To achieve more effective drilling, in drilling rigs, a mud is applied to the driller in order to reduce the temperature of the hole while providing an efficient drill. Drilling mud is a lubricant applied in this process. Gilsonite is used as Oil Based Drilling Muds as a Fluid Loss Control Additive (FLC) and usual Gilsonite Grades by American Gilsonite are Gilsonite GM-P and XM-P for this application which are different in Softening point and similar in other specs.
There are basically three types of drilling muds:
- Oil Based Muds – OBM: Base material is Oil product, such as diesel oil
- Water Based Muds – WBM: Base material is water
- Synthetic Based Muds – SBM: Base materials is polymers
Gilsonite is vastly used in all drilling muds but in different aspects and manners.
In oil based muds, Gilsonite acts as a Fluid Loss Control agent or FLC. While as a hydrocarbon, it reacts well with the base material of the mud and increases the drilling efficiency significantly. Also since Gilsonite has a high softening point, applying Gilsonite will significantly reduce the loss of fluids.
In stricter environmental drilling, where Synthetics Muds are used, applying Gilsonite may decrease the costs by 80% comparing to the substitute material UHT-Co Polymers.
Gilsonite in drilling application has several market myths and complications. One issue is that the natural bitumen from Iran has increasingly replaced the American Gilsonite among the mud makers especially in Asia. This is because the price of Iranian Gilsonite is nearly 30% of the American Gilsonite, while the quality of Iranian Gilsonite responds well to the international standards of Drilling Mud, defined by the Oil companies.
In another respect, many of the different products advertised by USA Gilsonite suppliers are basically same products from same resources with very close characteristics, despite being promoted as a variety of qualities and end-products. The only differences are in softening points. This practice makes the end-users confused and in some cases afraid to purchase the more expensive grades.
The answer to the above questions remains a myth, while every Drilling mud producer tries to achieve their own formula with optimized results on costs and efficiency for their Fluid Loss Control agents.