A high performance water based mud (HPWBM) system has been used successfully to address a combination of drilling challenges faced in the Middle East. Drilling problems encountered in the area typically include shale instability through pressure transmission effects, swelling clay-stone, bit balling, drill-string accretion, differential sticking over tight gas permeable sands and down-hole losses.

All these challenges can be very difficult to overcome with conventional water based mud (WBM) systems and can prove very expensive in terms of lost mud, lost down-hole tools, non performance rig time, side-tracks or ultimate failure to meet well or section objectives.

The HPWBM system was introduced to provide considerable improvement in WBM performance and also provide an environmentally benign alternative to oil based muds (OBM) while emulating OBM drilling performance attributes. Recent applications in the Middle East have proved that the HPWBM system can be applied as an alternative to OBM, successfully achieving the objectives of the sections while providing drilling performance comparative to OBM.

This paper discusses the technical features of the HPWBM system, gives an outline of previous applications and presents detailed case histories of the more diverse applications of the system and its components in wells in the Middle East, while comparing performance to offsets drilled with conventional WBM and OBM.

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