Barium sulfate

January 21, 2008
Image of Barium sulfate 3D Image of Barium sulfate

Barium sulfate (BaSO4), also known as barite, is a dense (4.48 g/cm3), insoluble salt that has many uses. Almost all barite (98%) is used as a densifying additive to oil well drilling fluids, or “muds”, which are used to seal the space around the drill bit. The mud also flushes out chippings and cools and lubricates the bit. High-density muds are necessary for drilling into deep formations to counteract high gas pressures. BaSO4 also has multiple uses in X-ray imaging, paint pigments, fireworks, and brake linings.

MOTW update: September 4, 2023

Barium sulfate1 (BaSO4) is also known as barite, the mineral in which it is found, its principal use is as a densifying additive to oil well drilling fluids, or “muds”.

BaSO4 works well in petroleum drilling muds; but it can be problematic for drilling in other reservoirs such as shale oil and gas deposits, where it widely contributes to mineral scaling despite the use of scale inhibitors. In August, Barbara F. Esteves*, Jennifer L. Druhan, and Adam D. Jew at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (Menlo Park, CA) used experimentation and modeling to improve the understanding of the geochemical behavior of BaSO4 accumulation in shale matrices under conditions typical of fracturing operations. Their experiments demonstrated a pH dependence on the rate of BaSO4 precipitation, which they incorporated into a predictive model that they validated on three major shale samples of highly variable mineralogy.

1. CAS Reg. No. 7727-43-7.

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