Triflo International’s closed-loop or “Pit less” turn-key Drilling Systems
While doing drilling operations, “closed-loop” drilling fluid systems (sometimes referred to as “closed mud” or “pit less” systems) can indeed reduce or get rid of the discharge of wrongful drilling wastes on site. These systems negate the need for drilling reserve pits. Not only is it possible to have pit less drilling operations, it can also be an economic advantage to companies to used closed-loop drilling systems.
Many companies are using closed loop drilling systems in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Alaska and other states. Examples of companies who are using closed-loop technologies include: Shell, El Paso, Chevron-Texaco, Exxon, and many others.
Differences between conventional drilling and closed-loop drilling systems
At a typical oil or gas drilling site, drilling fluids (mud, water, additives) are continue looped through the wellbore, then the fluids and drill debris (rock fragments created by the drilling process) are deposited in a reserve pit created near well. This pit is used to hold used drilling fluids and wastes.
A reserve pit can be the source of considerable costs at a drilling site because:
- The pit itself must be created at the beginning of drilling, which requires the use of heavy earthmoving equipment.
- The pit may have to be lined.
- When the drilling project is finished, the pit, including all of the waste fluids and solids, must be properly handled. Such as could include activities like: the removal and offsite disposal of the waste materials and liner; the ground cover of the wastes and liner; backfilling of the pit with soil; and re-plant of the disturbed pit area.
Also, there are health, environmental, and financial liability associated with pits, which can pollute soils with hydrocarbons, metals and salts, and leak potentially poison liquids into surface or groundwater.
In a closed-loop drilling fluid system, the reserve pit is replaced with a series of cargo-like tanks that separate liquids and solids. Equipment to separate out solids (e.g., screen shakers, hydrocyclones, centrifuges) and collection equipment (e.g., vacuum trucks, shale barges) minimize the amount of drilling waste muds and cuttings that require dumping, and maximize the amount of drilling fluid recycled and reused in the drilling process. The debris created are typically transferred off-site for disposal at injection wells or oilfield waste disposal facilities.
The tanks will be an additional cost, but overall, pit less drilling can save an operator money because there is no need to dig a pit, there is a reduction in the amount of environmental releases, and the closed-loop system results in more efficient use of drilling fluid.
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- it gets rid of sore-looking and dangerous pits
- it cuts-down the time, energy and money of building, fencing and
reclaiming reserve pits
- it cutback the need for cuts in sensitive and hilly areas
- total surface disruption associated with a well pad is down
- it gets rid of risk of waterfowl and wildlife mortality related
- it gets rid of risk of damaging underground pipelines and
- it grant drilling in areas with a high ground water table
- it nearly eliminates drilling waste
- rigs use less water per well – it can reduce water usage by as
much as 80%
- the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that
“closed loop systems” can decrease the volume of drilling fluids by
as much as 90%
- it gets rid of soil isolation, which reduces wind erosion
- it reduces heavy-load traffic associated with transporting
drilling wastes by as much as 75%
- it may improve relationship with land owners
- it largely decrease waste tracking and need for land farming
- drill debris may be put to beneficial use, e.g., if not
contaminated they may provide a source of finely-ground clay for berg
construction around tank batteries or other uses
- the tanks can be re-used and move around
Closed-loop systems reduce company liability
Pits may or may not be lined (depending on the oil and gas regulations); and pits are open to the air. Because of this, the pit may leak liquids into surface or groundwater and release high levels of unsettled organic compounds, which in turn create health, environmental, and financial risks. If improperly guarded, livestock may enter the pit area. If the livestock is poisoned by the pit materials, companies may be liable for the deaths, and be required to compensate the livestock owner.
According to the Railroad Commission of Texas, even though closed-loop drilling is not always the least price-wise option, some companies in Texas have elected to use only closed-loop drilling fluids systems in their operations. Company choose this path because whenever a closed-loop system is used, the operator reduces the potential future liability associated with a conventional earthen pit, and reduces the waste management and site closure costs. It’s also good for the company image and public relations.