As a technical sales manager for CETCO Drilling Products, I spend a good 30 percent of my time training and educating customers. On a given day, I could teach in a classroom, customer shop or on the jobsite, or for a large audience in an auditorium.

You have to enjoy speaking publicly, and I love passing on my experience and knowledge to contractors. I may speak about CETCO products directly (holding a customer mud school) or about types of drilling fluids in general. (We do not use brand names when teaching for continuing education.) No matter what the audience, the main goal is to provide pertinent information on drilling fluids that can help a contractor be more productive and reduce the number of issues while drilling. It is also a good avenue to discuss new drilling fluid technologies. 

Every drilling contractor should take the opportunity to attend a mud school or sit in on seminars regarding drilling fluids. A mud school can seem overwhelming. My suggestion, especially for those new to the drilling industry, is to build knowledge incrementally. Seminars or short schools can help build a knowledge base. For instance, a good understanding of the functions of a good drilling fluid will provide the basis for knowing how thick to mix your mud and when to consider additives. It may take attending a few schools before this really sinks in. That is OK — every school helps grow that knowledge base.

Contractors should consider an advanced mud school once they are comfortable with the functions of drilling fluids, and have a good understanding of the properties of bentonite fluids and the functions of different polymers.

If you participate in a mud school, try these tips to get the most out of it.

  • Be prepared before the class with a specific topic you would like to discuss or a goal to accomplish. For example, you may want to learn the best way to deal with swelling clay when drilling. As an instructor, if I have a smaller class, I fine-tune the presentation to the needs of the audience. That way both the participants and the instructor get the most out of the class.
  • Write down real-life examples of issues that you have had while drilling. This is a great way to get detailed conversations going in the class on how to solve real problems. I enjoy when other participants can give examples of how they have dealt with similar issues. A mud school is at its best when the class participates. This helps everyone retain knowledge better, as it puts the theory behind drilling fluids into context. Pro tip: A lot of people will share pictures illustrating problems they have. 
  • Ask for further details if the instructor discusses topics you do not understand or if you need clarification. One confused student means other people likely have the same questions. As a CETCO employee dealing with drilling fluids daily, I can sometimes move fast through topics. As mud schools often get more detailed as they go on, understanding concepts at the beginning of the school helps the rest make sense. 
  • Check out the samples sent around to the class to look at if the presenter does demonstrations. Most people learn better using their hands than looking at slides on a screen. I like it when people play with the samples to see how the products actually work.
  • Jot down questions during the presentation (or prepare them in advance) to ask during the question period afterward. I enjoy this part of teaching the most. If no one asks a question, I ask the audience some questions to break the ice. This usually gets people talking. A good question-and-answer period can take a mud school to the next level.

Follow these tips and you will find learning about drilling fluids both rewarding and interesting. But remember that the learning should not end when you leave the class. After the school, make sure you take the presenter’s contact information. I like to get calls from students asking for further information or providing feedback after having tried things learned in class. Nothing satisfies me more than when I get a call telling me, “Hey, you know when you talked about mixing this additive with the other one? Well, I tried it today and it worked great!”

Mud schools are a great tool for contractors. Learning more about drilling fluids, grouts and sealants, and being one of the first to hear about new technologies, can help improve your drilling operation.