Waste is inevitable in any activity of construction, but there is not necessarily an issue so much with waste as there is with how it is dealt with. Technology has been instrumental in helping avoid waste in the oil industry, and that technology is solids control.
Solids control is a technique used in oil drilling. It is typically located on a drilling rig and is used to separate the solids in the drilling mud. These solids are created by the crushing of the drill bits that are carried out of the well surface.
Essentially, solids control is the recycling of the drilling mud, and it saves costs regarding mud quantity and disposal. Although there are other forms of waste management in the oil industry, solids control is one of the best options to drilling waste management and helps to minimize the environmental impact of oil drilling.
Solid control systems contain multiple parts and stages.
Mud tank: Mixes and stores drilling mud
Shale shaker screen: Removes large solids
Hydrocyclones: Speeds up the settling process
Centrifugal screw pumps: Provides feed pressure and volume to operate the hydrocyclone
Desander: Removes medium-sized solids
Desilter: Removes small-sized solids
Vacuum degasser: Removes air from mud agitator
Conveying equipment system: Transports cuttings
Centrifuge: Recovers barite and complies with environmental standards
Cuttings dryer: Removes moisture from cuttings
Dewatering: Removes fine solids
Containers: Holds cuttings for transport
Disposing of Waste Drilling Fluid
After solids collection is over, the waste drilling fluid will need to be handled and disposed of. Non-toxic waste does not necessarily need to be treated any further, but any oil-based or even synthetic muds will need to be treated. This is because they are toxic and can cause damaging effects to the environment. Treating and disposing of this fluid properly reduces the need for the addition of more mud products to maintain the proper components and formation of the mud quality.
Increase Life of Usable Fluid
Solids control truly helps the oil industry be more sustainable. Using a good solids control system can increase the usable life of the fluid two to three times. This is extremely useful to oil companies, as mud dilution and mud dumping are no longer environmentally acceptable.
In order to make the mud quality useful for recirculation, the content of solids in the mud has to be kept below 5%. By reusing mud and fluid multiple times, solids control is a much more economical method of oil drilling.
Reduce Drill Bit Penetration
Keeping the concentration of solids in drilling mud down is also helpful for reducing excess drill bit penetration. This helps to avoid the risk of instability due to long periods with an open borehole. In turn, this reduces drilling costs.