Conventional clay-based drilling fluids often experienced difficulties in controlling the rheological properties, gelation, and filtration due to flocculation of clay at the temperature higher than 121°C. Deflocculant or thinner, one of the drilling fluid additives, serves a significant role in preventing the association of clay particles particularly in high temperature environments such as high-pressure and high-temperature (HPHT) deep-water drilling. Lignosulfonate has been commonly used in the industry as deflocculant for clay-based drilling fluids since the late 1950s as a replacement for Quebracho tannin. Degradation at the elevated temperature limits the usage of anionic polymer and lignosulfonate. In improving the stability of deflocculant at high temperature, lignosulfonate is admixed or reacted with chromium and iron compound to obtain ferro-chrome lignosulfonate whose temperature limit is approximately 190°C. While recent ferro-chrome lignosulfonate contains less chrome than in the past, development of more environmentally friendly and higher thermally stable deflocculant is still needed. In HPHT environment which requires high-density drilling fluid, a higher thermally-stable deflocculant is also valuable for barite sagging that becomes problematic at a temperature higher than 200°C.
Several findings in the past development of adhesives show that addition of tannin improves the thermal stability of lignosulfonate. Tannin is a polyphenolic compound that is natural, non-toxic and biodegradable and can be found in various part of a vascular plant other than Quebracho. Lignosulfonate, on the other hand, is a byproduct of the paper pulping process. Tannin and lignosulfonate are cross-linked to obtain tannin–lignosulfonate for use as a high-temperature drilling fluid deflocculant. Tannin and lignin are the most abundant compounds extracted from biomass. The wide availability of tannin and lignosulfonate is an advantage from a manufacturing cost viewpoint.
In this paper, an overview of drilling fluids, classification of drilling fluid, high temperature reservoir environment, and mechanisms of dispersion and deflocculation are presented. Further discussion on the potential development of eco-friendly tannin–lignosulfonate based drilling fluid system for the high temperature well development also presented.