Technical Paper: The Revolution in Non-Aqueous Drilling Fluids

Society: AADE
Paper Number: AADE-11-NTCE-33
Presentation Date: 2011


Since their introduction in the late 1930s, non-aqueous drilling fluids (NADF) have improved considerably, and for the last three decades NADF have generally been the preferred type of fluid for drilling through problem formations, thanks in part to the introduction of synthetic-based fluids twenty years ago.  The revolution in NADF technology has not been without challenges, however, as the complexity of drilling operations has grown enormously, and environmental regulations have grown increasingly restrictive.  In the past, when shallow vertical land wells were the norm, drillers focused on stabilizing shales and hole cleaning. Now, drilling often involves construction of wellbores that are long and deviated; deep and hot; through depleted or abnormally pressured zones; and in deep water.  These new challenges have required that NADF be environmentally friendly, stable and possess desirable mud properties over broad ranges of temperature and pressure.  Another challenge is that NADF are increasingly used for drilling reservoirs, where potential impairment in well productivity – including cleanup and completion – is of paramount importance.    

New NADF have been and will continue to be developed to handle increasingly tough and complex drilling scenarios.  Solutions to these challenges have included not only changes in base fluids, but also internal polar phases, surfactants, polymers and colloidal (and now sub-colloidal) additives.  In this paper, we discuss changes in the composition and properties of NADF over the years that have enabled NADF to remain at the forefront of the drilling fluid industry.

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