Consider a new approach to your drilling operations. Making a career change is one example of trying something new, but there are many opportunities to try something new in all aspects of life. In this article, I would like to talk about trying something new with regard to the way you approach your drilling operations. Many of you have learned how to drill from some of the most important people in your life — your parents. Moreover, they learned from their relatives. Since the time your mentors learned the drilling process, many innovations in drilling fluids, grouts and sealants, and polymers and additives have been developed — and many of these within the last 10 years. If you have not kept up on these innovative products, now would be a good time to investigate them. You will be glad you did.

Drilling fluids should be used as tools to avoid trouble instead of to get you out of it.

There is a vast array of drilling products available to handle any type of soil conditions that you may encounter. Drilling fluids should be used as tools to avoid trouble instead of to get you out of it. Some available products are listed below. After all, the best time to buy flood insurance is before it starts to rain.

Drilling Fluids

Why drill in clay with clay? As a colleague of mine put it, “If that clay were any good, we would be selling it!” Drilling fluids manufacturers have developed drilling fluids that are engineered to meet the needs of horizontal or vertical drilling applications. Some of the ultra-high-yielding fluids perform exceptionally well in both drilling orientations.

Polymers and Additives

Synthetic Polymers

Synthetic Polymers – PHPAs (partially- hydrolyzed polyacrylamide) are for reactive soils, fine soils. Manufactured in liquid and powdered form, PHPAs can be tailor-made to fit any function. They are viscosifiers, clay and shale inhibitors, lubricants and borehole stabilizers. These products will make your drilling operation run more smoothly by eliminating clay and shale swelling, bit balling and stickling problems. These products aid in the formation of a tight, thin filter cake, which will stabilize your boreholes, and ensure integrity in horizontal or vertically drilled boreholes.

Modified Natural Polymers

Modified Natural Polymers – PACs (polyanionic cellulose) are for non-reactive, coarse soils. Manufactured in liquid and powdered form, cellulose polymers primarily are used to control fluid loss and stabilize difficult holes. They are fluid-loss additives, and are added in order to create superior borehole stability.

Natural Polymers

Natural polymers are materials derived from natural sources, such as plants, animals or microbial fermentation. Many are used in food products as thickeners. Natural polymers can be used in non-bentonite-based drilling fluid or as additives to increase suspension qualities of bentonite drilling fluids. Most are biodegradable.


Manufactured in liquid and powdered form, flocculants are designed to lower pH, break emulsions, and remove high levels of suspended solids. Flocculants can be used in polymer slurry and water-filled boreholes. When added into either type, they react instantly to settle suspended solids and decrease turbidity. They work fast for water sampling and downhole filming.

Clay Inhibitors – for reactive soils

Specially formulated clay inhibitor additives will greatly reduce or eliminate clay cuttings from sticking to each other and to the drilling tools. Swelling in the bore will be reduced or eliminated, and rotation and pullback pressures will be reduced significantly. Clay inhibitors work differently from conventional synthetic polymers in that they actually disrupt the ionic charge/molecular attraction of the clays, causing the clay to break down. Formulations are available for horizontal or vertically drilled boreholes.

Specially Formulated Grouts

Ground Source Heat Pump Grouting

There are bentonite grouts that are engineered to suspend up to 400 pounds of silica sand. Geothermal grouts have been proven to improve the performance of ground source heat loop applications.

Grounding Rod Issues

These grouts are high-solids, single-component, organic bentonite grouts that are specially formulated to provide a conductive seal around grounding rods. When used to seal drilled boreholes in which vertical grounding rods are placed, the grout increases the grounding system’s conductivity by lowering the resistivity from 300 ohms per meter with normal soil to 0.76 ohms per meter. These grouts adhere to the entire surface of the grounding rod, providing the smallest surface area and, consequently, offering the greatest effective resistance area.

There are many other products available that have not been mentioned here. Check your drilling fluid manufacturer’s website to obtain the most up-todate product information and offerings. If you cannot find what you are looking for, give the manufacturer a call; it can help you find a product that will work in your particular drilling application and soil conditions.