Researchers develop new drilling fluid technology to advance mineral exploration

Supported by the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA) and the Deep Exploration Technology CRC, Dr Masood Mostofi and his research team at the Western Australian School of Mines: Minerals, Energy and Chemical Engineering (WASM: MECE) of the Curtin University developed the new technology as part of their ongoing research into automating fluid monitoring and handling in the drilling industry.

Drillers exploring deep below the surface in search of mineral deposits need specialized fluids to lubricate and cool the active drill head, and that won’t leak through cracks and porous rocks around the drill site.

“New coiled-tube drilling technology being developed for mineral exploration requires much higher volumes of these special fluids than conventional drilling,” Mostofi said.

Mostofi and his team have developed a system that can meet these fluid needs in remote locations where geologists might explore new mineral deposits, and reduces the risk of fluid releases that could affect the local environment.

“Our reformulated drilling fluid eliminates the use of hydrocarbons, and we have developed a new method to both keep boreholes stable and quickly separate rock chips and solid materials from the fluid as it returns to the surface.

“In conjunction with partner technologies being developed in the MinEx CRC, this method will help provide continuous samples of the rock material that a drill rig passes through up to 1000m below ground, while allowing the drilling fluid to be effectively cleaned and recycled,” he said. .

In releasing the research report, MRIWA CEO Nicole Roocke said the research is helping to move the exploration industry towards safer, greener and cheaper drilling.

“This is an important step forward for the mining industry,” Roocke said. “By supporting these improvements in drilling technology, the Government of Western Australia is helping our exploration industry develop the tools it needs to succeed.”

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