Mud Weight and Its Importance in Drilling

Mud weight or mud density is a weight of mud per unit volume. It is one of the most important drilling fluid properties because it controls formation pressure and it also helps wellbore stability. Mud weight is measured and reported in pounds per gallon (PPG), pounds per cubic feet (lb/ft3), or grams per milliliter (b/ml).
Mud weight is normally measured by a conventional mud balance; however, if you have some air inside a fluid phase, reading from the conventional mud balance will give you an inaccurate number. Therefore, the most accurate method to measure the mud weight is with a pressurized mud balance.

conventional mud balance

Conventional Mud Balance

Pressurized Mud Balance

Pressurized Mud Balance

The pressurized mud balance looks like the convention one, but it has a pressurized sample cup. When you press a mud sample into the cup, any gas in a fluid phase is compressed to a very small volume so the mud weight measurement is more accurate.

What will happen if there is insufficient drilling fluid density?

Well control

The well will be in an underbalanced condition so any formation of fluids – gas, oil, and water- will enter into the wellbore.

Wellbore collapse (wellbore instability)

Mud weight will provide pressure to hole back formation. If mud weight is too small, wellbore may collapse.

What will happen if the mud weight is too high?

Lost circulation

If the hydrostatic pressure from mud column exceeds formation strength, it will cause a formation to break. Once the formation is broken, drilling fluids will be lost into the induced formation fractures.

Decrease in rate of penetration

Heavier mud weight will result in slower ROP because of hold down effect. Practically, while drilling, low mud weight is used at the beginning and mud weight will be increased, as the well is drilled deeper in order to optimize ROP and mitigate well control.

Deferentially Stuck Pipe

Since there are differences between formation pressure and hydrostatic pressure, there will be a lot of chances that a drill string will get deferentially stuck across permeable rocks.

Formation damage

The more mud weight that is in the well, the more mud filtration invades into porous formations. The invaded mud will cause damage to formation rocks.



Coleman, S. (2018). Well Control Quiz Online. [online] Well Control Quiz Online – Test Your Well Control Knowledge for Free. Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2018].

Cormack, D. (2007). An introduction to well control calculations for drilling operations. 1st ed. Texas: Springer.

Crumpton, H. (2010). Well Control for Completions and Interventions. 1st ed. Texas: Gulf Publishing.

Grace, R. (2003). Blowout and well control handbook [recurso electrónico]. 1st ed. Paises Bajos: Gulf Professional Pub.

Grace, R. and Cudd, B. (1994). Advanced blowout & well control. 1st ed. Houston: Gulf Publishing Company.

Watson, D., Brittenham, T. and Moore, P. (2003). Advanced well control. 1st ed. Richardson, Tex.: Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Andy Philips, 2012. So You Want to be a Mud Engineer: An Introduction to Drilling Fluids Technology. Edition. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Ryen Caenn, 2011. Composition and Properties of Drilling and Completion Fluids, Sixth Edition. 6 Edition. Gulf Professional Publishing.

Tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

About DrillingFormulas.Com

Working in the oil field and loving to share knowledge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.