Drilling mud density can be increased by adding weighting agents. Industrial applications of drilling fluids use finely ground barite with a specific gravity of 4.1 as the weighting material. In geotechnical engineering, drilling fluid is used to aid the drilling of boreholes into the earth. Often used while drilling oil and natural gas wells and on exploration drilling rigs, drilling fluids are also used for much simpler boreholes, such as water wells. Liquid drilling fluid is often called drilling mud. The three main categories of drilling fluids are water-based muds (which can be dispersed and non-dispersed), non-aqueous muds, usually called oil-based mud, and gaseous drilling fluid, in which a wide range of gases can be used.
The main functions of drilling fluids include providing hydrostatic pressure to prevent formation fluids from entering into the well bore, keeping the drill bit cool and clean during drilling, carrying out drill cuttings, and suspending the drill cuttings while drilling is paused and when the drilling assembly is brought in and out of the hole. The drilling fluid used for a particular job is selected to avoid formation damage and to limit corrosion.