Relative to the use of drilling fluids within the oil & gas industry, the use of drilling fluids within the horizontal directional drilling (“HDD”) industry, is new. As the use of HDD technology did not become mainstream until the 1980’s, it took another decade before drillers started to consider the use of basic drilling fluids. Even today, the amount of research and development aimed at HDD drilling fluids is considered a rounding error in the oligopoly of drilling fluid manufacturers. However, the trends strongly suggest that the future of HDD drilling will follow a similar evolutionary cycle as experienced by the traditional oil & gas industry. As such, it is only a matter of time before customized and highly engineered drilling fluids make their way into day-to-day HDD operations.
Couple the evolution of drilling fluids with the escalating cost of waste management and disposal, the economic practicality of utilizing drilling fluids, is dependent on the ability to recover and recycle. Though the cost of barite and bentonite continue to be commoditized, additives continue to become more and more expensive. Add the escalating cost of qualified talent, HDD rig operators are left with a critical challenge; making profits, when the cost of business is increasing.
The following guide provides for a high-level practical understanding of the key principles behind HDD solids control and drilling fluid management that concludes in several key considerations that must be kept in mind when evaluating and finally selecting a package mud reclamation system. With that said, the following discussion should not be considered exhaustive and will not cover all circumstances. Ultimately, the supplier of the drilling fluid and the original equipment manufacturer of the solid control and waste management equipment should be consulted with, prior to making any key business decisions.