This research centres on optimizing the formulation of a water-based lightweight biopolymer drilling fluid using Design Expert for underbalanced drilling (UBD). Response Surface Methodology (RSM) was selected as a viable means to obtain the optimized drilling fluid formulation. Concentrations of four main raw materials (glass bubbles, clay, xanthan gum and starch) were varied in a suitable range to obtain the formulation with the desirable density, plastic viscosity (PV) and yield point (YP) for UBD application. Based on the results, the optimized drilling fluid can be formulated with 24.46% w/v of glass bubbles, 0.63% w/v of clay, 0.21% w/v of xanthan gum and 2.41% w/v of starch. The desirability factor, d for this optimum condition selected is 0.628. The mathematical models generated by RSM were able to predict the three response parameters well, as the experimental values were found to be in good agreement with the predicted values. The error is less than 1.0, standard deviation less than 0.5 and the accuracy is more than 98.5%. All mathematical models were quadratic in nature. The model used to predict the PV has an inverse square root transform. This drilling fluid is considered to be less harmful to the environment as it is water-based and, at the same time, composed of natural polymers (xanthan gum and starch) which are biodegradable. With this novel formulation, we could expect to drill more wells in underbalanced conditions to improve production of oil.

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