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Indirect Kiln Gives Spent Drilling Mud New Life at a Lower Cost

Indirect Kiln Gives Spent Drilling Mud New Life at a Lower Cost
23 May 2023  |
In the extraction of oil and gas, drilling mud serves multiple purposes. It facilitates the removal of debris from the well by carrying it to the surface, while also ensuring proper lubrication and cooling of the drill bit. Disposing of spent drilling mud requires adherence to specific regulations, but one company discovered an opportunity to recover both hydrocarbons and the drilling mud using thermal treatment. Upon processing, the company can then sell the hydrocarbons as fuel and recycle the drilling mud.

While the company had a system in place, they were unhappy with the significant maintenance requirements and the associated expenses incurred by the system, leading them to look for an alternative. 

The innovative company approached FEECO to determine if an indirect rotary kiln (sometimes also referred to as a calciner) could be used to achieve their objective.

Test work began in the FEECO Innovation Center where batch- and pilot-scale kilns were used to demonstrate how an indirect rotary kiln could reach their process and product goals.

The project posed distinct challenges due to the unique nature of the drilling mud and its reactions under thermal treatment conditions. However, FEECO successfully addressed these challenges through the rigorous testing process, ultimately developing a specialized feeding system and implementing a sophisticated arrangement of internals within the kiln. These measures effectively prevented material from sticking and building up within the kiln’s interior, allowing for efficient processing of the drilling mud.

After successfully illustrating first feasibility and then proof of process, FEECO was tasked with scaling up the process and building an indirect rotary kiln for use in a commercial setting. 

The resulting system allowed the customer to continue recovering spent drilling mud and selling hydrocarbons back to the market as fuel, but significantly reducing their associated maintenance costs. This meant a more economically efficient system for the customer and their ability to continue reducing the environmental impact of oilfield waste.

FEECO’s selection for this project was primarily based on the extensive testing capabilities found in the Innovation Center, which proved to be invaluable assets throughout the endeavor.

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FEECO International, Inc. was founded in 1951 as an engineering and equipment manufacturer. FEECO is recognized globally as an expert in providing industry-leading process design, a range of engineering capabilities, including everything from process development...

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