How to Measure K+ Concentration in Mud?

Alright, Mud properties are things that every day I’m dealing with. Just like a juggling, when any properties go off-spec, then I need to get them back while controlling others to be in acceptable range. For example when The YP (yield point) goes up either because of contamination or increasing of solid, it affects to the increasing of ECD (equivalent circulating density). The higher ECD going to be dangerous as there’s a limit for pressure in wellbore. The YP must be reduced till the allowable range by dilute, adding defflocculant, reduce solid content, etc. but then, mud weight will be goes down, oh,,,it’s really like juggling. Full with dilemma, rite? :smile : , but, It’s nice anyway,,, :mrgreen:

So far I work with Water Base Mud with KCl-Polymer system. The standard mud properties that I always measure are Mud Weight, funnel viscosity, PV (plastic viscosity), YP (yield Point), Gels strength, Fluid loss, pH, Alkalinity (Pm, Pf, mf), Hardness (total, Ca specific), K+, MBT, sand content, and solid content. It takes about 45 minutes to measure them all. Oh God, it’s so chemistry. A basic chemistry actually… so, a suitable education background for mud engineer is neither chemical engineering nor petroleum, the chemistry is :mrgreen: . But don’t worry, coz everything’s here is a basic things not an advance. So, it’s gonna be fit to all engineering or science background who have ever learn basic chemistry. But still, a chemist must be perform better.

The comparison of cuttings evidence in Shale Shaker. an adequate concentration of K+ looks much nicer and smooth (left), otherwise it got sticky cuttings (right)

K+ concentration is important parameter and being one of our main concerns when drilling a shale or clay formation. The K+ will be going down in mud out from the well, as some of them is stick in shale/clay formation to inhibit water invasion into it (prevent swelling). One of the cuttings evidence  when the K+ is going down is sticky and often stuck in shaker, when we have adequate K+ concentration, it looks much nicer and easily coming out like smooth with no sticking each other. the common method to measure K+ concentration in a mud is hand crank centrifuge. the procedure to as follow:


the apparatus needed and the precipitate formed when it’s already cranked

  1. Clinical centrifuge tubes: Pyrex, Kolmer-type (Corning #8360) only, 10 mL
  2.  Centrifuge: horizontal-swing rotor head, manual or electric, 1800 rpm
  3. Standard sodium perchlorate solution: 150 g in 100 mL distilled water3
  4. Standard potassium chloride solution: 14.0 g dry KCl dissolved in distilled water and made up to 100 mL in a volumetric flask, 0.5 mL of standard KCl solution made up to 7.0 mL with H2O = 1% KCl solution

Preparing Standard Curve for Potassium Chloride

curve of precipitate

  1. Prepare standards over the range of 1% to 8% KCl by adding the appropriate number of milliliters of standard potassium chloride solution (0.5 mL per 1% KCl) to centrifuge tubes and diluting to the 7.0 mL mark with distilled water.
  2. Add 3.0 mL of sodium perchlorate solution to each tube.
  3. Centrifuge4 for one minute and read precipitate volume immediately.
  4. Plot milliliters of precipitate versus percent potassium chloride, using rectangular graph paper as shown in picture

Field Procedure

  1. Measure 7.0 mL of APl filtrate into the centrifuge tube.
  2.  Add 3.0 mL of sodium perchlorate solution to the tube. If potassium is present, precipitation occurs immediately.5
  3. Centrifuge for one minute and read precipitate volume immediately.
  4. Determine potassium chloride concentration by comparing precipitate volume measured with the standard curve for potassium chloride.
  5. Immediately dispose of precipitate by rinsing from tube into bucket of water. Dump water in a remote area of drilling site so that the precipitate can disperse and decompose.

High Potassium Chloride Concentrations

The accuracy of the method is dependent upon measuring potassium concentrations between approximately 2% and 8% KCl. If the filtrate potassium concentration is much less than 2% KCl, the method becomes inapplicable. If the filtrate potassium concentration is greater than 7% KCl, dilution may be accomplished as follows:

  1. Pipette 2.0, 3.0, or 4.0 mL of filtrate into the centrifuge tube and dilute with water to the 7.0 mL mark.
  2. Correct results by multiplying % KCl by 7, divided by volume of filtrate used (2.0, 3.0, or 4.0 mL).

then I found a curve for standard KCl solution and its formula in any rig. actually, the curve is specific for every centrifuge.

But, trust me, all that stuff is not a big deal. Practically in the field, we measure with simple way with not really accurate result. Sometime I feel that’s not true. The procedure must be applied whatever it takes. So first, I have to make a standard solution, then make a chart, then bla..bla..bla..It’s so time consuming. When there’s a lot of time available. I’ll do the entire procedure, but mostly not as rig job always hectic and unpredictable. Then I understand that we are in the field, we’re not a lab technician.  So, don’t be so perfectionist. Remember, Engineer is about make everything simpler but still in right way of course.

Table for K+ concentration in different amount of precipitate

Well, my senior really did a great job in it. He does really brilliant. Yup, an engineer must be think smart in anyway. I’m still working on it :mrgreen: . well, here’s the things: we can used a table to know how much K+ concentration directly from the amount of precipitate. Here we go! Let say, when I got 2.6 mL amount of precipitate, so I got 2.5 ml = 60.664 plus 0.1 mL = 2406 or 63070, we wrote it thousands commonly, so it was reported around 63000 mg/L. how’s that? Smart, right? Hehe.


3 thoughts on “How to Measure K+ Concentration in Mud?

  1. Mas Agus, bagaimana cara mengitung presentase K dari KCl mud dengan formulay yg telah dijabarkan.
    i.e KCl 13 lbm/bbl (ppb)

    Saya ingin tahu % K dari konsentrasi KCl.

  2. maksudnya %-wt KCl yg digunakan di system? (kalau %K dr KCl ya tinggal cek purity dr si KCl nya) itu tinggal lihat konsentrasi KCl nya dlm ppb trus liat %-wt nya lewat tabel KCl solution yg biasanya ada di beberapa literatur atau di manual book nya beberapa mud company.

  3. Yang dicari %K dari KCl. Apa Mas Agus punya manual atau chart nya untuk mendapatkan nilai K tersebut atau fourmulanya.

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