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Solids control is a technique used in a drilling rig to separate the solids in the drilling fluids that are crushed by the drill bits and carried out of the well surface. Normally, a solid control system contains five stages: the mud tank, shale shaker, vacuum degasser, desander, desilter, and centrifuge. The shale shaker is used to separate big solids with diameter above 75μm, the desander addresses solids from 45-74μm, and the desilter segregates solids between 15-44μm. Sometimes the desander and desilter are combined as one high efficiency mud cleaner. When air enters the drilling fluids, a vacuum degasser is used to separate the air. When there is no air in the mud, the degasser works as a big agitator. All these stages are mounted on the top of the mud tank. After separating the solids, the clean mud can be pumped into the borehole again.
The mud system with 4 phases of solids control process can be understood as the 5 phase purification system. From shale shaker, vacuum degasser, to Desander cone, Desilter cone, and the decanting centrifuge: different working principle, different separation point. Every well drilling requires such a system to process drilling mud. However, per different well depth and different drilling conditions we'll get different configurations and different results.
Recent advances in solids control include the creation of a closed loop system which allows for increased environmental control and reduction in the potential for spills of drilling fluids. Several US states have either passed or are considering the implementation of closed loop systems, particularly for hydro-fracturing operations.