What is Drilling Mud?

Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 27 February 2020
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
On Oct. 24, 1975, 90% of women in Iceland refused to work, either at home or at their jobs, demanding equal rights.  more...

April 4 ,  1968 :  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.  more...

Drilling mud, also known as drilling fluid, is a product used in the process of drilling deep boreholes. These holes may be drilled for oil and gas extraction, core sampling, and a wide variety of other reasons. The mud can be an integral part of the drilling process, serving a number of functions.

One of the most critical roles of this mud is as a lubricant. Drilling generates tremendous friction, which can damage the drill or the formation being drilled. Drilling mud cuts down on the friction, lowering the heat of drilling and reducing the risk of friction-related complications. The mud also acts as a carrier for the materials being drilled, with material becoming suspended in the mud and then being carried up the drill to the surface.

Using this substance protects the stability of a borehole by controlling variables such as friction and pressure. Different muds are needed for different circumstances, and the selection and formulation of mud is managed by a mud engineer. This engineer determines the correct viscosity level for the mud, and adjusts factors such as its density as well. Water, oil, and gas-based muds can all be used, with products ranging from true mud made with materials like bentonite clays to synthetic drilling fluid.


Drilling mud is recirculated throughout the drilling process. As it rises to the surface, it passes through screens that trap the materials from the borehole, before being cycled back into the system that delivers mud to the head of the drill bit. This recirculation process is designed to cut down on waste by reusing as much mud as possible. Depending on the materials being drilled, several screens may be needed to trap the materials, and sometimes the materials themselves are also coated in mud, which means that they will need to be cleaned even after filtration.

Some environmental problems have been associated with drilling mud. Historically, contaminated and dirty mud was dumped in open pits, allowing the natural environment to become polluted. Additionally, very aggressive chemicals are sometimes used to clean materials brought up when filtration was not sufficient. These chemicals can pollute the environment as well, generating a variety of environmental problems. Many companies that conduct drilling retain a compliance engineer who is responsible for monitoring the environmental impact of drilling activities, with the engineer ensuring that the company conforms with the law and its own internal environmental standards.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 3

Drilling equipment comes in all shapes and sizes. There are the huge ones used for drilling oil, while water drill equipment can be smaller trailers with shorter drill pipes.

Small groups living overseas, such as missionaries, pay less to have the water well drilling equipment shipped overseas. The small drill can be operated by 2 people.

Post 2

@SolarTower - I agree with your post. We Americans love our cars, but the oil won't last forever. The present methods for drilling for oil are putting harmful substances into our evironment. Another problem, as we saw in the BP accident, is company and government inspectors aren't following regulations or aren't even inspecting as often as they should.

This is a little off topic, but I'm concerned about our fresh water. There is a finite amount of fresh water in the world. Some countries need it badly. What will we do?

Post 1

Humanity progresses over time and along with some of the greatest inventions we’ve also been through some of the greatest disasters. Deep drilling has helped discover oil reserves and boring through the different layers of Earth helps scientists learn about the past.

Unfortunately, we’ve discovered the chemicals used to coat these drills may have a long term environmental effect. I’m not sure what humans do these days that do not cause harm to some part of our planet. We are using up resources faster since our populations keep rising; these precious resources like oil cannot be replaced. We need to think about the effects of progress.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?