A new approach is required in order to eliminate the environmental impact of the discharge of cuttings contaminated with invert emulsion drilling fluids. Up to now, much emphasis has been given to the inherent environmental characteristics of the fluids themselves (toxicity, biodegradability, etc.) but little or no attention has been dedicated to the mechanisms of environmental impact

The main mechanism of impact of the discharge of drilled cuttings is the organic enrichment of the marine sediment. Organic enrichment is a situation derived from the accumulation of organic matter in concentrations exceeding the "processing capacity" of the receiving environment (the oxygen demand exceeds the supply).

Silica Micro-Encapsulation will eliminate the possibility of organic enrichment as well as the direct toxic effects of the fluids coating the discharged cuttings. Once the oil attached to the cuttings is encapsulated, the cuttings become water wetted, which leads to their dispersion in the water column (as it is the case with water based mud cuttings). The dispersion of the cuttings will minimize the load of fluid in the sediment. In addition, the encapsulated oil is not bio-available, therefore these cuttings will not have an oxygen demand which will prevent the organic enrichment.

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