The use of synthetic-base muds (SBM) has increased steadily since their introduction in the Gulf of Mexico early this decade. Research into SBM has centered on assessing the likely environmental impact of cuttings discharges. This impact is potentially affected by various factors, not the least of which is the synthetic-base fluid itself, related to the chemical composition of the mud.

New technology in the form of synthetic mud formulations can further reduce the environmental impact of cuttings and the associated fluid. These novel formulations aid in pollution prevention associated with the discharge of drill cuttings into the receiving environment. These new technologies include:

  • Unique emulsifiers that allow wellbore surfaces and cuttings to change from an oil-wet state to a water-wet state

  • New synthetic-base materials that allow cuttings to disperse readily into the water column

  • Novel brine phases that benefit the disposal of cuttings via land farming

This paper discusses these approaches in formulating and engineering synthetic-base muds can reduce the overall environmental impact of a drilling operation.

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