Industry Knowledge: Drilling Fluids

Updated: Jul 10, 2019

Drilling fluid is used to aid the drilling of boreholes into the earth. Often used while drilling oil and natural gas wells and on exploration drilling rigs, drilling fluids are also used for much simpler boreholes, such as water wells. Liquid drilling fluid is often called drilling mud. .

The main functions of drilling fluids include providing hydrostatic pressure to prevent formation fluids from entering into the well bore, keeping the drill bit cool and clean during drilling, carrying out drill cuttings, and suspending the drill cuttings while drilling is paused and when the drilling assembly is brought in and out of the hole. The drilling fluid used for a particular job is selected to avoid formation damage and to limit corrosion.


Many types of drilling fluids are used on a day-to-day basis. Some wells require that different types be used at different parts in the hole, or that some types be used in combination with others.


Water based drilling fluid has very little toxicity, made from water, bentonite and barite, all clay from mining operations, usually found in Wyoming and in Lunde, Telemark. There are specific chemicals that can be used in water based drilling fluids that alone can be corrosive and toxic, such as hydrochloric acid. However, when mixed into water based drilling fluids, hydrochloric acid only decreases the pH of the water to a more manageable level.



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