Drilling fluid or drilling mud is a critical component in the rotary drilling process. Its primary functions are to remove the drilled cuttings from the borehole whilst drilling and to prevent fluids from flowing from the formations being drilled, into the borehole. It has however many other functions and these will be discussed below. Since it is such an integral part of the drilling process, many of the problems encountered during the drilling of a well can be directly, or indirectly, attributed to the drilling fluids and therefore these fluids must be carefully selected and/or designed to fulfil their role in the drilling process.
The cost of the mud can be as high as 10-15% of the total cost of the well. Although this may seem expensive, the consequences of not maintaining good mud properties may result in drilling problems which will take a great deal of time and therefore cost to resolve. In view of the high cost of not maintaining good mud properties an operating company will usually hire a service company to provide a drilling fluid specialist (mud engineer) on the rig to formulate, continuously monitor and, if necessary, treat the mud.