-term cures with an overall
exacerbation of the problem. Such materials are grossly expensive to use and greatly interfere
with control of solids and rheology.

These authors have often been called to a rig site to find that a mud needed something taken
out of it rather than something added as treatment agents. Without question, treatment of mud
lubricity should be avoided if possible. If treatment is absolutely necessary, the operator must
be pre-warned that other hole problems may result from the action.


Logging, testing, coring and cuttings examination are operations adjunct to drilling.
Expectations that the drilling mud will be non-damaging are mostly unrealistic. Often, damage
to certain formations is essential to successful drilling.

Finesse is required to accomplish the needed level of damage without irrevocably hampering
evaluation or production operations. Many attempts to produce non-damaging muds actually
result in advanced levels of damage which are achieved at great cost. The three most
commonly accepted requirements for a mud system that will not interfere with evaluation,
testing or production operations are presented in Table 4-2.

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All of the goals enumerated in Table 4-2 are logical and noble aims. Unfortunately, these goals
may be unobtainable to any satisfactory level. The reader may wish to examine the section on
"Specialty Muds" in this chapter before continuing this section.

Table 4-2. Non-Damaging Requirements for Mud

1. Low levels of filtrate invasion - Filtrate may totally invade cores, make
open-hole logs, especially resistivity-type logs, difficult to evaluate and
may interfere with flow testing procedures.

2. Mud filtrate should be chemically compatible with in-situ formation

fluids and minerals so as to prevent plugging of pore spaces by
precipitation or mineral swelling. Further, mud filtrate should not
change pore space wetability or surface tension.

3. Mud solids should not penetrate deeply into porous zones nor create
any chemical or physical incompatibility within a prospective reservoir.

An often overlooked concept may ultimately prove to be best in preventing many testing and
production problems. Some inhibited muds actually cause somewhat low levels of damage that
extend far from the wellbore. However, a zone of almost total damage that extends scant
centimeters from the well may be best. A totally damaged skin will prevent continuous filtration.
A slightly damaged barrier allows continuously deeper filtrate penetration. A corresponding
increase in total damage is the result.

In an attempt to reduce filtrate invasion, operators frequently lower API Filtration Rate. As is
shown in the section, "Control of Filtration Rate", lowering the API values often results in a
dramatic increase in overall invasion. Therefore, damage levels increase.

Additions of small amounts of diesel oil or proprietary agents to reduce torque and drag can
skyrocket dynamic filtration rates. Dramatic increases in damage may result. Oil base muds
have the capacity to create extreme damage levels in gas bearing zones. Lignosulfonate muds
are reported to be inhibitive. However, such muds sometimes cause damage rather than cure
it. Agents that disperse clay in the mud systems are also capable of dispersing the clay
minerals they contact. Lignosulfonates and other organic dispersants can destabilize shales
and other clay bearing zones penetrated by the wellbore. Further, due to solubility and
effectiveness considerations, dispersed muds often contain high hydroxyl ion concentrations
(high pH values).

The hydroxyl ion is extremely destabilizing to some clays. Zones that can be invaded by mud
filtrate containing appreciable levels of hydroxyl ions and chemical dispersants are sometimes
extensively damaged by the release of destabilized and mobile formation fines. On occasion,
the level of damage due to dispersant use is much greater than would result from the use of
untreated fresh water as a base mud.

Potassium treated muds have been well received in many operational areas; however, such
muds are not used without potential problems. In general, any mud containing appreciable salt
content forms a lower quality wall cake than the same mud without the salt.

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The polymer thickeners associated with potassium treated muds are guaranteed to cause
problems with primary cementing of casing. Polymers often result in fluid rheologies which are
unpredictable for proper hole cleaning. Hole cleaning, after all, was listed as the primary
function of the mud system.

Potassium ions have tremendously destabilizing effects on some clay minerals. Although
potassium treated muds are often used to prevent evaluation and production problems, such
muds may well be the actual cause of the problems.

The drilling of a stable hole that can be evaluated and produced in a trouble free manner is a
prime directive to the drilling man. Whether a sophisticated mud system is required to achieve
this goal is open to interpretation in most situations. Drilling personnel must remember that the
addition of treating agents may cure one problem and cause other, more severe problems.


Corrosion and H2S attack are not problematic in most drilling situations. Most oxygen corrosion
is prevented by maintaining pH above 8.5-9.0 values. Oxygen scavengers and/or amine base
inhibitors are usually effective at acceptably low cost. One oxygen scavenger should be
avoided at all cost, however. Tartaric acid, a common industrial oxygen scavenger, is one of
the strongest cement contaminants known. Small amounts of tartaric acid in a mud system can
ruin a primary cement job.

The acid gases, H2S and CO2, are common in some drilling areas. Volume-for-volume,
hydrogen sulfide is almost as poisonous as cyanide gas. Further, H2S reacts with steel to
liberate hydrogen which can penetrate the steel matrix and alter the strength and ductility of the

When H2S is encountered in drilling operations, treatment of the gas should receive priority over
most other mud treatment concepts. Treatment of H2S usually consists of a two-fold regime. A
zinc bearing compound, such as zinc acetate is introduced to precipitate insoluble zinc sulfide,
ZnS. Concurrently, hydroxyl ions are introduced to promote the precipitation and to react with
liberated hydrogen. Various other alkaline metal treatments may also be effective in treating

Carbon dioxide, CO2, is sometimes encountered in large volumes while drilling. The CO2 acts
as a clay mud flocculant and also serves to reduce pH of many water muds. The detection and
treatment of CO2 is covered elsewhere in this chapter under "Control of Alkalinity".

The mud system does little to assist in cementing casing. Unfortunately, an improper mud can
all but prevent successful cementation. Because of the close interrelationship between mud
systems and cementing success, a detailed discussion of mud system effects is presented in
the "Cementing" section elsewhere in this book.


The requirement that a mud system deposit a thin cake and produce minimal filtrate invasion is
simultaneously both logical and largely irrelevant. This paradox is expanded in the sections on

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"Control of Filtration Rate", and "Hole Problems", and in the above section on protection of
formations productivity.

In the section "Purpose Of Drilling Mud," a list of sixteen expectations of an adequate mud
system is presented. Some entries on the list are probably unrealistic. At best, they are
expensive and largely unimportant. As a starting place, most operators should judge a mud
system as adequate if it cleans the hole, contains formation pressures and offers safety from

If the mud performs these three basic requirements, the operator is strongly advised to spend
his remaining money, time and talent on other facets of the drilling operation that will cut overall


Drilling muds are a somewhat stable mixture of solids and liquids. It is convenient to separately
study the phases then determine how liquids, solids and additives interact.

Basic liquid phases used for drilling fluids are broadly characterized into three groups:

• Fresh Water

• Brine systems

• Oil/water emulsions

Fresh water fluid systems account for a majority of total usage. Greatest versatility and lowest
cost generally result from the use of such systems. In simple form, a fresh water system may
contain only water and drill solids. Complexity can grow to include a score or more of additives
to attain a specific drilling need.

Salt containing systems are generally special purpose muds which are selected in order to
reach a fixed set of objectives. Table 4-3 compares and contrasts salt muds versus fresh water

Clear brine can be formulated to almost any density requirements as per Table 4-4.

Sodium chloride, calcium chloride and potassium chloride have seen extensive use. The other
salts offer promise, but are relatively under-developed at present.

Salt muds prohibit the use of bentonite directly into the system. If the cake building quality or
viscosity raising ability of bentonite is needed in salt systems, then a fresh water prehydration pit
is used. Bentonite is mixed in the pre-mix tank then introduced into the salty system as needed.

Polymers are most commonly used to thicken mud systems containing more than 2-3% of salts.

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Table 4-3. Advantages and Disadvantages of Salt Muds versus Fresh Water Muds


1 May be cheapest alternative in off-shore May create disposal problem in some

locations. areas.

2 Can result in better hole stability than fresh Usually requires more chemical treatment
water counterpart. than fresh water mud.

3 Salt saturated systems offer potential of Often more expensive than equivalent fresh
highest possible densities. systems.

4 Resistant to contamination by gypsum

Poor filter cake properties.
bearing zones.
5 High solids tolerance (sometimes). Corrosive.

6 Reduces or prevents hole enlargements in

Difficult to maintain pH.
salt zones.

7 May offer superior penetration rate due to

May interfere with open-hole logs.
low solids content at modest density.
8 May be more dense than needed.

Table 4-4. Density of various Brines

Water-in-oil emulsions are

formulated as the base fluids for oil Density of
muds. Some water content is Brine Type Salt Formula Saturated
needed in all oil muds for the Solution (lb/gal)
purpose of viscosification. Pre- Sodium Chloride NaCl 10.0
formulated water content also allows
protection of oil mud from further Sodium Chloride/ NaCl/Na CO
2 3 10.6
water contamination from drilled Sodium Carbonate
formations and from low volume Sodium Bromide NaBr 11.7
water flows.
Potassium Chloride KCl 9.7
Oil base systems can be formulated
Potassium Bromide KBr 11.4
to weigh as little as 7.5 pounds per
gallon. Other oil systems may have Calcium Chloride CaCL2 11.8
a density as high as 23 pounds per
gallon. Other features of oil muds Calcium Bromide CaBr2 15.1
are as follows:
Calcium Chloride/ CaCl2/ZnCl2 16.0
Zinc Chloride
1. Useful in controlling
corrosion and Zinc Bromide ZnBr2 19.1
embrittlement in H2S

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2. High temperature rheology response varies greatly from very stable to very erratic

3. Resistant to drill solids contamination

4. Easily contaminated by wellbore fluids

5. May contribute to wellbore stability or may cause extreme formation damage

6. Unlikely to offer overall drilling cost reduction

7. May be subject to stringent controls due to environment constraints

8. May cause difficulty in open hole log evaluations

9. Difficult to prevent or control loss of circulation with oil muds


Clay Compounds
Naturally occurring sedimentary clays are broadly grouped into four families.

• Kaolinite group (OH)8Al4Si4O10

• Mica group - Illite (OH)4Ky(Al4Fe4Mg4Mg6) (Si8 y Aly)O20

• Chlorites

• Montmorillonite group

1. Bentonite

2. Hectorite

3. Beidellite

4. Saponite

5. Notorite

Clays are composed of the decomposition products of primary crystalline rocks. The chemical
constituents of the various clays are similar. Structural differences, due to subtle anionic
replacements within the crystalline lattice, result in differentiation of the clay groups. Principal
chemical composition is hydrated alumino silicates with minor concentrations of calcium,
magnesium, lithium, sodium, potassium, iron or other trace elements. Figure 4-1 represents the
structure of a bentonite crystal.

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Figure 4-1. Structure of a Bentonite Particle

The montmorillonite group of clays is used extensively as drilling mud additives.

Montmorillonites naturally occurring in shales and
sandstones often result in drilling problems. The drilled
montmorillonites can dramatically raise mud viscosity
and solids content.

Bentonite, a sodium-rich montmorillonite commonly

referred to as "gel" is widely used as a drilling mud
additive. The alternating silica-alumina-silica layers are
often likened to the pages of a book. Non-hydrated
bentonite shows a layer spacing of less than 10
Angstroms. Fully hydrated bentonitic layer spacing can
be in excess of 40 Angstroms. Figure 4-2 is an electron
micrograph of a bentonite particle.

Bentonite is a common mud thickener. Chemical

binding of water-of-hydration as well as solid-to-solid
friction increase the viscosity of water.

Deflocculated bentonite has good cake building

qualities. It also allows control of filtration rate to the
optimum values of 10-18 cc's/30 min.
Figure 4-2. Electron Micrograph of a
Bentonite Particle enlarged 38,000 times.
Hectorite is lithium montmorillonite clay that has had The very thin platelets are arranged as a
occasional use as a drilling fluid additive. Hectorite Framed-out Deck of Cards.
behavior as a mud thickener and filtration control agent
promises to be superior to bentonite.

Attapulgite, commonly called "salt gel," has been used widely as a thickening agent for salt
contaminated muds. The material apparently increases viscosity by virtue of solid-to-solid
friction as attapulgite shows no inter-crystalline absorption of water. Examination of attapulgite

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under electron microscope resolution (Figure 4-3) shows a slender, needle-like structure with
only surface wetting interactions with water molecules.

Sepiolite, or vermiculite clay shows

structural characteristics similar to
attapulgite with some inter-crystalline
reactivity with water. Sepiolite performance
is unaffected by the presence of salts in the
muds. Sepiolite appears to be superior to
attapulgite as a viscosifier of mud and offers
some beneficial effects upon control of
filtration rate. Attapulgite has little or no
ability to reduce API water loss.

Laboratory studies have shown sepiolite to

maintain stable structural properties at
temperatures approaching 800°F. Field
experiences demonstrate the viability of
sepiolite use as a viscosifying additive for
extreme temperature service.

Drill solids and weighting materials affect

mud properties in a variety of ways:

• The solubility of minor constituents

of drill solids and barite can affect
the rheology of mud.
Figure 4-3. Electron Micrograph of Attapulgite Clay
• Erosion degradation of otherwise showing Open Mesh Structure Magnified 45,000 times.
inert solids can drastically affect (Courtesy: Attapulgus Minerals & Chemical Corp.)
mud properties due to water binding
on the increased surface area.

• Drill solids generally contribute poor quality filter cake properties.

Most chemical treatments for mud systems have effects upon clay/water interactivity.
Regardless of the aim of any mud treatment to be undertaken, the effects on the clay/water
system must be considered. Failure to do so invariably leads to a high cost, poorly performing

Mud treatments are aimed at control of various mud properties. It is useful to study drilling fluids
by examining procedures for the control of individual properties.

Before other aspects of the mud system are considered, it should be remembered that hole
cleaning is the primary function of the mud. The above statement usually received little
argument as a stand-alone item. In actual practice, however, many treatments of other mud
properties reduce lifting capacity.

A separate chapter on hole cleaning has been presented elsewhere in this text. Before dealing
with the hole cleaning aspects of drilling muds, the section on "Control of Viscosity" is essential.

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What is Viscosity? First, it is imperative to understand that viscosity is a laminar flow concept
and has no meaning in turbulent flow. To some, viscosity is the resistance to a fluid to flow
while others call viscosity the "body" of the fluid. Mathematically, viscosity is the proportionality
constant between the shear stress, τ , applied to the fluid and the shear rate, , or rate at
which the fluid is moving. Equation 4-3 is the mathematical expression for viscosity.

τ =µ Equation 4-3

Newtonian fluids such as water have a particular characteristic in laminar or viscous flow. As
illustrated in Figure 4-4, the viscosity of a Newtonian fluid is constant (i.e. the relationship
between shear stress and shear rate is linear). The shear stress-shear rate diagram for water
at 60°F for example is a straight line through the origin and having a slope of 45 degrees. The
viscosity of water at 60°F therefore is one centipoise regardless of the shear rate, provided that
the flow is laminar.

Shear rate is a function of how fast the fluid is moving relative to a surface. Mathematically,
however, shear rate is the rate of change of fluid velocity with radius. As illustrated in Figure
4-5, the velocity at midpoint of the flow stream is a maximum, V max, while the velocity at the
wall, V wall, is at zero or a minimum. Therefore, the velocity changes from radius, "r", to zero.
Expressed in a different way the shear rate, , is the slope of the velocity profile.

Figure 4-4. Shear Stress-Shear Rate Diagram for Figure 4-5. Shear Rate
Water at 60 F

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Oil field drilling fluids are not Newtonian fluids and are referred to as non-Newtonian fluids.
Early attempts to describe the behavior of drilling muds utilized the Bingham Plastic concept.
The viscous characteristics of a Bingham Plastic fluid are illustrated in Figure 4-6 and related
mathematically in Equation 4-4.

τ = Yp + PV Equation 4-4

As illustrated in Figure 4-6, the Bingham Plastic fluid requires a finite shear stress, defined as
the yield point to initiate flow. Once flow is initiated, the shear stress-shear rate diagram is
linear with the slope being defined as the plastic viscosity. This Bingham Plastic concept was
adopted and is widely used in the industry.

However, by the early 1960's, the industry had become aware that the drilling mud was a "shear
thinning fluid." That is, the faster the fluid moves, the thinner it becomes. Experimentally, it
became apparent that drilling fluids exhibited viscous characteristics more nearly described by
the Power Law Fluid model illustrated in Figure 4-7 and described mathematically as Equation
4-5. Figure 4-8 is a rheological curve of a Power Law fluid plotted on log-log paper. A Power
Law fluid will exhibit a straight line on log-log paper.

⎛ dv ⎞
τ = k⎜ ⎟ Equation 4-5
⎝ dr ⎠

It is now well established that drilling muds exhibit power law behavior at least over primary
intervals of interest. Several examples of rheological behavior of different type muds will be


Figure 4-6. Shear Stress - Shear Rate Diagram Figure 4-7. Shear Stress - Shear Rate
for Bingham Plastic Fluids Diagram for Power-Law Fluids

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Figure 4-8. Log Plot of Shear Stress - Shear Rate Diagram for Power-Law Fluid

The earliest method of measuring viscosity in oil field drilling operations utilized the Marsh
Funnel, illustrated in Figure 4-9. The funnel is filled with mud poured over the screen and
contains 1,500 cc of mud. A finger is held over the outlet during filling. The finger is then
removed and the time required to deliver one quart (942 cc) or 1,000 cc is measured in seconds
and is given as the funnel viscosity with units of seconds per quart or seconds per 1,000 cc.
The Marsh Funnel is calibrated with water. The funnel viscosity of water is 26 seconds per
quart or 28 seconds per 1,000 cc's. There is absolutely no relationship between Marsh Funnel
viscosity and any scientific concept of viscosity.

Later, the Fann Viscometer was developed. A typical Fann Viscometer is illustrated in Figure
4-10. The sleeve and plumb assembly are immersed in mud. The sleeve "A" is rotated at
different speeds or revolutions per minute, rpm. Shear rate is related to viscometer speed by
Equation 4-6.

= 1.703W Equation 4-6

The fluid acts on the plumb "B" which is affixed to a calibrated spring "C". The shear stress is
read directly on the dial face “D.”

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Figure 4-9. The Marsh Funnel Figure 4-10. The Fann Viscometer

The first two speed viscometers were built to specifically define Bingham Plastic behavior. As
illustrated in Figure 4-11, the shear
stress, θ 600 , was measured at 600 rpm
(1,022 sec-1) as was the shear stress,
θ , at 300 rpm (511 sec-1). The units’
conversion is such that when the θ 300
subtracted from θ 600 the result is the
slope of the shear stress-shear rate
diagram or the plastic viscosity (equally
often abbreviated, PV) and the units are
automatically in centipoise. Further,
when the plastic viscosity is subtracted
from the 300 rpm viscometer reading,
θ 300 , the result is the intercept or yield
point and the units are pounds force per
one hundred square feet, lbf/100-ft2.
These Bingham Plastic constants are
mathematically defined as Equations 4-7
and 4-8. Figure 4-11. Bingham Plastic Fluid

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PV = θ 600 − θ 300 Equation 4-7

Yp = θ 300 − PV Equation 4-8

Similarly for the Power Law Fluid model, the rheological constants “n” and “k” in Figure 4-8 are
given by Equations 4-9 and 4-10 as follows:

⎛θ ⎞
n = 3.32 log⎜⎜ 2 ⎟⎟ Equation 4-9
⎝ θ1 ⎠

k= n
Equation 4-10
⎛ dv ⎞
⎜⎜ ⎟⎟
⎝ dr i ⎠

In Equation 4-9, the second viscometer reading of shear stress, θ 2 , must be at twice the rpm as
the first viscometer reading of shear stress, θ1 . An example would be θ 2 at 600 rpm and θ1 at
300 rpm or θ 2 at 50 rpm and θ1 at 25 rpm. In Equation 4-10, is the shear rate or rpm of
dr i
the viscometer where the shear stress reading θ i was obtained. The shear stress, θ i , and
shear rate, , must be between or equal to θ1 and θ 2 and n is the slope of the line between
dr i
θ1 and θ 2 . Example 4-1 shows how Equations 4-9 and 4-10 are used.

Example 4-1
Given: A. θ 2 = θ 600 = 45 lbf/100ft2

θ1 = θ300 = 31 lbf/100ft2

θ i = θ300 = 31 lbf/100ft2

B. θ 2 = θ100 = 25 lbf/100ft2

θ1 = θ 50 = 16 lbf/100ft2

θ i = θ100 = 25 lbf/100ft2

Determine: The rheological constants ' n' and ' k ' for A and B.

Solution: A. Calculate the slope, n .

⎛θ ⎞ ⎛θ ⎞
n = 3.32 log⎜⎜ 2 ⎟⎟ = 3.32 log⎜⎜ 600 ⎟⎟
⎝ θ1 ⎠ ⎝ θ 300 ⎠

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⎛ 45 ⎞
n = 3.32 log⎜ ⎟ = 0.5373
⎝ 31 ⎠

k= n
⎛ dv ⎞
⎜⎜ ⎟⎟
⎝ dr i ⎠

= (1.703 )(W i )
dr i

= (1.703 )(300 ) = 511 sec −1
dr i

k= = 1.0867

B. Again, calculate slope “n.”

⎛ 25 ⎞
n = 3.32 log⎜ ⎟ = 0.6435
⎝ 16 ⎠

= (1.703)(100 ) = 170 sec −1
dr i

k= = 0.9176
170 0.6435

It should be obvious by now that the viscosity of a drilling mud is too complicated to be
expressed in terms of how fast it will flow out of a funnel. Viscosity for non-Newtonian fluids
must be expressed in terms of "equivalent thickness," µ e . It is imperative in critical well
operations to understand the rheological behavior of the drilling fluid which must be represented
first by a shear stress-shear rate diagram and second by some finite number. Even then, curve
shape and number analysis should be considered along with fluid type and hole conditions.

Solving Equations 4-3 and 4-4, and Equations 4-3 and 4-5 simultaneously and letting " µ " in
Equation 4-3 become the equivalent thickness " µ e " yields the following expressions for
equivalent thickness.

Pipe Flow
267Yp D
Bingham Plastic: µ e = PV + Equation 4-11

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Drilling Practices
Chapter 4

⎡⎛ 1.6v ⎞⎛ 3n + 1 ⎞⎤ 200kD
Power Law: µ e = ⎢⎜ ⎟⎜ ⎟⎥ Equation 4-12
⎣⎝ D ⎠⎝ 4n ⎠⎦ v

Annular Flow
300Yp (Dh − D p )
Bingham Plastic: µ e = PV + Equation 4-13

⎡⎛ 2.4v ⎞⎛ 2n + 1 ⎞⎤ 200 k (Dh − D p )
Power Law: µ e = ⎢⎜ ⎟⎜ ⎟⎥ Equation 4-14
⎢⎣⎜⎝ Dh − D p ⎟⎝ 3n ⎠⎥
⎠ ⎦

It can also be shown that the average shear rate can be given by:

Pipe Flow
⎛ 1.6v ⎞⎛ 3n + 1 ⎞
γp =⎜ ⎟⎜ ⎟ Equation 4-15
⎝ D ⎠⎝ 4n ⎠

Annular Flow
⎛ 2.4v ⎞⎛ 2n + 1 ⎞
γa = ⎜ ⎟⎜ ⎟ Equation 4-16
⎜ Dh − D p ⎟⎝ 3n ⎠
⎝ ⎠

In which case the equivalent thickness may be approximated by

479θ γ
µe = Equation 4-17

The average fluid velocity, v , can be calculated using Equations 4-18 and 4-19.

Pipe Flow
v = Equation 4-18

Annular Flow
v = Equation 4-19
Dh 2 − D p 2

Common field examples of shear stress-shear rate diagrams for muds routinely used worldwide
are presented as Figure 4-12 through Figure 4-18. The data used in preparing these Figures
was gathered using 6-speed and multi-speed viscometers to evaluate actual operating mud

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Drilling Practices
Drilling Fluids

systems. The observed linearity on log paper confirms that the muds used today exhibit Power
Law behavior over all or parts of the range of shear rates investigated. The mud viscosity is of
most interest in the annulus, and, as we shall soon see, the average annular shear rates are
greater than 3 rpm and less than 100 rpm. Since the six speed viscometer measures data at
only 600, 300, 200, 100, 6 and 3 rpm, more data are needed to describe fluid behavior in the
interval between 6 rpm and 100 rpm. It is interesting to note that few field muds shear stress-
shear rate diagrams are without discontinuities over the range of shear rates investigated.
These discontinuities often result in misleading rheological evaluations. For example, rheology
is routinely evaluated using the 300 rpm and 600 rpm viscometer readings which are often
inconsistent with the annular shear rates. Consider Example 4-2.

Figure 4-12. Unweighted Sea Water – Gel Mud Figure 4-13. Sea Water Gel - Polymer
Mud Weight – 8.8 lb/gal Mud Weight - 10 lb/gal
Funnel Viscosity - 44 sec/qt Funnel Viscosity - 50 sec/qt
Offshore Africa Offshore Africa

Example 4-2
Given: The rheological data in Figure 4-14

Average annular velocity is 101 fpm

Diameter of hole is 12¼ inches

Diameter of drill pipe is 5 inches

Copyright © 2006 OGCI/PetroSkills. All rights reserved. 4-19

Drilling Practices
Chapter 4

Figure 4-14. Sea Water – Polymer Figure 4-15. Dispersed Fresh Water Mud
Mud Weight – 13.6 lb/gal Mud Weight – 10.6 lb/gal
Funnel Viscosity - 53 sec/qt Funnel Viscosity – 160 sec/qt
North Sea Anadarko Basin

Figure 4-16. Oil Emulsion Mud Figure 4-17. Sea Water - Polymer
Mud Weight – 15.0 lb/gal Mud Weight – 9.0 lb/gal
Funnel Viscosity - 62 sec/qt Funnel Viscosity – 43 sec/qt
Temperature – 120oF South East Asia
Deep Anadarko Basin

4-20 Copyright © 2006 OGCI/PetroSkills. All rights reserved.

Drilling Practices
Drilling Fluids

Figure 4-18. Flocculated Bentonite

Mud Weight – 9.0 lb/gal
Funnel Viscosity - 48 sec/qt
Rocky Mountains

Determine: A. The average annular shear rate using the portion of the shear
stress-shear rate diagram above 100 rpm and that portion below
100 rpm.

B. Determine ' µ e ' using the classical Bingham Plastic Model at the
600 and 300 rpm readings.

C. Determine ' µ e ' using the classical Power Law Model at the 600
and 300 rpm reading.

D. Determine ' µ e ' using the Power Law Model and the shear stress-
shear rate diagram below 100 rpm.

E. Determine ' µ e ' using the direct shear stress-shear rate reading
using both shear rates determined in part A.

Solution: A. The average annular shear rate can be determined from Equation
4-16; however, the value ‘ n ’ must be determined. From Figure
4-14, the shear stress at the 600 and 300 readings are 48 and 33,
respectively. Calculate ‘ n ’ using the 600 and 300 readings using
Equation 4-9.

⎛ 48 ⎞
n = 3.32 log⎜ ⎟ = 0.5403
⎝ 33 ⎠

Using Equation 4-16, the shear rate in the annulus is:

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Drilling Practices
Chapter 4

⎛ 2.4v ⎞⎛ 2n + 1 ⎞
γa = ⎜ ⎟⎜ ⎟
⎜ Dh − D p ⎟⎝ 3n ⎠
⎝ ⎠

⎡ (2.4 )(101) ⎤ ⎡ (2)(0.5403 ) + 1⎤

γa = ⎢ ⎥ ⎢ ⎥ = 43 sec −1
⎣ (12.25 − 5 )⎦ ⎣ (3 )(0.5403 ) ⎦

Equation 4-6 can be used to determine the rpm's on the

viscometer where the shear rate is 43 sec-1.

= 1.7W

43 = 1.7W

W = 25 rpm

The annular shear rate below the 100 rpm reading can be
determined using the shear stress readings of 25 and 50 that are
11.3 and 14.6, respectively.

⎛ 14.6 ⎞
n = 3.32 log⎜ ⎟ = 0.3694
⎝ 11.3 ⎠

⎡ (2.4)(101) ⎤ ⎡ ( 2)(0.3694 ) + 1⎤
γa = ⎢ ⎥ ⎢ ⎥ = 52 sec -1
⎣ (12.25 − 5) ⎦ ⎣ (3)(0.3694 ) ⎦

52 = 1.7W

W = 31rpm

B. The equivalent thickness can be determined using Equation 4-11,

but the plastic viscosity and yield point must first be determined
using Equations 4-7 and 4-8

PV = θ 600 − θ 300

PV = 48 − 33 = 15 cp

Yp = θ 300 − PV

Yp = 33 − 15 = 18 lb f / 100ft 2

The equivalent thickness can be calculated using Equation 4-13.

300Yp (Dh − D p )
µ e = PV +

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Drilling Practices
Drilling Fluids

(300 )(18)(12.25 − 5)
µ e = 15 + = 403 cp

C. Equation 4-14 can be used to determine the equivalent thickness

for the Power-law Model. The value of ‘n’ was determined in Part
A to be 0.5403. Equation 4-10 is used to calculate ‘ k ’.

θi θ 300
k= n
⎛ dv ⎞ 511n
⎜⎜ ⎟⎟
⎝ dr i ⎠

k= = 1.1354

⎡⎛ 2.4v ⎞⎛ 2n + 1 ⎞⎤ 200 k (Dh − D p )
µ e = ⎢⎜ ⎟⎜ ⎟⎥
⎢⎣⎜⎝ Dh − D p ⎟⎝ 3n ⎠⎥
⎠ ⎦

⎧⎡ (2.4)(101) ⎤ ⎡ (2)(0.5403 ) + 1⎤ ⎫ ⎡ (200 )(1.1354 )(12.25 − 5) ⎤
µ e = ⎨⎢ ⎥⎢ ⎥⎬ ⎢ ⎥
⎩⎣ (12.25 − 5) ⎦ ⎣ (3)(0.5403 ) ⎦ ⎭ ⎣ 101 ⎦

µ e = 125 cp

D. Equation 4-14 can also be used to calculate the equivalent

thickness using the 50 and 25 rpm readings from Part A.
Calculate ‘ n ’ and ‘ k ’ from the 50 and 25 rpm readings.

θ 50
n = 3.32 log
θ 25

n = 3.32 log = 0.3694

k= = 2.8285
(25 × 1.7)0.3694
µ e = 175 cp

E. The two shear rates determined in part A where 25 rpm and 31

rpm based on the curve from 600 to 300 and 50 to 25,
respectively. The shear stress can be read directly from Figure
4-14 at both 25 and 31 rpm. At 25 rpm the shear stress is 11.3-
lbf/100ft2 and the shear stress at 31 rpm is 12.3 lbf /100ft2.
Equation 4-17 can be used to calculate the equivalent thickness
using the direct shear stress method.

Copyright © 2006 OGCI/PetroSkills. All rights reserved. 4-23

Drilling Practices
Chapter 4

479θ γ
µe =

At 43 sec-1 and 25 rpm (300 to 600 region of shear stress-shear

rate curve).

( 479 )(11.3)
µe = = 126 cp

At 52 sec-1 and 31 rpm (25 to 50 region of shear stress-shear rate


( 479 )(12.3)
µe = = 113 cp

Example 4-2 illustrates many problems associated with rheological evaluation of drilling fluids.
As shown, the shear rates in the annulus for most drilling operations are less than 170 sec-1 or
100 rpm. Therefore, any rheological evaluations based on the 300 rpm and 600 rpm viscometer
readings do not represent the behavior of the fluid in the annulus and are potentially in gross
error. In Example 4-2, the fluid exhibits Power Law behavior over the interval of annular
behavior; therefore, using the Power Law fluid model for evaluation is the most accurate.
However, extrapolating the Power Law behavior in the 300 rpm and 600 rpm range to the
annular shear rates of 50 rpm results in an error of almost 30 percent.

By now, it should be obvious that the common two speed viscometer is worthless for any
meaningful rheological evaluation. The six speed viscometer is not much better since it skips
from 6 rpm to 100 rpm which is precisely the interval of interest. It should be equally obvious
that the use of the concept of plastic viscosity and yield point in decision making can and often
does lead to erroneous conclusions. In critical well situations, the multi-speed viscometer is an
absolute must since it is the only tool available to describe the fluid behavior over the range of
shear rates of interest.

Which method of evaluation is the most accurate? The shear stress-shear rate diagram must
be plotted to know. If the data plots a straight line over the range of shear rates of interest, the
Power Law concept is most accurate and should be used utilizing the constants " n " and " k "
appropriate for that range. In the highly unlikely event that the data are a straight line on
rectangular coordinate paper, the fluid is Bingham Plastic and that model should be used. In
the event that the fluid exhibits erratic behavior the concept of direct shear stress should be
used. Beyond this, evaluation becomes a question of degrees of inaccuracy, or in other words,
which technique is potentially the least inaccurate. With only two speed data, Power Law
analysis is probably less inaccurate than direct shear stress or Bingham Plastic analysis. Any
attempt to attach any significance to the Funnel Viscosity is a joke. In modern drilling
operations, the concepts of Funnel Viscosity, Plastic Viscosity and Yield Point should be used
solely for communicating mud stability and mud mixing requirements.

As Example 4-2 illustrates, the muds thickness is reflected in the Yield Point while the solids in
the muds are reflected in the Plastic Viscosity. In Example 4-2.B, 388 cp of the total equivalent
thickness of 403 cp is attributed to the Yield Point function. The Power Law constants are more
intertwined, and clear distinctions of the affect of n and k on the viscosity are not possible.

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Drilling Practices
Drilling Fluids

Table 4-5 summarizes the rheology of the random, typical field muds presented as Figure 4-12
through Figure 4-18. This summary demonstrates the folly of attempting to make any logical
conclusion based on Funnel Viscosity. The muds in Figure 4-12 and Figure 4-17 are
comparable with equivalent Funnel viscosities of 44 sec/qt and 43 sec/qt, respectively. The
Plastic Viscosities and Yield Points are very different. The equivalent thickness of mud in
Figure 4-12 is 4.6 times that of mud in Figure 4-17. Notice also that the Funnel Viscosity of mud
in Figure 4-15 is 3.6 times higher than that for mud in Figure 4-12 while the actual equivalent
thickness of mud in Figure 4-15 is little more than one-half that of mud in Figure 4-12. The
unreliability of the Bingham Plastic model is emphasized in the summary of mud in Figure 4-15.
The equivalent thickness using the Bingham Plastic model is almost 7.5 times the most
accurate value of 174 cp. Finally, the potential problems resulting from analyzing only two
speed data are apparent. Figure 4-15 and Figure 4-17, the two speed data are accurate.
However, in Figure 4-18, the actual thickness is 1.5 times that obtained using the two speed
data. It should also be observed that the average annular shear rates, γ , range between 18
rpm and 108 rpm and are nowhere near 300 rpm and 600 rpm.

Table 4-5. Calculated Equivalent Thickness and Rheology Constans for Figure 4-12 through Figure 4-18
(BP: Bingham Plastic, PL: Power Law, DSS: Direct Shear Stress)




γ n n
NUMBER (ppg) (sec/qt) BP (600,300) (100,50) DSS (rpm) PV Yp (600,300) k (100,50) k

4-12 8.8 44 494 295 304 94 95 5 34 0.17 13.0 0.13 16.0

4-13 10.0 50 149 90 5 66 108 16 25 0.48 2.1 0.48 2.1

4-14 13.6 53 403 125 175 126 31 15 18 0.54 1.1 0.37 28.0

4-15 10.6 160 1288 174 174 108 43 21 114 0.74 1.3 0.74 1.3

4-16 15.0 62 82 46 102 70 81 29 7 0.85 0.2 0.43 2.45

4-17 9.0 43 226 66 66 62 25 8 10 0.54 0.6 0.54 0.6

4-18 9.0 48 1578 584 893 203 18 3 15 0.22 4.6 0.09 9.4

There is yet another variable to consider, and that is temperature. Considerable research
performed on the effect of temperature on drilling muds has resulted in the conclusion that the
effect of temperature is not always predictable. One of the better studies was reported by
Bartlett1 and is summarized by Table 4-6, and Figure 4-19 through Figure 4-21.

Copyright © 2006 OGCI/PetroSkills. All rights reserved. 4-25

Drilling Practices
Chapter 4

Figure 4-19 illustrates the shear stress-shear rate diagram for a mud composed 21 ppb
bentonite. Table 4-6 summarized the equivalent
thickness calculated at 100 sec-1 and 1,000 sec-1 Table 4-6. Equivalent Thickness Calculated
and illustrates that the mud is a shear thinning fluid. from Figure 4-19

At 76°F and 100 sec-1, the mud has an equivalent

thickness of 220 cp which is very thick. Therefore, Temperature µ e (cp) µ e (cp)
this mud would appear thick at the surface and
°F 100 sec-1 1,000 sec-1
would check thick on a cool day. At 120°F or an
equivalent depth of approximately 6,000 feet, the 76 220 24
equivalent thickness is only 81 cp or almost one
120 81 25
third its value of 76°F. From 120°F to 220°F to
300°F it thins to 62 cp or 25 percent of its thickness 170 115 27
at 76°F. By similar analysis, the more stable mud in 220 139 17
Figure 4-21 has an equivalent thickness of 96 cp at
72°F and only 23 cp at 320°F. Or in a different 300 62 21
perspective, the mud at the bottom of this deep well is only ¼ as thick as it is at the surface.

Obviously, it can be very misleading to

measure and evaluate rheology from pit
samples in cold climates. The same would
apply to flow line samples from the North
Sea where water temperatures over-cool the
returning muds. Mud rheology should be
reported at temperatures that most
represent annular conditions. As a start,
heated viscometer cups should be used to
measure rheology at routinely consistent
temperatures such as 120°F. Beware! If
rheology at a consistent temperature of, for
example, 120°F is suddenly substituted for
that obtained at random temperatures,
management may have a coronary!

Pressure has no appreciable effect on the

viscosity of water base muds. However,
pressure does affect the viscosity of oil base
muds. To date, there has been no definitive
work in this area apart from the recognition
that the effect may be significant.

In general it is better to control viscosity by
Figure 4-19. 21 lb/bbl Bentonite the absence or presence of viscosifying
additives. In other words, if viscosity is
required, add something to increase viscosity. By the same token, if viscosity is not required, do
not add viscosifying agents. The common field practice of adding thickeners and thinners at the
same time is, in most cases, absolutely crazy.

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Drilling Practices
Drilling Fluids

Figure 4-20. 6 lb/bbl Lignosulfonate Figure 4-21. 15 lb/bbl Lignosulfonate

25 lb/bbl Bentonite 25 lb/bbl Bentonite
350 lb/bbl Barite 350 lb/bbl Barite
pH 9.5 pH 9.5

The most versatile and common additive to increase viscosity is bentonite. By API specification
bentonite must yield 91.8 bbls of 15 cp mud per ton of dry material. The laboratory equivalent
specification is 22.5 grams per 350 cc's of distilled water. That amount is equivalent to 22.5
pounds of bentonite per barrel of mud. By API specification, that concentration must have an
apparent viscosity (defined as the 600 rpm reading divided by two) of 15 cp and an API static
fluid loss of 13.5 cc's per 30 minutes. There is a shortage of naturally occurring clays that
conform to this specification. In order to meet API specifications, many clays are peptized. The
most common peptizing agents are sodium carbonate, polyacrylic acid, sodium polyacrylate
(Cypan), benex, carboxy methyl cellulose (CMC), sodium sulfate, and magnesium sulfate.

The API will soon vote to adopt a new specification for API untreated bentonite in addition to the
old specification. The new proposal expected within the year is based on a 25 ppb
concentration. A mud of that concentration must have a Yield Point to Plastic Viscosity ratio
less than or equal to one and API static fluid loss less than 12.5 cc's per 30 minutes. There will
be no apparent viscosity requirements. However, there will be a new dispersed Plastic
Viscosity specification. The 25 ppb concentration must have a Plastic Viscosity of 10 cp or
greater when dispersed with 5 cc's of sodium hexameta phosphate (SAPP).

The amount of bentonite used in a system is a function of weight and hole conditions.
Generally, the amount needed to clean the hole is added either to the entire system or to
periodic slugs. With weighted muds, the key to success is to limit the bentonite content. The
higher the weight, the less bentonite required.

Copyright © 2006 OGCI/PetroSkills. All rights reserved. 4-27

Drilling Practices
Chapter 4

Due to the colloidal nature of the clay particle, bentonite is subject to temperature instability at
temperatures above 200°F. Flocculation of the bentonite is signaled by an increase in API fluid
loss, Yield Point, and equivalent thickness. Laboratory tests and field experience indicates that
raising the pH to 10-10.5 will significantly improve the temperature stability of the bentonite.

When bentonite is used in un-weighted muds, the mud may be thickened by purposely
flocculating the muds. Normally, lime is added to bentonite and water to flocculate the system.
However, the hydroxyl ions will raise the pH with a tendency to stabilize the system. In a
flocculated system, if the pH exceeds ten, calcium sulfate or gypsum should be substituted for
the lime. Flocculated systems produce a thicker, stickier filter cake and a tendency toward
differential pressure sticking opposite permeable formation. Generally, it is possible to carry
lower mud weights with flocculated systems and solids control is more effective.

Over the last twenty years, polymers have become very popular as viscosifying agents. The
polymers used fall into three general categories.

1. bentonite extenders

2. collodial polymers

3. long chain polymers.

The bentonite extenders are selective flocculants that react with bentonite to raise the
equivalent thickness. Benex is a typical example. The collodial polymers have been a part of
drilling since drilling was a part of the business. Typically, collodial polymers thicken the fluid
phase. Polymers of this type are the starches and gums. The collodial polymers improve
filtration control and filter cake qualities. However, these polymers are generally detrimental in
field operations. Penetration rates and bit life suffers.

The industry has become particularly enamored with the long chain sugar polymers. These
polymers were first developed for use in remote areas such as the Alaskan North Slope since
one 2-pound bag has the equivalent thickening ability of a 100-pound sack of bentonite. While
these polymers have specific application, the wide spread use does not seem economically
justifiable. Recent tests indicate temperature limitations as low as 180°F. Filtration properties
are not so good resulting in increased
hole problems. In field operations, Table 4-7. Performance of Polymer Muds in Canada
polymer muds are not as well
understood and often behave
erratically. Since the polymers NON-DISPERSED
themselves required considerable POLYMER BENTONITE
water, mud weights are limited to ITEM SYSTEM SYSTEM
approximately 14 ppg. Although billed
in the 70's as "Rapid Drill" systems, Days 75-85 40-50
comparisons with conventional
systems have not often been that Bits 14 6-7
flattering. Table 4-7 summarized one
company's experience in Alberta. Mud Cost $170,000 $60,000
Polymer systems were being used to
drill new wells in an oil field. Total Well Costs +$1,700,000
Engineers discovered that the
performance with the polymers was considerably poorer than the earlier wells which used clay-

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Drilling Practices
Drilling Fluids

water systems. This data prompted the use of clay water systems and the comparisons of
Table 4-7.

Viscosity reduction is accomplished by mechanical aids, dilution, dispersants, or combinations.

Mechanical aids have been previously discussed, are vital for all mud systems and should be
properly and economically utilized in all drilling operations. Dilution with water should be the
first choice of a thinner in an un-weighted system. In polymer systems, there is no other choice
as no chemical dispersants will reduce the viscosity of a polymer system.

Chemical thinners generally react with the

clay particles to destroy the affinity of the
Table 4-8. Common Dispersants
clays. They are more properly called
dispersants in that they disperse the clays.
Table 4-8 lists some of the more common TRADE
dispersants along with some trade names. CHEMICAL NAME TREATMENT

The phosphates are the oldest and Phosphates SAPP 0.1 ppb
strongest thinners. They are ineffective at
temperatures above 175°F and in the Q-Broxin
presence of large quantities of calcium. Lignosulfonates Spersene 2.0 ppb
However, phosphates are very inexpensive
and should be considered.
The Lignosulfonates are a by-product of the
lumber industry and have become very Tannathin
popular thinners. Lignosulfonates alone Lignite Mil-con 2.0 ppb
decompose at temperatures of
approximately 200°F. Heavy metals such as
chrome have been complexed into the CC-16
lignosulfonates to provide temperature
stability to 300°F. However, significant
decomposition occurs between 200°F and Tannin Desco < 2.0 ppb
300°F. Tests have indicated that Aqua-Magic
lignosulfonates liberate hydrogen sulfide at
temperatures below 400°F and carbon dioxide at temperatures less than 280°F. As with most
organic additives, the lignosulfonates are insoluble at a pH of less than approximately 9.5.

Also, due to the solubility problems, lignosulfonates as well as all organic additives should be
added thorough a chemical barrel as opposed to directly to the system. Considerable savings
in excess of 25 percent are usually realized through the proper use of a chemical barrel.

Lignite is sub-bituminous coal. Lignite is primarily known for its ability to reduce gel strength.
As with the other organic additives, heavy metal complexes such as chrome are necessary to
provide temperature stability. Lignite alone decomposes and is ineffective above 250°F.
Combined with chrome, lignite is used to 350°F. The solubility of lignite is very low under the
best conditions. The best effort is to mix caustic water and lignite through the chemical barrel.
Some commercial materials contain caustic. Under the conditions, solubility range from 60-85
percent. Adding lignite directly to the system is a waste of time.

Copyright © 2006 OGCI/PetroSkills. All rights reserved. 4-29

Drilling Practices
Chapter 4

Tannins are made from the bark of the Quebracho tree and are old thinners. They were used in
the high pH lime muds of the 40's and 50's. They were not very effective at lower pH and
limited to temperatures of less than 200°F. In recent years, the tannins have been improved.
Desco is sulfo methylated tannin prepared by reacting quebracho with sodium sulfate and
formaldehyde. Sodium chromate is added to the final dried product. A chrome salt complex is
formed with water. Tests indicate stability throughout the range of temperatures 400°F without
significant decomposition. Tests to 450°F were conducted. The muds tested were still fluid,
although thickened. Thermal degradation was also observed. The chrome tannins out-
performed all other thinners at high temperatures. Aqua magic is a similar product composed of
alkali lignin, quebracho, lignite, chromium salt and caustic. Laboratory tests indicated that it was
unstable above 350°F.

Trouble shooting drilling problems related to viscosity is not always easy. The entire operation
must be considered as an entity and each part evaluated in light of the entity. No text book can
be written to cover all the potential problems and their solutions. As those problems relate to
viscosity, hole condition must be a prime consideration. If all is well, don't mess with the mud! If
the hole is not being cleaned, thicken the mud regardless of any rheological values. Experience
must be combined with technology to reach right conclusions. Rheological properties are only
tools. A flocculated mud is highly non-Newtonian and will have a low ' n ' and a high ' k '. The
YP will usually be high and the P ratio greater than one. The API water loss will be high.
Muds flocculate for several reasons--temperature and many sources of contamination. If no
drilling problems are associated with the contamination, drill on and don't mess with the mud.

If drilling or circulating problems cannot be ignored, treat the problem. Severely cement
contaminated mud has a high pH and virtually solidifies when quiescent. Throw it away.
Carbonate contaminated mud flocculates. Add lime (calcium hydroxide) to raise the pH and
precipitate the carbonate. Carbon dioxide contamination will drop the pH and solidify the mud in
the hole to the extent that circulation is almost impossible. Raise the weight to prevent the influx
of carbon dioxide, raise the pH with caustic (NaOH) and disperse the system. In weighted
muds, too much viscosity is a common problem. Start with absolute minimum clay content. If
the mud thickens, disperse with the cheapest, most applicable additive. Highly dispersed
systems have a high ' n ' (0.85-1.0) and low ' k ' (<1), a low yield point and a P ratio of less
than one. Utilize the solids control equipment, especially the centrifuge.

Muds exhibiting continual erratic behavior and expensive maintenance costs are probably
contaminated beyond repair. Throw it away and start over. An un-weighted mud in the Rocky
Mountains was costing thousands per day to maintain pumpability. Colter counter analysis
revealed that 60 percent of the solids were smaller than six microns. The mud needed to be
discarded. A weighted polymer mud was being used in Central America. Stuck pipe was
experienced daily. The mud was replaced with bentonite, barite, water and caustic. No more
problems were experienced. These are only broad generalities of only a few of the most
common problems. Yours may be different.


The gel strength of a drilling fluid is a measure of the minimum shearing stress necessary to
produce slip-wise movement. The gel strength of a drilling fluid is measured at 10 seconds and
10 minutes. The drilling fluid is stirred in the rotating viscometer (at high speed) for

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Drilling Practices
Drilling Fluids

approximately 10 to 15 seconds and then stopped. For the initial gel strength, the drilling fluid is
allowed to set for 10 seconds and then the gel strength knob is turned on the rheometer. The
maximum deflection on the dial before it breaks back is the gel strength in lbf/100ft2. The
procedure is repeated for the 10 minute gel strength except the sample is allowed to set for 10
minutes before turning the gel strength knob.

Gel strengths are caused predominantly by the attraction between particles in the drilling fluid,
but also by the friction between the particles and the fluid. Gel strengths generally increase with
time. The initial and 10 minute gel strengths are an indication of how progressive the gel
strengths can be. Some drilling fluids continue to increase gel strength over long periods of
time while others do not. A large difference between the initial and 10 minute gel strength may
indicate progressive gel strength. A smaller difference may indicate flat or fragile gel strength

If the gel strength gets too high on trips, it may be difficult to break circulation when tripping
back in the hole. The higher the gel strength, the greater the pressure required to break
circulation. When close to the frac gradient or where lost circulation is a problem, it may not be
possible to break circulation. The drilling fluid will take the path of least resistance and will be
pumped out into the formation rather than circulate.

The gel strength is also an indication of how well the drilling fluid will suspend cuttings and
barite while not circulating. Higher gel strengths will do a better job of suspending cuttings
helping to minimize problems with bridges and tight hole on trips. Some muds have specifically
been designed to generate very high, yet fragile, gel strengths to suspend particles. Since the
gel strengths are fragile, they break easily and the mud thins rapidly as the fluid starts to move.


Control of "water loss" or API filtration rate is commonly exercised in many drilling operations for
one or more of the following reasons:

1. Reduce filtrate invasion

• In order to decrease levels of formation damage.

• Reduce shale sloughing

• To facilitate formation evaluation by means of DST's, core evaluation or

logging operations.

2. Thin the wall cake

3. Reduce differential pressure sticking

4. Prevent loss of liquid phase to reduce costs or to facilitate control of other mud

The reader is advised that this list of reasons to control water loss has been repeated wholly or
in part by participants in over 100 drilling seminars. The list is presented for historical reference
only. While all of the above aims are reasonable to attempt, some strong doubt exists that
control of API filtration rates will accomplish the results desired. What is the API test and what
does it tell us?

Copyright © 2006 OGCI/PetroSkills. All rights reserved. 4-31

Drilling Practices
Chapter 4

The definition of API Filtration Rate (Static Fluid Loss) is the volume of filtrate in milliliters
passing through API test paper ( kw = 30-40 md, exposed area = 7 in ) in 30 minute at an
imposed pressure of 100 psi at 76°F (25°C). Figure 4-22 shows one type of filter press
commonly used to measure water loss.

No simple mathematical relationship exists to express the relationship

of filtrate volume to the variables controlling static filtration. An
extension of Darcy's Law to consider rate of fluid loss to be
proportional to differential pressure and inversely proportional to
filtrate viscosity and cake thickness would lead to Equation 4-20.

dv f KP
= Equation 4-20
dt µLtf

Studies have shown that filter cake permeability varies widely with
confining pressure according to the compressibility, solids content,
and packing efficiency.

Cake thickness is a function of volume already collected. Equation 4-

20 can then be modified to form Equation 4-21. Table 4-9 shows
which terms in Equation 4-21 will be affected by certain mud

dv f cP 1−b
= Equation 4-21
Figure 4-22. Standard Low
Pressure Filter Press
dt µ L Sr s v f

Muds with flocculated clay contents tend to form

incompressible, high permeability (relatively Table 4-9. Materials Used to Control Filtration Rate
speaking) filter cakes. Defloculated clays form
compressible cakes with relatively low TERMS OF
permeabilities. Lignosulfonates tend to disperse MATERIAL EQUATION 4-21
clays and simultaneously thicken filtrates. AFFECTED
Polymers can be either soluble or colloidally
dispersed in mud liquid phases. The filtrate is Bentonite b, µ L , S, rs
thickened by most polymers. Colloids can
contribute to the "S" term in the denominator of Organic
Equation 4-21. Due to surface activity of dispersants
b, µ L , r s
polymers, especially ionic salts of polymers like Lignosulfonates
CMC, resulting clay dispersions can affect cake b, S, r s
quality. Lignites
Tannins b
Bentonite, and other clays to lesser extent,
becomes colloidally dispersed in mud. Filtrate Polymers µ L , rs , c
viscosity, cake compressibility, solids content, and
packing efficiency are affected by beneficial clay Oil S, c

Additions of oil torque reducing additives, spun asphalt, and some detergents tend to show
radical effects in lowering API filtration rates. This group of additives affects the solids content

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Drilling Practices
Drilling Fluids

term and the packing efficiency of the cake. Primarily, oil and detergent additives lower the
permeability of the filter paper. On this basis, perhaps the cheapest method of water loss
control is to oil saturate the filter paper before running the API test. Shoe polish or axle grease
might also be effective.

Attempts to correlate API filtration with estimates of formation invasion from open hole logs has
not proved successful. Other studies of hole wash-outs as a function of static water loss have
also provided no correlation.

The API test provides little information upon which treatment programs should be decided.
Often, the test is totally misleading. Let's examine why the entire concept of control of filtration
needs overhauling. The API test is poorly conceived and usually poorly executed.

Almost never is the water loss test run at 76°F. It is run at whatever temperature is convenient.
Viscosity is known to vary greatly with temperature. Viscosity of the filtrate is a linear term in the
denominator of a Darcy equation.

The test is frequently not run for 30 minutes as stipulated in the API standard; as if 30 minutes is
in any way a meaningful time period. Often, the water loss test is conducted for 7½ minutes
and the volume doubled. Integration of Equation 4-21 leads to the conclusion that volume is
proportional to the square root of time. But, Figure 4-23 is a representation of various filtration

From Figure 4-23, curve "A" is typical

of many laboratory results. The steep
portion of curve "A" is often referred to
as "spurt loss." The flat portion of
curve "A" is typical of equilibrium
filtration. Spurt and filtration are
handled independently with different
techniques when designing a frac fluid
for stimulation.

Curve "B" demonstrates very little

spurt, but the biggest value of steady-
state filtration. Curve "C" will look very
bad on the "7.5 minute special" test,
but may provide the least total filtrate
invasion after some meaningful time

Estimates have been made that static Figure 4-23. Filtration Rate versus Time
filtration accounts for only 5-30% of
total filtrate invasion. Dynamic
filtration is predominantly responsible for liquid up-take to permeable formations. Krueger2
states that "neither the standard API filter loss test nor the high temperature, high pressure API
test give accurate comparisons of the effectiveness of different chemical treatments of drilling
fluids for control of dynamic fluid loss." See Appendix for Krueger paper.

Equation 4-22 has been proposed as definitive of the dynamic filtration process.

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Chapter 4

(−v +1)
⎛γ ⎞ f
⎜ ⎟
dv f KP ⎝ fc ⎠
= × Equation 4-22
dt µ L (− v f + 1)d wc

A comparison of additives to control static fluid loss with resultant effect upon dynamic filtration
is in order. Polymers affect both µ L and γ terms. Net effect may be to lower total filtration to
the point of increasing shear stress which causes incremental increase of dynamic filtration.
Static filtration continues to decrease while dynamic levels increase.

Oils lower the " fc " term and reduce the " d wc " term. These are exactly the desired effects of oil
and detergent additions. Rapid increases in dynamic filtration result while lowering torque and
drag by thinning wall cake and "slicking up" the hole.

Organic dispersants lower dynamic filtration with minimal concentrations. Krueger indicates that
optimum total reduction may occur at API static values of approximately 20 cc/30 minutes.

The adverse effect of oil or detergents upon total filtrate volume is noteworthy. How can the
glowing reports of increased hole stability and lowered productivity damage due to low water
loss muds be believed when the muds also contain 6-8 percent diesel oil, spun asphalt and
SUPR-SLICK or GREES-A-HOLE? How about reports of success achieved only by maintaining
the API water-loss at 4-cc below zero?

Without question shales slough, formations damage, DST's test filtrate, and cores are
sometimes invaded by mud liquids. These phenomena are not under question. The question
remains, "What is the cause of mud system fluid phase uptake?" The following comments are

1. Filtration into permeable zones is potentially the most common cause of invasion.
Unfortunately, no field tests are available to guide mud treatment to actually lower
filtration effects.

2. Filtration into essentially impermeable shales is not the cause of the fluid up-take that
often occurs.

3. Browning and Perricone3 show extensive shale core invasion (Figure 4-24) due to:

• Capillarity?

• Osmosis?

• Molecular diffusion?

• Electrophoresis?

• As yet undefined mechanisms?

Clearly, the ease of running static API filtration tests combined with lots of wishful thinking has
resulted in vast exaggeration of the importance of control of filtration rate. Evidence strongly
indicates that most drilling operations will greatly benefit from ignoring the water loss test. The
savings in time and energy can be well spent on important concerns.

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Drilling Fluids

Figure 4-24. Extensive Shale Core Invasion


No level of application to control of solids is likely to go unrewarded. No subject is as certain to

bore drilling people to sleep. Proper drilling mud solids control is essential to the cost-wise
success of many drilling operations. The alternative is expensive chemical treatment.

Good solids control programs do not begin with a mélange of mechanical devices in place on
the mud pits. Solids control properly begins in the hole. General steps to the control of solids

1. Efficient hole cleaning (Shape) Table 4-10. Sizes and Surface Areas of Common Solids

2. Shale shakers DIAMETER SURFACE

3. Settling tank ITEM (microns) AREA (ft2/lb)

4. Cyclones Human Hair (med) 100

Cement Dust (fine) 40 300±
5. Centrifuges
Barite (avg) 30 360
The range of sizes to be treated varies
from large to sub-micron colloids. Table Red Blood Cells 7
4-10 shows the size of some common Silt 2-10 3,000 (avg)
items for a reference. Removal difficulty
increases rapidly with decreasing Silica Gel 0.003 2,900,000
particle size. Solids concentration and Bentonite (Hydrated) 1 High
particle size influence viscosity as is
seen in Figure 4-25. Solids type and concentration effect mud density as shown in Figure 4-26.

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Chapter 4

Figure 4-25. Viscosity of Various Clays Figure 4-26. Solids Content versus Mud Weight

Efficient cuttings removal from the wellbore is needed in order to reduce subsequent solids
removal operations. As cuttings travel out of the hole, size degradation is a continuous process.

If a ½ inch cutting is eroded or degraded to ⅜ inch diameter before it reaches the shaker, then a
problem has begun. The ⅜ inch particle will still be easily removed by the shaker. But,
approximately 58 percent of the original cutting volume has been reduced to fine solids that may
be very difficult to remove.

Large cuttings and wall sloughings often present lifting problems. If hole cleaning is inadequate,
the large solids are tumbled and refluxed in the wellbore until they are small enough to be
cleaned by the existing mud system. Control problems with the resulting small solids can easily

The cuttings-handling capacity of shale shakers has improved rapidly in recent years. Further
improvement is needed. High speed, heavy impact, fine screen shakers are clearly superior to
early designs. Screen design and selection of construction materials also have shown rapid

Shale shakers should be sized and selected to process the entire mud flow through 120 mesh
screens. Screens of 150 mesh would be even better.

Some compromise is possible. However, decisions to limit shale shaker capacity should be
made under the cold light of reason rather than in the darkness of old bias. Some of the factors
for consideration in selecting shale shakers are listed:

1. Subsequent solids removal equipment will not function if shakers are under-designed.

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2. Good planning will allow room for adequate shaker capacity

3. Large holes (26") present enough drilling problems without attempting to process the
mud through a system designed for 8½" holes.

4. Shakers are much less expensive to own and operate than mud cleaners and

5. All shakers are not created equal. Some designs are clearly superior in efficiency and
operating costs.

Most mud systems can benefit from the use of a sand trap. This settling area should not be
stirred when being used as a trap. Rig personnel will often stir the trap rather than jet it.

For weighted mud systems, the decisions to use a sand trap must be made by comparing the
cost of some lost barite versus any benefits gained by settling coarse solids. Mechanical solids
separators fail to properly remove small particles when over-loaded with large material.

The term "cyclones" is often generally used for the family of equipment represented by Figure
4-27. Cyclones depend upon
centrifugal force and residence
time to concentrate solids in the
underflow stream.

Cyclones of 2 to 4 inch diameters

are often called "desilters". Cones
of 6" or larger diameters are
usually referred to as "desanders".

Cone diameter and flow rate

determine preferred solids size
handling capacity for cyclones.
Blood processing facilities use
cones of approximately ½"
diameter to produce serum. Large
cyclones of 24" diameter or larger
have been used to concentrate
ores or sewage at mining facilities
and at treatment plants.

Flow within the cyclones is

maintained at a low-laminar
regime. Stoke's Law--settling
takes place in a horizontal direction
due to tangentially moving fluid.
Turbulence may develop if flow Figure 4-27. Hydrocyclone
rates are excessive. Turbulent

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Drilling Practices
Chapter 4

flow will re-mix solids and liquids, thus preventing separation. Equation 4-23 is Stoke's Law.

8289d p2 (ρ P − ρ f )
Vs = Equation 4-23

For normal cyclone operations, particle size is the factor of predominate influence. Figure 4-28
illustrates a relative "size cut" for solids removed by cycloning. It is emphasized that a cyclone,
intended to separate 40 micron solids, cannot function properly if exposed to large
concentrations of ⅛" diameter solids. For this example, the separation velocity of the large solid
is approximately 6,000 times faster than for the small particle. Spatial configurations and
residence times within the cone may easily result in plugging when a cyclone is over-loaded
with large particles. Figure 4-29 shows how the efficiency of the cyclone changes with the
percent of same size cuttings in the feed.

Figure 4-28. Relative Size Cut of Solids Removal by Cycloning

It was earlier stated that the shale shaker system must accomplish its tasks or subsequent
solids removal will be compromised. Every portion of the solids removal system must achieve
its assigned size cut to prevent overloading the next treatment station.

Weighted muds often require exacting solids removal programs. Failure to remove drill solids
from a system that cannot be totally discarded due to economics will invariably result in costly
chemical treatment. Further, the system may become loaded with solids such that it must be
discarded anyway. Chemical treatment of retained drill solids is usually the expensive result of
poor planning.

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Drilling Fluids

Figure 4-29. Hydrocyclone Separation

Cycloning of Weighted Muds

Many operators cease cycloning or revert to "mud cleaners" when muds are weighted to more
than 10.0 ppg. Mud cleaners are discussed in the next section. Cyclones are incorrectly
blamed for removal of barite in many situations.

When running un-weighted muds, the operator is frequently attempting to keep density as low
as practicable. When mud weight is intentionally raised, then any decrease due to solids
removal can be alarming. A weighted mud (explain what as weight mud is) looses density when
low gravity solids are removed. A pound of removed shale must be replaced by a pound of
barite if mud weight is to remain unchanged.

Optimum barite size is 6-74 microns. Barite particles smaller than 6 microns will probably
require chemical treatment cost in excess of the value of the weight material. Barite larger than
74 microns is erosive and probably should be removed regardless of value.

According to Stoke's Law, barite particles are removed more rapidly by cycloning than a drill
solids of equal size. Many drill solids are larger than the seventy microns barite and may be
economically removed by cyclones, even though small amounts of barite are concurrently

Mud Cleaners
Hydrocyclones remove large quantities of barite even in low mud weights. Mud cleaners
combine fine mesh screens under small diameter cyclones. Conceptually, mud cleaners
concentrate solids volume in order to allow processing the solids through 200 mesh screen.

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Chapter 4

Mud cleaners can be useful additions to the solids separation systems used on weighted muds.
They have essentially no value for un-weighted muds.

As useful as mud cleaners potentially can be, most actual applications are ill-advised. Screens
of 325 mesh or 400 mesh are fragile and require frequent replacement. Mud cleaners operated
with 150 mesh or 200 mesh screens are difficult to justify from the standpoint of efficiency.

Examination of Figure 4-30 shows the openings of a 325 mesh screen to be 44 microns. A 200
mesh screen has openings of 74 microns. Processing of muds giving significant underflow size
concentrations larger than 200 mesh indicates that the mud cleaner is either in the wrong
position or is being used improperly on weighted muds. Allowing solids of any size to return to
an un-weighted mud is difficult to justify. Processing low gravity solids before returning them to
un-weighted systems does not seem to make the operation any better.

Figure 4-30. Opening Size in Microns for Various Mesh Screens

Mud cleaners have been used to remove solids from systems containing lost circulation
material. No other good system of processing lost circulating material muds for solids removal
is competitive with mud cleaners.

Mud cleaners can be used to good advantage to concentrate either the liquid phase or solid
phase of a weighted mud before centrifuging. Such a procedure represents a prime application
of the cleaners.

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Drilling Fluids

Effect of Mud Properties on Cyclones

Solids separation is greatly affected by mud properties and content. High weight muds are
muds with solids problems. As ρ f approaches ρ p in the Stoke's equation, separation
efficiency is reduced. Drill solids weigh approximately 21 ppg. Barite weighs approximately 35
ppg. As weighted muds are "cleaned up", potentially all solids removed by cyclones will be
barite. Careful analysis of underflows is indicated.

Mud viscosity adversely affects cyclone efficiency. Chemically thinned muds may be easier to
process by cycloning than thick muds. Conversely dispersed solids may be much smaller, and,
more difficult to remove, than flocculated solids. Polymer muds often have high viscosities at
the low shear rate values of cyclone operations. Poor solids removal efficiency results.

Minor oil additions to a mud system can radically reduce cyclone efficiency. Emulsified oil can
increase mud viscosity. The oil droplets can also behave as a high concentration of large sized,
low gravity solids which "blind" cyclone action. Small additions of oil to some muds have been
reported to reduce cyclone removal of solids by up to 30 percent.

Spun asphalt and lignite thinners often blind cyclones by representing large concentration of low
gravity solids.

A typical mud centrifuge is represented in Figure 4-31. Centrifuges affect high efficiency
separations of small mud volumes. Typical flow capacities have been 30-60 gpm. New, high
volume centrifuges capable of processing up to 150 gpm or more have recently become

Figure 4-31. Typical Mud Centrifuge

For most operations where centrifuges are reasonable to use, the operator should also consider
employing a "centrifuge mechanic". Centrifuges are extremely expensive to buy or rent. They

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Drilling Practices
Chapter 4

work wonders when properly operated. Improperly adjusted, centrifuges represent a costly
drain on the rig electrical system. They can turn and vibrate and not perform any useful function
when improperly tuned.

Solids Control by Removal of Liquid

Solids smaller than 6 microns are the primary cause of chemical treatment of muds. Solids
smaller than 1 microns may create extreme treating problems. Collodial particles cannot be
effectively removed from a mud system by mechanical means. Colloids are an inseparable part
of the liquid phase.

Operators are often reluctant to discard costly liquids from the system. Often the fluid wouldn't
have been so costly if the entire liquid phase had been thrown out.

Complaints of high cost and poor progress from a non-operating partner in a deep well in
Wyoming prompted on site inspection by a Texas consultant. Upon arrival, the consultant
discovered that average daily mud maintenance cost exceeded $3,000 per day. The mud
weighed 9.0 ppg! Coulter Counter analysis of the mud system showed that 56 percent of the
solids content was 6 microns or less.

When asked about dumping the system and starting over, the company foreman said he had
$200,000 in that system. Under no circumstances would he dump and start over. And, he
wasn't about to water it back. "That'll just make more volume to treat. Now you're talking real
money per day." After 2 days, the fat Texan went home. Wonder if the well ever got to casing

Admittedly, the above example was as bad as it could have been. However, similar stories
abound throughout our industry.

Typically, a weighted mud starts out as water with adequate bentonite to raise funnel viscosity
to 40-50 sec/qt. Add barite to raise weight to 15 ppg and the mud is thick enough to walk on. If
the barite has a small concentration of soluble calcium or magnesium, the mud is thick enough
to drive a tandem over. Now put in 6-8 ppb of CLS. Put in enough polymers to lower water loss
to 4 cc/30 minutes. Add a few tons of lignite so that the mud will flow through the pump suction.

Before drilling, we have a mud contaminated with 4-10 percent of unnecessary solids that can
only be removed by discarding liquids. The source of the discarded liquids can come from a
centrifuge or from the cyclones.

The problem can be reduced somewhat by using less bentonite in the make-up mud or by using
barite with a known absence of clay content. Naturally occurring barite contains 50-70 percent
BaSO4. The remaining impurities are various silicates that may include dispersible clays.


The pH or alkalinity measurement of the mud indicates the relative concentration of hydrogen
ions (H+) and hydroxyl ions (OH-) in the mud. Distilled water has an equal concentration of
hydrogen and hydroxyl ions. The pH of mud is defined as the negative logarithm of the
hydrogen ion concentration. The logarithmic relationship between pH and the hydrogen ion
content can result in rapid changes in pH. To simplify the measurement and to introduce more

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Drilling Fluids

meaningful results, the alkalinity tests were introduced. The various tests being used are listed
as follows:

Pf = Number of cc's of 0.02N sulfuric or hydrochloric acid required to reduce

the pH of 1.0 cc of mud filtrate to 8.3. The reduction of pH to 8.3 is
determined using a phenolphthalein indicator solution. The pink color of
the indicator solution disappears at a pH below 8.3.

Pm = Number of cc's of 0.02N sulfuric or hydrochloric acid required to reduce

the pH of 1.0 cc of mud to 8.3.

Mf = Number of cc's of 0.02N sulfuric or hydrochloric required to reduce the pH

of 1.0 cc of mud filtrate to 4.3. The reduction of pH to 4.3 is determined
using a methyl-orange indicator solution. The orange color of the
indicator solution fades to light yellow at pH of 4.3. Other indicator
solutions are available when the methyl orange end point is difficult to

P1 = This measurement is performed as follows:

1. Add 24 cc's of distilled water to 1 cc of filtrate.

2. Add 0.1N caustic solution, usually 2 to 5 cc's to convert all

bicarbonates to carbonates as follows:

NaHCO3 + NaOH = Na2CO3 + H2O

3. Add 10 percent barium chloride solution, usually, 2 to 4 cc's. The

barium chloride is added to precipitate the carbonates.

4. Add phenolphthalein indicator solution.

5. Titrate until the pink color disappears with 0.02N hydrochloric acid.
The number of cc's of 0.02N hydrochloric acid used is P1.

P2 = This measurement is performed as follows:

1. Use 25 cc's distilled water and the same amounts of the caustic
solution, the barium chloride solution and the indicator solution.

2. Then titrate with 0.02N hydrochloric acid until the pink

phenolphthalein color disappears. The number of cc's of 0.02N
hydrochloric acid used is P2.


The Pf measurement alone does not reveal the true hydroxyl ion content. If Mf ≥ 5.0 Pf and the
mud have been difficult to thin, then a potential carbonate problem exists. This is an experience
factor and may change dependent on the specific mud composition. If a carbonate problem is
suspected, the P1 and P2 values should be determined. If P2 exceeds P1, there are no hydroxyl
ions present, only carbonate and bicarbonate ions. If P1 exceeds P2 there are no bicarbonates

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Chapter 4

present, only carbonate and hydroxyl ions. The concentrations are determined as follows in
EPM (Equivalent parts per million) when P2 ≥ P1.

HCO3- = 20 (P2 - P1)

CO3-- = 40 Pf

When P1 ≥ P2 the concentrations are determined as follows:

CO3-- = 40 [Pf - (P1 – P2)]

OH- = 20 (P1 – P2)

The Pm measurement is used to determine the excess lime content as follows:

Excess lime = 0.26 (Pm - FwPf)

Table 4-11. Anticipated pH and Pf Values based on
Excess lime refers to the slaked lime in excess Caustic Concentration
or out of solution. The solubility of Ca(OH)2 is a
function of pH. Excess lime is generally carried
with high pH lime muds and it is not uncommon CAUSTIC SODA
to have an excess of measured lime in any high (lbs/bbl) pH Pf
pH mud (pH above 11.0). One advantage of
high pH muds is the excess lime usually ¼ 8.0-8.5 Trace to 0.1
present. This excess of lime provides a ⅓ 8.5-9.0 0.1-0.25
continuous source of calcium for the filtrate that
keeps carbonates out of solution, so that ½ 9.5-10.0 0.3-0.5
secondary precipitation of carbonate salts does ¾ 10.0-10.5 0.5-0.7
not block permeability during production
operations. Table 4-11 gives the anticipated pH 1 11-11.5 0.7-1.0
and Pf values based on caustic concentration. 2 12+ 3
3 12.5+ 5
4 13 7
If there are bicarbonates present, they must be
converted to carbonates before they can be removed from solution. To do this, calcium
hydroxide (in the form of slaked lime) or caustic soda may be added. The soluble calcium
combines with carbonates to form limestone which precipitates.

Why do Carbonates and Bicarbonates affect the Mud? A drilling mud can become a complex
system simply because almost every material added, including water, has a large quantity of
impurities. It is not clear why carbonates and bicarbonates cause the mud to thicken. One
reason may be related to interference of the close packing tendency that calcium and
magnesium exert on the inter-crystalline lattice of some clays. Usually a high alkalinity, Pf, is
assumed to indicate a high hydroxyl ion content which may not be true because of the
carbonate effect.

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One other method that may be used to determine the carbonate would be a comparison
between the pH and Pf alkalinity. A high Pf and a medium pH would indicate high carbonate
content. Precise determinations of quantitative values for carbonates and bicarbonates
concentrations may be difficult because of the other materials present in the mud.


The search for special purpose mud systems began almost simultaneously with the introduction
of rotary drilling to the petroleum industry. Despite glowing reports of multiple successes, the
search continues with almost unrequited success. Most of the specialty muds that have been
reported as famously successful at the time of introduction have been abandoned for successful
new systems that currently await abandonment. Briefly, let us examine some of the significant
new systems that later proved to be irrelevant to the industry.


Industry reports from as early as 1933 give glowing details of success from the use of lime
muds. Later refinements resulted in the definitions of low lime, intermediate and high lime

Lime muds are characterized by high pH (pH=12+) water base fluids containing dispersant
concentrations of 6 to 20 pounds/barrel and excess lime Ca(OH)2 concentrations of 2 to 8

Lime muds have a vast tolerance for solids content and nominal gel strengths (0/0 in some
instances) and also promise hole stability due to calcium ion presence. Such muds were used
extensively in some areas until the mid-1960's. Lime systems see only occasional use today.

Gyp muds or muds treated with gypsum (CaSO4) have enjoyed considerable praise throughout
drilling history. Such muds usually have pH = 9.5 to 10.5, 4-8 pounds/barrel gypsum and
organic thinner concentrations of 4-8 pounds/barrel.

The reportedly beneficial presence of Ca++ is higher in gypsum muds than in lime muds.
Calcium is almost insoluble in pH 11 systems. The use of CaSO4, which is slightly acidic, allows
introduction of large Ca++ concentrations with subsequent pH control using caustic soda.

A major international operator introduced CaCl2 treated muds in 1953. Once again, glowing
reports of all manner of benefits followed. Usually, the CaCl2 muds were run in conjunction with
polyacrilonitrile polymer flocculants which assisted in solids removal.

One major mud company responded to industry demand by the introduction of a one sack blend
of calcium chloride, calcium lignosulfonate and calcium hydroxide to produce SCR MUD.
Almost immediately technical papers were published to demonstrate the superiority of the SCR

Regardless of all the attention given the calcium treated muds at the time of their introduction,
such systems are rarely used at the present time.

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Chapter 4

Mud systems utilizing various oils as the continuous phase have been tried and retried for at
least fifty years. Companies have reintroduced the same idea, with slight variance for the last
half century. The results remain the same.

Practically every drilling problem seen in the industry has been "successfully" solved with oil
mud for extended periods of time. Yet the formulations are continuously changed to offer new
hope. Alas, few operators continue to use oil mud except in specific areas.

Drilling people who worked fifteen or twenty years ago may remember that "Black Magic" brand
was the only way to go. But, who has seen a pit of "Black Magic" in the last ten years?

In the recent past, relaxed filtration oil muds came into vogue. Then, in order to further
complicate matters, low toxicity oil muds are now in style. The low toxicity muds were at once
very popular in the Arabian Gulf. Drilling with such muds doesn't prevent tankers from pumping
oil laden ballast overboard. Twenty-mile-long oil slicks are not caused by drilling operations.

In 1974, after drilling a rapid series of 23 Bangestan formation wells, Oil Service Company
(OSCO) of Iran switched to an oil mud system. In the previous series of wells, only one minor
problem was encountered. One of the wells developed a 23° deviation problem. The switch to
oil mud was made in order to "prevent drilling problems".

Oil muds are frequently used to promote hole stability and to prevent formation damage. Atoka
shale sections in the Arkoma Basin are usually too enlarged to caliper log when drilled with oil
muds and many deep, high pressure gas wells have been all but terminally damaged with the oil

Oil muds usually are made from no. 2 diesel oil and blended with up to 50% salt-saturated
water. Ionic surfactants are used to form stable water-in-oil emulsions and to promote oil
wetting of solids. Barite, calcium carbonate or other solids are added to increase the density of
oil muds to desired levels. Added solids and drill solids must remain oil-wetted. If such solids
become water-wet, they will agglomerate, flocculate and/or settle.

The surfactants used to promote oil wetted solids can act to change water-wet formation pore
spaces to an oil-wet condition. The reaction can be irreversible and is usually more extensive
with greater depth of filtrate invasion. Relaxed filtrate oil muds may offer advanced levels of
damage when compared with less "modern" systems. A change in flow path wetability can
drastically alter permeability to reservoir fluids.

Viscosity and filtration of oil muds are frequently controlled with amine treated bentonite. Such
bentonite is colloidally dispersed in the oil phase and can reach a significant concentration in oil
mud filtrate.

Figure 4-24 (page 4-35) shows that oil mud filtrate can and does penetrate into porous media by
other mechanisms, as well as by differential pressure filtration. If the filtrate contains totally un-
hydrated bentonite colloids, such bentonite could present a significant level of damage if
subsequently hydrated by formation water or water used in completion operations. In fact, the
reader can readily imagine the situation to be paralleled to a miniature gunk squeeze introduced
into near-wellbore porosity.

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Drilling Practices
Drilling Fluids

Oil muds have demonstrated utility in H2S-corrosive environments and in ultra-high temperature
drilling operations. Such muds present distinct danger levels in kick-recognition and control due
to unpredictable interactions with influxed hydrocarbon fluids and acid gases such as H2S and

The beneficial effects of K+ in the prevention or reduction of the hydration of montmorillonite
has been known to the industry for many years.

In 1967, Shell Oil Company used potassium chloride in a Separan treated mud to successfully
drill through Blackstone shale in the Canadian Williston Basin. According to reports, hole
enlargement through the troublesome shale was dramatically reduced.

Separan is a flocculant of the polyacrilamide polymer group. The successful Shell system had
an extremely high API filtration rate of approximately 60 cc/30 min. Subsequent
"improvements" in the system took out the beneficial Separan, substituted high concentrations
of extremely expensive viscosifying polymers, used water losses approaching negative values
and were tried in almost every corner of the globe. Canadian operators, soon disenchanted
with the KCl/Separan systems, began a continuing search for the "perfect" mud.

Throughout other areas of the world KCl systems have been tried, publicly acclaimed, then
abandoned. More exotic (more expensive) polymers are introduced on a continuing basis. Few
seem likely to survive a test of time.

Some of the polymers used in KCl muds preclude the expectation of good primary cementing
operations. The probable cause of cement job failure lies in low level degradations of
polysaccharide polymers into simple sugar compounds that have dramatic effects on cement
chemistry. The effects of polymer mud additives on cement are further discussed in the
"Cementing" section.

Mud systems containing large concentrations of the common additives TSP (Tri-sodium
phosphate), SMP (Sodium Metaphosphate), SAPP (Sodium acid pyrophosphate) and STP
(Sodium tetraphosphate) have been used with some success. The phosphate muds are usually
used at low temperature when calcium contamination is a problem. Calcium phosphate is
relatively insoluble.

DAP (diammonium phosphate) was reported to be the ultimate mud additive in Canada in 1979-
1980. An estimated 70 percent of drilling seminar participants extolled the virtues of
DAP/polymer muds. The NH+ ion is reportedly more inhibitive to clay swelling than the
potassium ion.

In a 1982 Calgary drilling seminar, not a single operator reported the use of DAP mud. Once
again a gloriously successful specialty mud faded into the sunset of obsolescence.

Copyright © 2006 OGCI/PetroSkills. All rights reserved. 4-47

Drilling Practices
Chapter 4

Systems comprised of bentonite treated with magnesium oxide (MgO) have enjoyed some
following. "MAG-OX" or "MAGOO" muds offered inexpensive thickness and the inhibited
qualities of Mg++ simultaneously.

MAG-OX muds contain pre-hydrated bentonite concentrations of 6-20 pounds/barrel. The

bentonite is subsequently peptized or flocculated with small amounts (0.1-0.5 lbs/bbl) of MgO.
Such muds may exhibit a plastic viscosity of 1-5 cp with an API yield point of 10-50 lbf/100 ft2.
API gel strengths on the order of 5/30 to 10/60 are not uncommon.

The systems are inexpensive to formulate, offer easy solids control, are capable of excellent
hole cleaning and usually exhibit high filter loss. Unfortunately, because of their high filter loss
characteristics and low cost, MgO treated muds will probably not receive much favorable
attention or development. A pity!


Certainly the above discussions do not cover all historical attempts to develop a "perfect" mud.
And, admittedly, the chapter has been very negative thus far. The "perfect" mud system does
not exist. No system can reasonably be expected to be more than adequate. The most
desirable system is usually the simplest, cheapest possible mud that will clean the hole.


b = Filter cake compressibility

c = Proportionality constant
= Inside diameter of pipe, inches
Dh = Diameter of hole, inches
Dp = Outside diameter of pipe, inches
dp = Particle diameter, in

dr = Change in radius

dv = Change in velocity

dv = Shear rate, sec-1

dwc = Equilibrium thickness of wall cake
fc = Friction factor of wall cake
= Constant
= Consistency index, lbf secn/100 ft2
kw = Permeability, md
= Power Law constant, normally the slope of shear stress-shear rate
diagram on log-log plot

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Drilling Practices
Drilling Fluids

= Pressure
= Plastic viscosity, cp
Q = Flow rate, gpm
rs = Filter cake solids packing term

S = Solids content

t = time
tf = Filter cake thickness
Vs = Separation velocity (or slip velocity), feet per minute
= Average fluid velocity, fpm
vf = Fluid loss volume
(− v f + 1) = A wall cake term of normal range 0.1 to 0.15
W = Viscometer speed, rpm
W1 = Density, pounds per gallon, of initial mud

W2 = Density, pounds per gallon, of final mud

Ws = Density, pounds per gallon, of weight material

= Barrels of weight material per barrel of final mud

= Barrels of weight material per barrel of initial mud
Yp = Yield point, lbf/100 ft2

γ = Average shear rate in the annulus or pipe, sec-1

γa = Average shear rate for annular flow, sec-1
γp = Average shear rate for pipe flow, sec-1
µ = Viscosity, cp
µe = Equivalent thickness, cp
µL = Filtrate viscosity, cp
ρf = Mud density, ppg
ρp = Particle density, ppg

τ = Shear Stress, lbf /100 ft2

θ 1 and θ 2 = Are any two viscometer readings with the requirement θ 2 = 2 × θ1

θ300 = 300 rpm viscometer reading

θ 600 = 600 rpm viscometer reading
θi = dv dv dv dv
Viscometer reading at any speed " " such that ≤ ≤
dr i dr1 dr i dr 2

Copyright © 2006 OGCI/PetroSkills. All rights reserved. 4-49

Drilling Practices
Chapter 4


The equations given in the chapter are converted below in SI units

Equation 4-8: Yp = (θ 300 − PV ) × 0.479 Equation 4-24

⎡ ⎤
⎢ ⎥
⎢ θi ⎥
Equation 4-10: k=⎢ n⎥
× 0.479 Equation 4-25
⎢ ⎛ dv ⎞ ⎥
⎢ ⎜⎜ dr ⎟⎟ ⎥
⎣⎝ i ⎠ ⎦

6.69Yp D
Equation 4-11: µ e = PV + Equation 4-26

⎡⎛ 133v ⎞⎛ 3n + 1 ⎞⎤ 5kD
Equation 4-12: µ e = ⎢⎜ ⎟⎜ ⎟⎥ Equation 4-27
⎣⎝ D ⎠⎝ 4n ⎠⎦ v

7.52Yp (Dh − D p )
Equation 4-13: µ e = PV + Equation 4-28

⎡⎛ 200v ⎞⎛ 2n + 1 ⎞⎤ 5 k (Dh − D p )
µ e = ⎢⎜ ⎟⎜ ⎥
⎟⎝ 3n ⎟⎠⎥
Equation 4-14: Equation 4-29

⎣⎢⎝ Dh − D p ⎠ ⎦ v

⎛ 133v ⎞⎛ 3n + 1 ⎞
Equation 4-15: γp =⎜ ⎟⎜ ⎟ Equation 4-30
⎝ D ⎠⎝ 4n ⎠

⎛ 200v ⎞⎛ 2n + 1 ⎞
γa = ⎜ ⎟⎜
⎟⎝ 3n ⎟⎠
Equation 4-16: Equation 4-31
⎜ Dh − D p
⎝ ⎠

1.273 × 10 6 Q
Equation 4-18: v = Equation 4-32

1.273 × 10 6 Q
Equation 4-19: v = 2 2
Equation 4-33
Dh − D p

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Drilling Practices
Drilling Fluids

d p (ρ P − ρ f )
Equation 4-23: Vs = Equation 4-34
30.6 µ


b = Filter cake compressibility

c = Proportionality constant
= Inside diameter of pipe, mm
Dh = Diameter of hole, mm
Dp = Outside diameter of pipe, mm
dp = Particle diameter, mm

dr = Change in radius

dv = Change in velocity

dv = Shear rate, sec-1

dwc = Equilibrium thickness of wall cake
fc = Friction factor of wall cake
= Constant
= Consistency index, Pa secn
= Power Law constant, normally the slope of shear stress-shear rate
diagram on log-log plot
= Pressure, kPa
= Plastic viscosity, mPa sec
Q = Flow rate, cubic meters per minute
rs = Filter cake solids packing term

S = Solids content

t = time
tf = Filter cake thickness
Vs = Separation velocity (or slip velocity), meters per minute
= Average fluid velocity, meters per minute
vf = Fluid loss volume, cc
(− v f + 1) = A wall cake term of normal range 0.1 to 0.15
W = Viscometer speed, rpm
W1 = Density, kg per cubic meter, of initial mud

Copyright © 2006 OGCI/PetroSkills. All rights reserved. 4-51

Drilling Practices
Chapter 4

W2 = Density, kg per cubic meter, of final mud

Ws = Density, kg per cubic meter, of weight material

= Cubic meters of weight material per cubic meter of final mud

= Cubic meters of weight material per cubic meter of initial mud
Yp = Yield point, Pa
γ = Average shear rate in the annulus or pipe, sec-1
γa = Average shear rate for annular flow, sec-1
γp = Average shear rate for pipe flow, sec-1
µ = Viscosity, cp
µe = Equivalent thickness, mPa sec
µL = Filtrate viscosity, cp
ρf = Mud density, kg per cubic meter
ρp = Particle density, kg per cubic meter

τ = Shear Stress, Pa
θ 1 and θ 2 = Are any two viscometer readings with the requirement θ 2 = 2 × θ1

θ300 = 300 rpm viscometer reading

θ 600 = 600 rpm viscometer reading
θi = dv dv dv dv
Viscometer reading at any speed " " such that ≤ ≤
dr i dr1 dr i dr 2


4-52 Copyright © 2006 OGCI/PetroSkills. All rights reserved.

Drilling Practices
Drilling Fluids

Copyright © 2006 OGCI/PetroSkills. All rights reserved. 4-53

Drilling Practices
Chapter 4

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Drilling Practices
Drilling Fluids

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Drilling Practices
Chapter 4

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Drilling Practices
Drilling Fluids

Copyright © 2006 OGCI/PetroSkills. All rights reserved. 4-57

Drilling Practices
Chapter 4

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Drilling Practices
Drilling Fluids

Copyright © 2006 OGCI/PetroSkills. All rights reserved. 4-59

Drilling Practices
Chapter 4

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Drilling Practices
Drilling Fluids

Copyright © 2006 OGCI/PetroSkills. All rights reserved. 4-61

Drilling Practices
Chapter 4

Bartlett, L. E.; "High-Temperature Flow Properties of Water-Based Drilling Fluids," SPE 1861,
Oct 1, 1967.
Krueger, R. F.; "Evaluation of Drilling Fluid Filter Loss Additives Under Dynamic Conditions,"
SPE Transactions, 1963.
Browning, W. C. and Perricone, A. C.; "Clay Chemistry and Drilling Fluids," SPE 540, January,

4-62 Copyright © 2006 OGCI/PetroSkills. All rights reserved.