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Up Against the Well, Roughneck Mudder: Drilling Fluids and the Shale Revolution

A quarter million dollars for mud?  Mud for a single horizontal well can cost that much and more.  As horizontal well laterals keep getting longer, they need that much more mud.   So the $10 billion drilling mud fluids business is growing fast.  The industry has a unique supply chain, with production, storage and distribution infrastructure that rival other aspects of the oil & gas drilling business.  But you don’t hear a lot about mud.  It is one of those unsung heroes of the shale revolution, getting little attention in industry press or the investment community. But producers know they can’t do their job without just the right mud formula.  Today we begin an in depth look at drilling mud fluid and its importance to shale drillers.

There is No Drilling Without Mud

As any experienced roughneck will tell you, mud is an integral part of life on a rig, and drill pipe doesn’t move into the ground without it. It’s messy, is pretty much everywhere, it doesn’t smell very good and during the drilling process it will end up embedded in their clothes, shoes, and nearly every body part. But it is fundamental to the job of drilling for oil and gas.   Legend has it that the first use of mud for commercial drilling, and the origin of the term was in the days of Spindletop (early 1900s) when drillers ran herds of cattle through a watered down field and used the resulting mud to lubricate their drill bits. It’s come a long way since then.

Today drilling mud is a complex and expensive business driven by companies with talented engineers who are experts in the chemistry and use of drilling fluids (but you still hear “mud man” or “mudder” used in the field).  Some mud can be a simple mixture of water and clays, but many are complex “cocktails” of polymers, crushed rock and other chemicals that are blended to meet the needs of a specific drilling challenge.

Surviving the Flood of Light Crude Oil - Next Tuesday


A few weeks back the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) surprised everyone by interpreting its rules to allow for the export of processed condensates.  What really changed?  How do the rules work?  To address these questions, Jacob Dweck and Shelly Wong, the attorneys with Sutherland law firm who assisted Enterprise in their successful application to the BIS, will be joining us at the conference to be held next Tuesday and Wednesday in Houston.  More information on Surviving the Flood here.

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