Solid results: Managing risk with drilling fluids

AMC Solids Removal Unit™ allows drill crews to spend less time monitoring mud systems and focus on drilling.

Drilling fluids are composed of a wide variety of chemicals. While the majority of Drilling Fluid Products are designed to minimise their impact on the environment, there are still those which can pose risks to Health and Safety or which may be harmful to the fauna and flora or contaminate waterways or land areas. Vigilance is required not only during the direct handling of drilling fluids and chemicals but also as part of their wider use in the drilling process.

Significant volumes of drilling mud can be generated from drilling operations, some of which may not be suitable for reuse and may need to be transported and dumped. Replacement drill fluid may require fresh make up water to be transported to site. If sumps are being used, they need to be dug and managed. These processes all require close management to ensure they can be completed safely for people and the environment and have the ability to affect project scope, budget and timeframes.

The use of sumps and the large volumes of drilling fluid chemicals and water that goes along with it, represents a prime risk in any drilling operation.

What are the risks of drilling fluid sumps?

Traditionally sumps have been used to store large quantities of drilling fluid after use. Regardless of being above ground or in ground, drilling fluid sumps have several pitfalls:
  • Digging, construction, re-mediation and removal of these sumps may prolong operations and add unnecessary costs
  • The slurry may be affected by weather, such as freezing cold or warm, evaporative temperatures, making the drilling fluid less suitable for reuse
  • Fluid leaking into the surrounding environment or waterways is still a risk
  • Screening may be required to ensure local wildlife and staff do not ingest fluid, fall into sumps or drown
  • If the slurry has a high water content, this may put stress on sumps with limited capacity making it more expensive and potentially more complex for disposal
  • Site footprint is increased
  • Excessive water usage
The sump method is complicated, disposal and outsourcing environmental specialists for remediation is still required. Sometimes this may not be an option, especially for smaller contractors, remote projects, scope of budget or local regulations.

What is solids control technology?

Solids control technology is being utilised more and more, helping drilling contractors to differentiate themselves by delivering additional health, safety and environmental benefits.

The award-winning AMC SOLIDS REMOVAL UNIT™ is the ultimate companion for drillers, enabling cost-effective, minimal impact drilling, even in the most restricted locations. Available in several configurations, these innovative closed-loop systems eliminate the use of sumps and maintain drilling fluid at optimal performance, delivering ROP improvements as well as drastic water, mud and waste reductions and more.

The AMC SURFACE SRU™ works by circulating drilling fluid directly from the drill collar to be processed by the shaker and centrifuge, where drill solids are separated from the mud slurry and discharged via a waste chute. The unit’s high-speed decanting centrifuge is specifically adapted for diamond drilling, operating up to 3,000rpm, to remove solids to less than 5 microns and keep drilling fluid in excellent rheological condition. After being processed, cleaned drilling fluids flow into a tank for return to the drill rig for re-use. The drilling fluid is contained throughout this whole process.

Why use solids control technology?

Without processing the mud slurry directly from the hole, solid cuttings may cause wear and tear on drill bits, wireline and other components, typically reducing the life of the equipment, and lowering the ROP while increasing maintenance and replacement costs. Sand content can also be an issue, with its abrasive effects on pumps. Reduced bit life, bit changes, maintenance and replacement of equipment can have drastic effects on operational time and costs. The AMC SRU™ creates drier cuttings waste with a water ratio of 1:1, no runoff from cuttings occurs and the water left is likely to evaporate in the right conditions. The volume of cuttings for disposal is also significantly less, and has proven to reduce waste volumes up to 96%.

The AMC SRU™ can significantly reduce water and mud consumption and their associated costs. The closed-loop system recycles drilling fluid, shrinking mud consumption by up to 75%, by returning clean fluid, with optimal drilling fluid properties to the drill hole.

“The SRU™ has substantially lowered our water content; this both reduces the volume of material transported from the rig and reduces the potential of suspended solids to run off in freshet surface waters.” - Dave Cox, Site Geologist - Aurora Geoscience

Clean, non-abrasive mud can reduce incidents of stuck pipe and damaged drill components. Due to reduced rod trips, pulling and reaming, the AMC SRU™ is able to reduce the level of operating labour required on site and risk of injury. The AMC SRU™ creates a drier, safer work environment, containing and reducing the volume of water and mud on site, reducing slip and trip hazards caused by mud on roads and run ways, as well as reducing drive time for support vehicles including vac and water trucks and associated driving risks.

“The AMC Surface SRU™ provided considerable cost savings as excavation, drainage and rehabilitation were not required, and the unit returned a lot of the additives to drill circulation instead of being lost as sludge.” Dr Bryan Smith – Consultant Geologist.

Following the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle philosophy, you can both better manage your risks to health safety and environment as well as operational costs. Recycle your drilling fluids and reuse them and reduce the amount of drilling fluid chemicals used in the process.

Solids control technology is proving to be an essential part of drilling fluid risk reduction for operations. The AMC SRU™ closed-loop system has received several accolades for its innovation contribution to the drilling industry, eliminating the need to manage sumps, and providing a solution to reduce overall risk and enable drilling in remote or environmentally sensitive areas.

For more information

For more information about our SRU Range and how we can help you reduce the risk of drilling fluids and chemicals, please visit or contact your nearest AMC representative.