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“Mexican barite,” was my friend’s two-word answer when I complained about corrosion and pitting in our downhole drilling tools in West Texas. He said he almost had to buy an entire string of drill pipe in the STACK when he let barite from Mexico weight his mud rather than heavier, higher purity barite from his traditional sources.

He said there’s a host of new mud companies in the Permian and that competition for work had deteriorated vendor selection to price and price alone. How do you still make money as a mud company if you must compete on price? Get a cheaper source of barite. And with cheaper barite comes impurities and with impurities comes chemistry that can rapidly corrode carbon steels even in oil-based drilling fluids.

So there’s the Hobson’s Choice: By saving money drilling my well with cheap, impure barite, I create a fluid environment that destroys my service company’s metal, which causes them to charge me damaged-beyond-repair fees that possibly exceed the money I’m saving on drilling fluid.

For my money I’d go back to the better barite so my directional tools and drill
pipe will last longer.

If the drilling service companies are smart, they will insist on being provided a drilling fluid chemical analysis on each well, establishing maximum and minimum parameters for this oh-so-critical component to the drilling process. If the drilling fluid falls outside these parameters, the customer gets charged for damaging the equipment.

Permian Basin Directional Drilling Market

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With well over a billion dollars being spent each year on directional drilling services just in the Permian, treating that highly technical market segment with respect and care is foundational to the continuing growth of the drilling industry. Keep a keen eye on drilling fluid chemistry.