Water-Based Drilling Fluid Formulation using Silica and Graphene Nanoparticles for Unconventional Shale Applications


The development of unconventional shales started a new era in the oil and gas industry. These reservoirs represent a challenge to conventional drilling fluids since the fluid invasion, cutting dispersion, or shale swelling can lead to wellbore instability problems. Although oil-based drilling fluids (OBM)are capable to control these issues, environmental and economic concerns limit its application. Recently, nanoparticles (NPs)have introduced a new perspective in drilling fluid technology, offering a unique alternative to improve the performance of water-based drilling fluids (WBM)for shale applications. This research evaluates the potential of using silica nanoparticles (SiO2-NPs)and graphene nanoplatelets (GNPs)to formulate a nanoparticle water-based drilling fluid (NP-WBM). The study considers a bottom-up approach, selecting the NPs based on the Woodford Shale's characterization and focuses its primary objective in finding the most suitable NP combination to enhance the rheological, filtration and inhibition properties of the customized NP-WBM. The shale characterization included X-ray diffraction (XRD), cation exchange capacity (CEC), and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The zeta-potential technique was used to assess the stability of the NPs. The NP-WBM was evaluated by means of API filtration test (LTLP), high-temperature/high-pressure (HTHP)filtration test and rheological measurements using a conventional viscometer. Finally, the inhibition capability of the NP-WBM was tested against the Woodford shale through immersion and cutting dispersion tests. NPs' characterization revealed that both additives can provide stable suspensions with zeta-potential values < −30 mV. A total NP concentration of 0.75 wt% (0.5 wt% of SiO2-NPs and 0.25 wt% of GNPs)yielded to the maximum reduction in filtrate volume at both, LTLP and HTHP conditions. The less permeable filter cake resulted in no spurt-losses, supporting the NPs' plugging effect. A strong cross-linked network created between the NPs and the conventional additives increased the cutting carrying capacity of the NP-WBM with slight effects on its plastic viscosity (PV). The immersion test carried out in water revealed that illitic shales might experience micro-fractures along the bedding planes in the absence of bridging materials. Contrarily, the NP-WBM provided an adequate plugging network between grain boundaries, resulting in no micro-fractures, and the reduction of the cutting erosion by 35.61%. Overall, this study highlights the capability of nanomaterials to extend the reliability of WBM to harsher environments while seeking an eco-friendlier alternative.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Research Center/Lab(s)

Center for Research in Energy and Environment (CREE)

Keywords and Phrases

Additives; Cutting fluids; Dispersions; Gas industry; Grain boundaries; Graphene; Infill drilling; Nanoparticles; Oil wells; Scanning electron microscopy; Shale; Silica; Silica nanoparticles; SiO2 nanoparticles; Swelling; Zeta potential, Cation exchange capacities; Conventional additives; Conventional drilling; Cross-linked networks; Graphene nanoplatelets; Oil-based drilling fluid; Rheological measurements; Water based drilling fluids, Drilling fluids, additive; drilling fluid; filtration; hydrocarbon reservoir; inhibition; nanoparticle; rheology; shale; silica

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

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© 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Aug 2019