Restrictions on the discharge of drilling mud and cuttings around the world are governed by standards, norms, laws and regulations designed to provide protection to the surrounding marine environment. Operations have been ongoing in waters off the American coasts and the North Sea for the longest period of time and both areas have developed the most detailed set of restrictions and testing of both the discharges and the chemicals used in drilling fluids.

Since the late 1970's, offshore operations have expanded throughout the world in Africa, South America, the Middle East, Asia, and in other areas. In many instances these countries have developed their own standards and requirements for discharges either through individual country laws or through international standards (i.e., the Baltic Sea Convention). Methodologies used to evaluate drilling fluids and their discharges include; biotesting (of both whole mud and the individuals chemicals), chemical restrictions and analysis, oil content, biodegradability to name but a few.

How best to evaluate these discharges around the world has become problematic. The cost of testing fluids for each new venture is both costly, time consuming, and in many instances unwarranted. However, each region and country has the right and legal and moral obligation to assure that any industrial activity off their coasts is controlled and the environment proven safe from these activities.

The following paper discusses the various methods and methodologies that have been used around the world to evaluate drilling fluids and their approval for discharges. The paper describes the positive and negative aspects of these methods and compares results from three major offshore areas where operations are currently being conducted: US, North Sea, and Russia. Other area methodologies and restrictions are discussed also. It is hoped this effort will provide both national, international, and regional controlling bodies with scientific data that can be used to develop a standard method of analysis to promote offshore development while safeguarding the marine environment.

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