Managed Pressure Drilling (MPD) is an advanced form of primary well control usually employing a closed and pressurizable drilling fluids system that allows more precise control of the wellbore pressure profiles than mud weight and mud pump rate adjustments alone. Unlike conventional open-to-atmosphere mud returns systems at the rig floor such as drilling or bell nipples, the circulating fluids system employed by MPD technology is more akin to that of a pressure vessel.

Although the term, Managed Pressure Drilling or MPD is relatively new to the industry, having been first introduced in this context at the 2004 IADC/SPE Amsterdam Drilling Conference, the practice itself is not. In fact, the litany of techniques now defined by the IADC and to be included in the MPD chapter of SPE's new textbook, "Advanced Drilling Technology and Well Construction" have been evolving on land programs over the past two decades. This is particularly true in the United States where 3 out of 4 land drilling programs drill at least one section with a closed and pressurizable mud returns system, up from 1 in 10 in 1995.

Of course, underbalanced drilling (UBD) requires such a system and a part of the uptake in usage is directly related to the growing practice of that technology which focuses upon enhancing the ultimate productivity of the well. However, most of the uptake is related to non-underbalanced applications and where the focus is not the reservoir, but upon dealing with drilling related issues; less drilling flat time, and enhanced control of the well. Unlike UBD that invites influx of hydrocarbons during the drilling process, MPD does not invite influx. The intent is to discourage influx by maintaining a state of effective overbalance whether drilling ahead or shut in to make jointed pipe connections. Any influx that may be incidental to MPD operations is contained with appropriate surface and downhole equipment and does so with fewer interruptions to the drilling program.

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