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Treatment of drilling fluid waste during oil and gas drilling: a review


Oil and gas exploration and development provide important energy sources for the world, and drilling fluid is an essential engineering material for oil and gas exploration and development. During the drilling of oil wells, drilling fluids are eventually discarded as waste products after many cycles. Abandoned drilling fluid constitutes one of the largest wastes generated during oil and gas exploration and development. Drilling fluid contains many chemicals, which turn into pollutants during use. Furthermore, when drilling is carried out to reach reservoir, the drilling fluid becomes contaminated with crude oil. It may also mix with groundwater containing salts and heavy metals. The resulting pollutants and harmful substances threaten the environment, humans, animals, and plants. The variety and complexity of drilling fluid waste have increased in recent years. Various countries and regions are paying more attention to the ecological environment, and effective methods are urgently needed to solve problems associated with of environmental pollution caused by drilling fluid wastes. At present, various physical, chemical, and biological methods have been proposed for the treatment of drilling fluid wastes: safe landfilling, stabilization/solidification treatment, physicochemical treatment, thermal treatment, supercritical fluid treatment, bioremediation, etc. All of these methods show promising characteristics, and they each have advantages and limitations; thus, treatment methods need to be selected according to the actual application scenarios. This critical overview is based on an extensive literature review, and it summarizes and expounds on the current drilling fluid waste treatment technologies and proposes views future potential and outlook.

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The work was supported by the Key Core Technology Project of CNPC (Grant number 2020A-3913).

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All authors contributed to the study’s conception and design. Material preparation, data collection, and analysis were performed by Jie Yang, Jinsheng Sun, Ren Wang, and Yuanzhi Qu. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Jie Yang, and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. The final editing, revising, and corrections are done by Ren Wang and Yuanzhi Qu. Finally, Prof. Jinsheng Sun approved this review to be published. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jinsheng Sun.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Responsible Editor: Ta Yeong Wu

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Yang, J., Sun, J., Wang, R. et al. Treatment of drilling fluid waste during oil and gas drilling: a review. Environ Sci Pollut Res 30, 19662–19682 (2023).

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  • Water-based drilling fluid waste
  • Oil-based drilling fluid waste
  • Petroleum pollution
  • Treatment technology
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Treatment mechanism
  • Wastewater treatment