For any drilling expedition, a vital component is the mud. It is composed of various chemicals and other essential components that ensure that the drill is kept effectively lubricated at all times, the hydrostatic pressure on the borehole wall is maintained which in turn controls any possible influx of the reservoir fluids. Controlling the chemical characteristics of the mud and keeping it constant is vital for the smooth function of the drilling operation and that’s where the role of the Mud Engineer comes in.
The mud engineer’s job responsibilities can be listed below:
- Before the drilling operation begins, the mud engineer will consult with the geology expert and other references to prepare a ‘mud program’.
- This will contain a detailed plan on what the chemical components of the mud should be at all times, how to keep its characteristics the same as different surfaces are reached and deciding what should be added or removed to ensure stability of the hole.
- As drilling progresses, the mud engineer will rely on a number of experts to advise him on how the mud is changing. He will work with them to perform a series of chemical and physical tests to validate forecasts and formulate action plans.
- As the hole gets deeper, small rock particles begin to emerge which changes the chemical composition of the mud. This has to be controlled with the help of various additives.
- Ultimately on some occasions, the entire mud will have to be replaced and once again this will be managed by the mud engineer.
- If at any time the stability of the borehole wall is at risk, cement is poured inside which is often times supervised and managed by the mud engineer.
- The mud engineer maintains the equipment used to pump the mud so that it is functioning, as it should at all times.
A mud engineer’s experience and knowledge is essential for the effective running of a drill crew. He is usually expected to be a graduate with a degree in engineering or chemistry. He would have also obtained an additional certificate from a ‘mud school’ to supplement his education. Prior to becoming a mud engineer, he would need at least 10 years or more experience on an oil rig performing in roles such as derrickhands or roughnecks before spending more time with senior mud engineers.
Mud engineers are provided a lot of support for their jobs including computer aids and reference material so that all possible issues can be anticipated in advance. It is a highly critical and technical function as any mistakes in this area can prove to be extremely expensive. The salary is in the range of $72,000 per year but can differ according to experience, companies and tasks expected.