Waterbase Drilling Fluids Technology

Removal of Cuttings

If drilling fluid is defined as a material employed to aid tools in the creation of a borehole, the use of drilling fluids far antedates the petroleum industry. Water, the principal constituent of the majority of drilling fluids in use today, was the first drilling fluid. As early as the third millenium in Egypt, holes up to twenty feet deep were drilled in quarries by hand-driven rotary bits. J.E. Brantly, the recognized authority on the history of drilling, concludes that water probably was used to remove the cuttings in such borings.1'2

According to Confucius (600 B.C.), wells were drilled in China for brine during the early part of the Chou dynasty (1122-250 B.C.). Many wells, some hundreds of feet deep, were bored near the border of Tibet for brine, for gas, and for water (Figure 2-1). Water was poured into these wells to soften the rock and to aid in the removal of cuttings.3,4

In making holes by the percussion method, cuttings were removed by bailing. Circulation of water was proposed in a patent application filed by Robert Beart in England in 1844.5 He disclosed a method of boring by means of rotating hollow drill rods such that "matters cut or moved by the tools employed may be carried away by water.', At about the same time in France, Fauvelle6 pumped water through a hollow boring rod to bring the drilled particles to the surface. In 1866, P. Sweeney7 received a United States patent on a "stone drill" that displayed many features of today's rotary rig, including the swivel head, rotary drive, and roller bit (Figure 2-2). Several U.S. patents issued between 1860 and 1880 mention the circulation of a drilling fluid to remove cuttings.

Figure 2-1. Early Chinese drilling rig. (Courtesy of NL Baroid.)
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