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Home > Products > Oil well drilling fluid & Mud > Gilsonite


What is Gilsonite?

Gilsonite is a natural, resinous hydrocarbon. This natural asphalt is similar to hard petroleum asphalt and is often called a natural asphalt, asphaltite, uintaite, or asphaltum. Gilsonite is soluble in aromatic and aliphatic solvents, as well as petroleum asphalt. Due to its unique compatibility, Gilsonite is frequently used to harden softer petroleum products. Gilsonite in mass is a shiny, black substance similar in appearance to the mineral obsidian. It is brittle and can be easily crushed into a dark brown powder.
Gilsonite is found below the earth's surface in vertical veins or seams that are generally between two and six feet in width, but can be as wide as 28 feet. The veins are nearly parallel to each other and are oriented in a northwest to southeast direction. They extend many miles in length and as deep as 1500 feet. The vein will show up on the surface as a thin outcropping and gradually widen as it goes deeper. Due to the narrow mining face, Gilsonite is mined today, much like it was 50 or 100 years ago. The primary difference is that modern miners use pneumatic chipping hammers and mechanical hoists.

Gilsonite History & General Information

The mineral now know as Gilsonite was discovered in the early 1860's, but it was not until the mid-1880's that Samuel H. Gilson began to promote it as a waterproof coating for wooden pilings, as an insulation for wire cable, and as a unique varnish. Gilson's promotion of the ore was so successful that, in 1888, he and a partner formed the first company to mine and market Gilsonite on a commercial scale.
Originally, Gilsonite was sold as "Selects" and "Fines"; the law softening point ore with conchoidal fracture was known as "Selects". The higher softening point ore with a pencillated structure was known as "Fines". Selects commanded a higher price than Fines because of its better purity, good solubility, and usefulness in the paint, stain, and varnish industries.
Time and technology have changed this classification system. Processing of Gilsonite now removes most of the inert contaminants and newer, more powerful, solvents make the higher softening point grades more interesting to the user. Today, Gilsonite is graded by softening point (a rough measure of solubility) and particle size. All grades carry a degree of quality far superior to those first small amounts of crude Gilsonite marketed in the 1880's.

Gilsonite Technical Information

The information in these pages is based on laboratory evaluation and field experience. It is correct to the best of our knowledge. Recommendations are made without warranty or guarantee and buyer assumes all risk and liability.

Barite Geology [BaSO4]

A dense sulfate mineral that can occur in a variety of rocks, including limestone and sandstone, and is commonly used to add weight to drilling mud. Barite is of significance to petrophysicists because excess barite can require a correction factor in some well log measurements.

Gilsonite Packaging

All grades of Gilsonite are available in various types of packaging:
1. 1 Ton Jumbo bags
2. 25kg package for powder

Gilsonite Chemical Properties and Analyses

Carbon 84.9 % , Ash < 10%

Gilsonite is included in a class of solid bitumens known as asphaltites. The Giolsonite deposites in Iran are different from other asphaltites because of their:
1. High asphaltene content
2. high solubility in organic solvents
3. high purity and consistent properties
4. high molecular weight
5. high nitrogen content


Gilsonite Molecular Structure

A variety of sophisticated analytical tests have been run on Gilsonite to characterize its unique properties. For reference, the test methods include vacuum thermal gravimetric analysis (TGA), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), Fourier transform infrared spectrometry (FTIR), vapor pressure osometry (VPO), high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), rapid capillary gas chromatography (RCAP), and several fractionation techniques. H/C ratios and NMR analysis indicate the presence of a significant aromatic fraction. Most of the aromatics exist in stable, conjugated systems, probably porphyrin-like structures that relate to the geologic source of the product. The remainder of the product consists of long, paraffinic chains.
A very unique feature of Gilsonite is its high nitrogen content, which is present mainly as pyrrole, pyridine, and amide functional groups. Phenolic and carbonyl groups are also present. The law oxygen content relative to nitrogen suggests that much of the nitrogen has basic functionality. This probably accounts for Gilsonite's special surface wetting properties and resistance to free radical oxidation.
The average molecular weight of Gilsonite is about 3000. This is very high relative to other asphalt products and to most synthetic resins. This may relate to Gilsonite's "semi-polymeric" behavior when used as a modifying resin in polymeric and elastomeric systems. There is some reactive potential in Gilsonite. Crosslinking and addition type reactions have been observed. Gilsonite is known to react with formaldehyde compounds under certain conditions.

Gilsonite Compatibility

Gilsonite is compatible with Microcrystalline and Paraffin Waxes, Petroleum Resins and Oils, Rosins, Tall Oil Pitch, Vegetable Oils (Linseed, Soya, etc.), Petroleum Process Oils, and Petroleum Asphalts.

Gilsonite Compatibility with Commercial Resins

The following is a general guide to the compatibility of Gilsonite resin in common film-forming and elastomeric systems. Because Gilsonite compatibility can be influenced by variations within a resin/elastomer class and by other components in a formulation, it is good practice to verify Gilsonite compatibility in the specific formula of interest.

Gilsonite Solutions

Gilsonite is an important component of today's printing inks, paints & industrial coatings. Gilsonite is used as a hard resin and carbon black dispersant in a variety of coatings. Solutions of Gilsonite (sometimes called cutbacks or varnishes) are an excellent starting point for blending Gilsonite with other components of a final product formulation. Some formulators convert dry Gilsonite into liquid solution in their own facilities. Others will request a pre-made solution.
Converting dry, granular Gilsonite to a liquid solution also provides the opportunity to remove the small amount of abrasive grit that occurs in natural asphaltums. Stabilizing additives can also be added if a poor solvent is used or if high concentrations of Gilsonite are desired.
• Solubility: Gilsonite is soluble in aliphatic, aromatic and chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents. It has limited solubility in most ketones, but is soluble in mixed aromatic solvents that contain a ketone component. Gilsonite is not soluble in water, alcohols, or acetone.
Solution Preparation: Three basic procedures are used to dissolve Gilsonite. In each case, precautions for flammable materials should be used.
• Cold-cutting: Gilsonite is generally soluble in aliphatic and aromatic solvents at ambient temperatures. Some agitation should be used. The rate of solution will depend on the type of solvent, the type and severity of mixing, and the grade of Gilsonite. The solution rate can be increased by using a high shear mixer, such as a Cowles disperser. When a ball mill or a paddle mixer is used, lump grade Gilsonite is recommended. When high energy mixing is available, either lump or pulverized grades may be used. Care must be taken to avoid "dry balls" of undissolved solid when using pulverized grades.
• Hot-cutting: The rate of solution can be increased by heating. Steam coils or hot oil is preferred. Direct-fired heating can be hazardous. Care must be taken to avoid or make up for vaporized solvent. Facilities for solvent containment are often necessary. The maximum processing temperature will depend on the boiling range of the solvent.
• Hot fluxing: Gilsonite can be hot fluxed into asphalts and high boiling oils. Once blended, the combination can then be let down with a solvent to reach the desired viscosity. This hot fluxing with another product can help overcome limitations of solubility. Selecting the correct blend or co-solvent can yield compatibility with a solvent that is normally of limited solubility.
Hot Fluxing Procedure: Heat the oil to 200°F or more. Most of the high boiling, law aromatic ink oils in use today will require a temperature of at least 300-330°F. With good agitation, add dry Gilsonite at a rate that maintains constant dispersion of the particles until they dissolve. Be alert for foaming that can be caused by traces of moisture in the Gilsonite. Continue to agitate for 15 to 30 minutes beyond the point when the last of the Gilsonite particles is detected. The Gilsonite should now be completely dissolved and the solution ready for discharge.
Filtration: The varnish must be filtered to remove the grit that is a natural component of Gilsonite. There are two common filtration methods. Each provides a different degree of cleanliness. Both methods are normally preceded by passing the hot varnish through a course wire screen (approx. 1/4") to remove any large stones.
For a normal degree of cleanliness, the prescreened, hot varnish is passed through wire screen baskets of about 200 mesh (74 microns). Cloth bag filters can also be used, at a higher cost, when the company doesn’t have the personnel to clean the wire baskets. Disposal of the bags is also a consideration. Be careful to use bags that can tolerate elevated temperatures if hot cutting is performed.
For extra cleanliness, the prescreened, hot varnish is passed through cartridge filters of about 5 to 25 microns. These filters are also disposable.
• Viscosity Modification: Some Gilsonite solutions can be quite viscous at ambient temperature. Also, some solutions can steadily increase in viscosity over time. These characteristics are usually observed when using law aromatic oils with poor solvent power or when high percentages of Gilsonite are used. In these cases, small amounts of viscosity modifiers are often added to (1) keep the hot varnish sufficiently fluid for easy filtration and (2) to reduce and stabilize the ambient viscosity so the solution remains fluid until it is used.
The following is a partial list of modifiers that are effective at stabilizing the viscosity of Gilsonite solutions.
1. Soft asphalt flux. This is often substituted for 15 to 20 % of the Gilsonite in the varnish. At this level, it reduces the softening point of the Gilsonite by about 30°F. It should not be used when maximum hardness and rub resistance is desired, or when fast solvent release is required, or when restrictive health safety regulations are in effect.
2. Tridecyl alcohol (TDA). More volatile than some modifiers (a flash point of 180°F), but effective. Generally used at 3-10%, based on the Gilsonite content.
3. Low molecular weight alcohols. Examples are n-propanol and n-butanol. These are effective, but their high volatility usually restricts their use to fast drying systems or products that are stored and used at ambient temperature.
4. Tall oil fatty acids. These are mainly oleic and linoleic acids with small amounts of rosin acids present. They are used for their high flash point and law volatility. In some cases, stearic or oleic acid, or vegetable oils such as linseed or soya bean oil, can be substituted for tall oil fatty acids with comparable performance.
5. Surfactants. A wide variety of commercial surfactants are also effective. Care must be taken to avoid any undesirable side effects on the performance of the final product.

Gilsonite is safe to use!

Gilsonite has excellent health safety characteristics. Gilsonite products are non- carcinogenic, non-mutagenic, and non-toxic.
Health safety has become a most important factor in the selection of resinous products. More restrictive regulations Worldwide now make it necessary to label products that contain resins with poor or marginal health safety properties. Certain resins and bituminous fractions that are derived from petroleum and coal now can only be used with proper hazard labeling. Gilsonite is a valuable, no-label, alternative to these hazardous products.

Consumption Usage

Gilsonite, or North American Asphaltum is a natural, resinous hydrocarbon found in the Uintah Basin in northeastern Utah. This natural asphalt is similar to a hard petroleum asphalt and is often called a natural asphalt, asphaltite, uintaite, or asphaltum. Gilsonite is soluble in aromatic and aliphatic solvents, as well as petroleum asphalt. Due to its unique compatibility, Gilsonite is frequently used to harden softer petroleum products. Gilsonite in mass is a shiny, black substance similar in appearance to the mineral obsidian. It is brittle and can be easily crushed into a dark brown powder.
When added to asphalt cement or hot mix asphalt in production, Gilsonite HMA Modifier helps produce paving mixes of dramatically increased stability.
1. Asphalt and Road Paving Sector
For many years, Gilsonite has been used in the oilfield as an additive in drilling fluids. Gilsonite, in various grades and formulations, has been used to combat borehole instability problems, provide lubricity, especially in highly deviated holes, and more recently as a bridging agent to combat differential pressure sticking and provide a law invasion coring fluid. It has been well documented that appropriately formulated Gilsonite products can minimize hole collapse in formations containing water-sensitive, sloughing shales and reduce stuck pipe problems by forming a thin wall cake and an inter-matrix filter cake.
Gilsonite products are currently being widely used in water based, oil based, and synthetic based mud systems worldwide. Blended Gilsonite has proved to be very effective in all water-based systems, with the flagship product in this line being Bore-Plate(R) Shale Stabilizer.
2. Oil Sector
Gilsonite is used in drilling mud fluids and oil well cementing. Gilsonite, in a range of softening points and particle sizes, is a standard ingredient in oil-based drilling muds used in shales and other difficult geological formations. The addition of specially-treated Gilsonite to water-based drilling fluids helps minimize hole washout by stabilizing troublesome shales, and seals off highly permeable sands while reducing torque and drag. The addition of Gilsonite to oil well cements reduces slurry weight without loss of compressive strength and acts as an effective bridging and plugging agent to seal fractures in weak formations while cementing
3. Asphalt and Road Paving Sector
Gilsonite is used as a performance-enhancing agent for asphalt mixes. Gilsonite-modified paving mixes achieve higher PG grades and incorporate perfectly into the asphalt blend with no need for high shear milling as is the case with many other modifiers. Gilsonite-modified asphalts have higher stability, reduced deformation, reduced temperature susceptibility and increased resistance to water stripping than non-modified asphalts. Gilsonite is also used to make both solvent-based and emulsion pavement sealers with superior appearance and weathering properties.
4. Foundry Sector
Gilsonite is combined with coal and other ingredients as an additive in foundry sands to insure the quality of the molded part by improving mold release and the overall finish of metal castings.
5. Chemical Products Sector
Gilsonite combines with many other chemicals and materials that take advantage of its unique physical and chemical properties. Binder and coating applications in metallurgical, wood product, refractary and other industries further demonstrate the versatility and usefulness of this remarkable material.
6. Inks and Paints Sector
Iranian Gilsonite Resin is widely used as the primary carbon black wetting agent for black news inks and heatset and gravure inks. Iranian Gilsonite Resin competes advantageously with petroleum-based hydrocarbon resins, phenolic resins and metal resinates, all of which it can complement or replace to various degrees. Various concentrations of Iranian Gilsonite Resin are used to manufacture law-rub-off news inks with superior gloss and tack properties. Special grades of Gilsonite called Selects are also standard ingredients in black ink formulations and are used as additives in asphaltic paints and varnishes.