Effect of drilling fluid systems and temperature on oil mist and vapour levels generated from shale shaker

Kjersti Steinsvag*, Karen S. Galea, Kirsti Krüger, Vegard Peikli, Araceli Sánchez-Jiménez, Esther Sætvedt, Alison Searl, John W. Cherrie, Martie Van Tongeren

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    Workers in the drilling section of the offshore petroleum industry are exposed to air pollutants generated by drilling fluids. Oil mist and oil vapour concentrations have been measured in the drilling fluid processing areas for decades; however, little work has been carried out to investigate exposure determinants such as drilling fluid viscosity and temperature. A study was undertaken to investigate the effect of two different oil-based drilling fluid systems and their temperature on oil mist, oil vapour, and total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) levels in a simulated shale shaker room at a purpose-built test centre. Oil mist and oil vapour concentrations were sampled simultaneously using a sampling arrangement consisting of a Millipore closed cassette loaded with glass fibre and cellulose acetate filters attached to a backup charcoal tube. TVOCs were measured by a PhoCheck photo-ionization detector direct reading instrument. Concentrations of oil mist, oil vapour, and TVOC in the atmosphere surrounding the shale shaker were assessed during three separate test periods. Two oil-based drilling fluids, denoted 'System 2.0' and 'System 3.5', containing base oils with a viscosity of 2.0 and 3.3-3.7 mm 2 s -1 at 40°C, respectively, were used at temperatures ranging from 40 to 75°C. In general, the System 2.0 yielded low oil mist levels, but high oil vapour concentrations, while the opposite was found for the System 3.5. Statistical significant differences between the drilling fluid systems were found for oil mist (P = 0.025),vapour (P < 0.001), and TVOC (P = 0.011). Increasing temperature increased the oil mist, oil vapour, and TVOC levels. Oil vapour levels at the test facility exceeded the Norwegian oil vapour occupational exposure limit (OEL) of 30 mg m -3 when the drilling fluid temperature was ≥50°C. The practice of testing compliance of oil vapour exposure from drilling fluids systems containing base oils with viscosity of ≤2.0 mm 2 s -1 at 40°C against the Norwegian oil vapour OEL is questioned since these base oils are very similar to white spirit. To reduce exposures, relevant technical control measures in this area are to cool the drilling fluid <50°C before it enters the shale shaker units, enclose shale shakers and related equipment, in addition to careful consideration of which fluid system to use.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)347-356
    Number of pages10
    JournalAnnals of Occupational Hygiene
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011


    • drilling fluids
    • exposure determinants
    • offshore petroleum industry
    • oil mist
    • oil vapour

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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