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Barite: a case study of import reliance on an essential material for oil and gas exploration and development drilling

March 19, 2015

Global dependence on a limited number of countries for specific mineral commodities could lead to sudden supply disruptions for the United States, and barite is one such commodity. Analyses of barite supply amounts and sources for the United States are demonstrative of mineral commodities on which the country is import reliant. Mineral commodity trade flows can be analyzed more easily than import reliances for commodities in which U.S. domestic demand is primarily met by materials contained within manufactured products, as with the rare-earth elements in cellular phones and computers. Barite plays an essential role as a weighting material in drilling muds used in oil and gas drilling, primarily to prevent the explosive release of gas and oil during drilling. The Nation’s efforts to become more energy independent are based largely on the domestic oil and gas industry’s ability to explore and develop onshore and offshore fuel deposits. These activities include increased efforts by the United States to locate and recover oil and gas within unconventional deposits, such as those in the Bakken, Eagle Ford, and Marcellus Formations, using advanced drilling technologies.

Domestic barite production was about 670,000 metric tons (t) in 2012, equivalent to about 20 percent of the domestic drilling industry’s barite demand. Mine production for the United States in 2012 was about one-third of what was produced in 1980. In 2012, barite imported from China was approximately 2.2 million t and comprised about 77 percent of total barite imports and about 70 percent of the barite used in domestic drilling. Barite from India (14 percent), Morocco (6 percent) and Mexico (2 percent) comprised the bulk of the remaining total import balance; drilling applications consumed nearly all barite imported from these three countries.

Publication Year 2015
Title Barite: a case study of import reliance on an essential material for oil and gas exploration and development drilling
DOI 10.3133/sir20145230
Authors Donald I. Bleiwas, M. Michael Miller
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2014-5230
Index ID sir20145230
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Minerals Information Center