Shale-gas plays and other unconventional resources have gained significant importance worldwide. Historically, synthetic based drilling fluids (SBM) are used in these plays when no environmental concerns are in place and are preferred when wellbore stability is necessary. In this paper, we study the use of an improved water based drilling fluid (WBM) that is simple in formulation and maintenance that shows excellent rheological properties, maintains wellbore stability, and a good environmental profile. A combination of well-known and economically affordable materials is combined with new technology to achieve desired rheological properties and wellbore stability.
The use of nanoparticles to decrease shale permeability by physically plugging nanoscale pores holds the potential to remove a major hurdle in confidently applying water-based drilling fluids in shale formations, adding a new advantage to the studied fluid. Silica nanomaterials were investigated for this purpose. Due to their commercial availability, these materials can be engineered to meet the specifications of the formation. Characterization of the nanoparticles was completed with Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), dynamic light scattering, and X-ray-photoelectron spectroscopy. Rheological properties and fluid loss are studied together with other important properties such as shale stability and anti-accretion properties. The authors will describe new laboratory methods used to investigate these properties, from a modified API fluid loss test to the Shale Membrane Test that measures both fluid loss and plugging effects and illustrate additional future research that includes adding reactive species, and anchoring them to the pores, thus stabilizing the shale further.