Mud engineers are responsible for creating 'mud', or a mixture of fluids, clay and other minerals, that's used in the process of drilling for oil or gas. They typically have a background in engineering or drilling, and may have either specialized education or training in mud. They work with other engineers and geologists.
Mud engineers, also known as drilling fluids engineers, use their knowledge of drilling practices to create specialized fluids to lubricate machine components. This drilling liquid, known as mud, is a mixture of clays and other mineral components. Mud engineers typically are experts in drilling practices and are heavily relied upon in any kind of extraction operation, such as reservoir well placement, underwater rigging and deep bore mining. Some aspiring mud engineers advance to the role from lower-level drilling positions, while others attend formal 'mud schools'. Unlike other engineering professions, mud engineers are not required to obtain professional licensing.
|Required Education||No standard, some learn on-the-job; formal postsecondary programs are available|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)*||3% (for all types of petroleum engineers)|
|Median Salary (2019)**||$79,480 (for mud engineers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com
The main duty of a mud engineer is to create the various combinations of mud that will be used during the different stages of the drilling process. They also might have additional responsibilities, including recommending drill bits and assisting excavating technicians in the overall safety of the drilling process.
When creating the drilling fluids, mud engineers often use predetermined geological data obtained by geologists and drilling engineers. They conduct standardized testing during the drilling process and use a variety of methods to change the mud's viscosity, including adjusting the mud's temperature, pH balance and chemical components.
A large majority of drilling fluid engineers work in the extraction of oil and gas. Often, oil and gas companies want to calculate the estimated costs of drilling and extraction versus projected profits. Since mud engineers play a large role in the extraction process, they may have the additional duty of calculating a portion of the costs associated with the drilling process. This cost estimating is often done in conjunction with other drilling engineers and technicians.
The median salary for mud engineers in 2019 was $79,480, according to Payscale.com. Aspiring mud engineers should be aware that this salary data reflects survey results for a small pool of about 50 respondents.
Training for Mud Engineers
Many mud engineers begin their careers in other drilling positions, such as drilling technician, engineering assistant or pump man. They then work their way up to mud engineer through years of on-the-job experience.
Additionally, educational programs, often called mud schools, are offered by some community colleges and technical schools, usually in conjunction with nearby oil, gas or petroleum companies. Many of these programs follow guidelines and drilling fluids testing procedures recommended by the American Petroleum Institute (API).
Coursework is typically a combination of lectures and hands-on laboratory work. Students will learn to quickly identify equipment used during the drilling process, as well as what types of fluids are used with this equipment. They'll likely create mud logs and learn to analyze various mud components.
Mud engineers are skilled at creating the fluid mixtures that are needed when drilling for oil or gas, and they understand how to interpret geological data. These professionals typically have drilling or engineering experience, and they work with other oil and gas professionals during this process.