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Overcoming Common Solids Control Failures Using centrifuges

Drilling fluid conditions will inevitably degrade over the course of a well’s life. Theoretically, there are means to keep this from happening. However, many of today’s solids control techniques make this hard to avoid. This is driven by two common solids control errors: coarse flow-line shaker screens, and 25 percent centrifuge slip stream treatment.

Most drilling rigs operate their primary flow-line shakers with screens that are too coarse (screens rated at American Petroleum Institute [API] 140 or lower). To cut costs, rig operators use coarse screens that last longer.

Despite the fact that most rig drilling fluid circulation rates operate between 800 and 1,200 gallons per minute (gpm), the largest centrifuge applications treat 100 to 300 gpm. Most centrifuge applications treat only one out of four parts (25 percent) of the drilling fluid during each pass. The challenge is that modern drilling techniques constantly generate colloidal and ultrafine solids, through the natural degradation cycle, faster than can be removed by the solids control system.

The combination of these factors results in drilling rigs operating with primary flow-line shakers that are too coarse to sufficiently support the goals of the solids control program and using insufficient centrifuge capacity to make up for the poor performance of the shaker systems. Despite the fact that drilling fluid operations have become significantly more advanced in the last 20 years, most rig operations continue to use 14-inch solids control centrifuges. Though these centrifuges may have been well sized for systems a decade or two ago, this is no longer the case.