Category description

Solids Control and Waste Management is the process of managing, treating and disposing of waste generate during the drilling a well in particular cuttings and drilling fluid (mud). Depending on the mud system used waste generated can be highly toxic. Appropriate Solids Control and Waste Management practices can significantly lower the amount of waste and its toxicity as well as the negative effects waste can have on the well and down-hole equipment.

In general, the waste management strategy is stage ladder process, whereby reducing the waste at its source is the first option, followed by recycling, and finally treatment and disposal. The subcategory consists of two major areas: 1) Solids collection and control and 2) Waste Treatment and Disposal.

SOLIDS COLLECTION AND CONTROL - is a process of separating solid rock particles in the mud generated by drilling, cleaning the mud, and recovering the mud before returning it back to the system. Depending on the application and mud system used, solids collection and control equipment is comprised of:

  • Mud Tanks -  mud storage and mixing
  • Shale Shaker - separates big solids, as a first stage separation
  • Desander - separates medium sized solids
  • Desilter - separates small sized solids
  • Mud Cleaner - a combination of desander and desilter  
  • Vacuum degasser - separates the air from the mud
  • Conveyance System (auger) - transports cuttings on the rig, normally offshore 
  • Decanter Centrifuge - high-speed & variable-speed centrifuges are required when drilling fluids requires further processing to provide higher mud recovery rate and comply with stricter environmental standards. Decanter centrifuge can also recover up to 90% of barite that can be re-used. 
  • Mud Cooler - to cool the drilling fluid, mostly used in oil based mud and high temperature applications 
  • Cutting dryer - ideally vertical, this device reduces liquid content in cuttings to below the 5% mark. Shakers, mud cleaners and centrifuges would leave cuttings with a liquid content on between 10% to 15%. 
  • Dewatering Unit - allows removal of the fine solids (less than 5 microns) from the water based drilling fluids, using chemical processes.
  • Cuttings collection & transportation system - is a closed loop system providing vacuum or pneumatic powered conveyance to transport cuttings for a relatively long distance, e.g. from an offshore drilling rig to a supply vessel. 
  • Drill Cutting Boxes are small open containers / skips that are used to transport cuttings from drilling rig offshore, to the shore base for further treatment and disposal. Depending on the drilling speed, solid equipment on the rig and distance to shore, the number of skips ranges from 150 to 350 per rig. 

WASTE TREATMENT AND DISPOSAL is the process of management and disposal of waste generated by drilling fluid and drill cuttings, after the solids collection and control phase. Depending on the mud system used and initial treatment, the water content in cuttings and its toxicity may still be high and further treatment could be required, prior to final disposal. This stage is not always present and there are instances when non-toxic waste is disposed immediately. Oil-based mud and synthetic-based mud are considered to be toxic and must go through a treatment and disposal process. There are various options to treat and dispose the waste and the selection criteria are driven by 1) regulations; 2) costs, 3) type of waste, and 4) what equipment is available. The options available are:

  • Cuttings Re-injection (CRI) is used for re-injecting drill cuttings back to the reservoir through separate disposal wells, old non-producing wells or existing production wells. This process returns drill cuttings to its native environment and does not produce any pollution. This is the only on-site, permanent disposal method that is in full compliance with environment standards. In certain applications, cuttings re-injection is a more cost-effective solution, when compared to skip-and-ship and onshore treatment and disposal.
  • Thermal desorption is a process of indirectly heating the waste to increase volatility of contaminants that frees them from solids matrix and evaporates them from the cuttings.  This in turn removes oil and other toxic materials from the processed cuttings and provides less than 0.1% of oil-on-cuttings content, to allow further disposal (landfill and land farming) or recycling (road spreading, construction materials or restoring coastal wetlands). Thermal treatment is the most effective technology to process waste generated by oil-based mud systems. Current days, technology allows in-situ processing using TCC RotoMill technology with full disposal offshore, given the space and power capacity on the drilling rig allows installation of the equipment. This completely eliminates the requirements of transporting waste to shore for further processing. Two major types of technology are used: 1) Thermomechanical, whereby friction is the source of heat and 2) Thermal Phase Separation, where propane, natural gas or diesel, combusts in the burners to heat up the cuttings. 
  • Fixation / Stabilization / Encapsulation used mainly with water-based mud. The technology converts liquid and slurry waste into dry and solid materials with high structural integrity. Materials and chemicals such as calcium oxide, cement, fly ash, mica and lime are used to treat drill cuttings and encapsulate them. Stabilized drilling waste has been used as a material for road foundations and backfill for earthworks. Although there are some limitations, this method have been approved and successfully used in various locations. Because of the equipment footprint, it has never been used in offshore locations. 

Dewatering is a chemical and mechanical process that is used to recover water from the mud and return it back to the drilling fluid. 

The table below shows the various attributers and characteristics of available cuttings management strategies.

The cost of Solids Control and Waste Management is largely dependent on type of mud system used and life span of the facilities. For example, costs of a dedicated thermal plant that can reach as much as US$20M, can be spread over many wells. 

Risks & Opportunities

Value opportunities and risks are features or requirements that may add or detract from the overall value offered.

To ensure value is maximized attention should be given to the following areas;

  • Effective Solids Control - Being able to effectively control solids (i.e. separate water and cuttings from the mud) has a huge impact on cost efficiency.  Removal of liquid from the mud not only lowers the transport costs due to the smaller volumes, but maintains the rheology of the mud and thereby reduces the need to add more mud products to maintain the mud during drilling perations
  • Drilling Process - During various solid control processes drilling efficiency must be matched with the number of skips available. Where this is misaligned drilling may be slowed resulting in significant additional costs. Likewise during Waste Management, in particular re-injection applications, the rate of injection must match drilling efficiency or again significant costs may be incurred
  • Technology - New technologies continue to appear on the market advancing companies ability to manage waste and lower cost. Examples such as Ennox Green Extraction (EGX) and MIhave been developed in the last decade
  • Mud Selection - Mud selection has important implications for the selection of the Solids Control Process as well as Waste Management process. Mud selection must be carefully considered alongside such to ensure the most effective combination is utilised. 

Supply & Demand Dynamics


Demand for Solids Control and Waste Management services is directly driven by drilling and well intervention activities, as well as environmental regulations. North America is the largest segment accounting for around 40% of the global industry size, followed by Europe and Asia Pacific. These 3 regions account for more than 70% of the global segment. Middle East is one of the smallest areas, accounting to less than 5% of the global market.

Primarily as a result of tighter environmental regulations, the demand of the services has been growing significantly, over the last several years. A moderate increase in market size is expected between 2014 and 2019. Type of drilling fluids used, location (offshore vs. onshore), well depth and footage drilled are the key factors in establishing the growth opportunities.

Between 80% to 90% of drilling waste management is generated by onshore projects (driven by North America). However, over the next several years, offshore waste management is expected to show a significant growth rate.  

Middle East will generate strong demand due increasing activities in: 

  • Fields redevelopment 
  • Increased footage drilled 
  • Well intervention operations due to aging wells
  • Shift from vertical drilling to horizontal drilling and utilization of oil-based mud in high H2S and high temperature fields


Supply of Solids Control and Waste Management services consist of equipment and personnel. Major service providers have been MI SWACO ( SLB) and Halliburton, followed by TWMA, Scomi, Brandt ( NOV) and smaller niche companies. The equipment is available in the market and in most cases, manufactured by 3rd parties. Engineering support and experience are the key differentiators between service providers. In addition, due to strict environmental regulations, there is little competition when it comes to complex applications that require a multidisciplinary knowledge and experience.

In the Middle East, there are thermal plants available in Abu Dhabi and Fujairah, to process drilling waste. 

External Scanning

This is very a competitive market in solids control equipment segment, but more complex and less competitive in waste management segment, whereby a multidisciplinary knowledge and experience is required.

New Entrants is Medium
  • Expertise in Oil & Gas
  • Highly competitive market
  • Now-how and proprietary technologies 

Supplier Power is Low 
  • Few manufacturers of equipment 
  • Suppliers knowhow and expertise  is critical in certain applications
  • High switching costs for buyers

Competitive Rivalry 

Competitive market 

Limited competition in complex segment 

Large working capital required 

High growth rate 

Long term business opportunities 


Buyer Power is High 
  • Spend is significant 
  • Few buyers 
  • Buyer can integrate this category 

  • Does not exist 

Portfolio Positioning



Cost & Price Analysis

Price Analysis

Over the last several years, the demand for Solids Control and Waste Management was fairly stable with a high growth in waste management in particular. However, the 2015 oil price downturn, global requirements for Solids Control and Waste Management hampered, due to reduction in activities. In the near term, this will put pressure on services companies and manufacturers to maintain reduced prices.

Since Solids Control and Waste Management equipment is primary made of steel and electrical components, steel prices have significant impact on solids control equipment segment. Prices in waste management are less prone to changes by steel prices, due to proprietary nature, complexity of equipment and slightly less competitive environment. Price for personnel, however, may exhibit a mixed trend, depending on the region and application. 

Cost Analysis 
The majority of the components in Solids Control equipment are steel, electrical and instrumentation, with steel contributing more than 70% material composition. Key cost drivers are: 

  • Steel prices - directly impacts the cost basis
  • Personnel costs - little volatility, solids control personnel is a medium skills job where rigid instructions are followed. However, in more complex and environmental sensitive applications engineering support is critical, hence requires highly qualified engineers and may cost double.

Value Chain Analysis

Key manufacturers of solids control equipment

  1. NOV / Brant
  3. GN Solids Control
  4. Flo trend 
  5. Alfa Laval
  6. Elgin
  7. Fluid Systems
  8. Derrick Equipment Company 

Total Cost of Ownership

Generally, most of the Solids Control Equipment is purchased by operators or more common, installed on drilling rigs. Waste management though, normally procured as part of waste management services. Depending on complexity of equipment, day rates, operating rates, monthly rates and standby rates are ways to charge for the services. All consumables are based on a direct purchase.

When OBM / SBM mud is used and treatment facilities are required, incentivizing contractors to be more efficient and pay for the output, proved to be highly valuable to operators. E.g.  a monthly rental fee with a processing fee per ton of drill cuttings would incentivize service providers to be reliable and efficient in processing the cuttings - the more they process the more revenue generated. The benefits for oil companies include efficient utilization of resources ( vessels, tanks) and not paying for inefficient processes ( when only monthly fee paid). 

Other Factors to consider:

  • Consider having equipment rental based on 1) standby and 2)operational rates (processing rates per ton of cuttings when treatment is used). There is a great degree of uncertainly for service companies on utilization of equipment, hence guaranteed standby and operating rate will remove most of this uncertainty, thus result in lower total cost to operators.
  • Integrating Solids Control and Waste Management with drilling fluids management will ensure efficient recovery of mud products, which in turn will decrease mud costs and the costs of cuttings disposal.
  • Cost to change from one contractor to another, specifically when units are stationed and require installation work that may result in excessive standby costs (e.g. offshore drilling rig).   
  • Recovery of base oil is one of the key challenges for many companies. Selecting the base oil that desorbs at a lower temperature makes the recovery process less energy intensive, thus less costly.


  • Offer long term contracts to service companies, so equipment depreciation costs are more visible and manageable for service providers, which in turn translate into lower prices for operators
  • Buy vs. rent might be an option when a large number of wells drilled. Equipment could be bought from major manufacturers with maintenance agreements to be in place
  • Categories and aggregate spend on shaker screens used on the rig, to achieve bigger leverage and volumes. In addition, assess opportunities of domestic manufacturing of shaker screens 
  • Integrating complex and highly environmental sensitive projects into Drilling Fluids, Solids Control and Waste Management contract will provide tremendous HSE, technical and commercial benefits to operators. 


Assess opportunities of domestic manufacturing of shaker screens and solids control equipment, via imposing this requirement to major supplies of equipment and consumables, as part of the tender requierement