Drilling through shale formation can be challenging and sometimes results in wellbore instability problems due to the reaction between hydrophilic shale and drilling fluids. The typical low permeability of shale, the presence of ions and charged surface of the constituent clay are factors which makes the problem of wellbore instability very complex despite efforts dedicated to the study by researchers. The study of wellbore stability in shale is quite important because 75% of all formation drilled worldwide are shale formations and 90% of all wellbore instability problems occur in shale formations costing the industry more than $1 billion USD/year (Chenevert, 2002; Zeynali, 2012); the lost time due to this challenge also account for over 40% of all drilling related non-productive time (Zhang et al, 2009) and these instabilities are responsible for 10-20% of the total drilling cost. A solution through this challenge is critical to the sustenance of the investment made by operating companies in the oil and gas industry. This will drastically reduce drilling cost, completion and workover cost as well as the accompanying downtime involved. It will also improve the net present value of operating company in the industry. Basically wellbore instability occurs when the mechanical stress induced by drilling into the formation exceeds the formation rock strength. Chemical interactions between the drilling mud and the in-situ shale affect the in-situ stress state of the formation hence the stability of the formation. Geo-mechanical models have been designed to tackle mechanical wellbore instability in the Niger Delta the challenge therefore is a chemical solution to the wellbore instability problems of the region. Oil-based muds have been known to overcome wellbore stability problems, but disposal challenges and environmental concerns have led to infrequent use. The challenge therefore is to formulate an environmentally friendly drilling mud having the inhibitive properties to tackle the wellbore instability challenges. This paper presents a review of studies carried out to characterize the mineralogy of shales and the salinity distribution of formation water in the Niger Delta depobelts with a view of designing a "balanced-activity" drilling fluid to help stabilize the formation during drilling. Results obtained from the reviewed researches showed that shale mineralogy characterization and formation water salinity distribution is critical in designing a balanced-activity drilling mud that can effectively tackle the problems of wellbore instability.

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