Bits ‘n Pieces – The Driller’s Blog

Why pH Levels are Important When Mixing Drill Mud

Posted by Rod McCoremick on Nov 16, 2015 9:30:00 AM
Rod McCoremick

By adding drilling fluid additives to the water you use in your drilling operations, you will be creating a mixture often called “drilling mud”.

The reasons for making a drilling mud are numerous and include:

  • To more easily lift and flush our rock cuttings from the bottom of the borehole
  • To create a film on the walls of the borehole which will stabilize the hole and keep it from caving in
  • To seal the walls of the borehole to prevent loss of fluids
  • To cool and clean the drill bit and to lubricate the bit and other drilling equipment.

Check and adjust your pH level

So drilling fluid additives can bring great benefits to a drilling operation – but knowing how to properly mix them is crucial.  Drillers must check the pH level of the water they will be using. The term ''pH'' refers to the levels of acid or alkaline found in a liquid.


A pH of 7.0 is neutral, a pH lower than 7.0 is in the acidic range, and a pH higher than 7.0 is in the alkaline range. Drilling fluid additives were developed to be mixed with water with a pH level from 8.5 to 10 in order for the required chemical reaction to occur and to provide a proper yield. Most water sources range from 5.5 to 7.5 which is too low.

The easiest way to check pH level is to use a simple pH testing strip, similar to ones sold to check swimming pool water. These are thin paper strip that changes in colour according to the pH. They are simple to use; you dip the strip in water, wait for the color to develop, and then compare the colour of the strip with the colours on a chart supplied with the strips.

If you find that the pH level is lower than 7, you will need to add soda ash to the water. Soda ash or another product such as pH 10, can be added at a rate of ¼ pound to ½ pound per 100 gallons. These products will also condition the water if has too many minerals (hard water) so that less additive product will be needed. Once it is dissolved you will need to re-test to make sure the PH is at the right level.

Finally, if your water quality is poor or if the pH level is too high, let’s say between 11 and 14, then you may have to add sodium bicarbonate to lower the pH. Another option would be to find an alternate source of water. 


The reason that the pH level is important is that much more drilling additive will be needed to achieve the right viscosity if the pH level is too low. Checking your pH levels will save you product and money in the long run.

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Topics: Drilling mud, fluids and additives

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