Boron in oil and gas production

Borates’ unique properties support multiple applications across exploration and production

The modern oil and gas industry operates in complex environments rife with technical challenges. Projects can be remote. You’re drilling deviated wells longer and deeper than ever before, which means dealing with hotter temperatures.

You must invest in better oil-well fluids, leverage enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques, and use fluid additives, such as borates, that enhance performance.

Because of their unique properties, you can use borates across your production lifecycle to improve operations and support key infrastructure. Borates are commonly used to:

  • Control cement setting rates (retardants)

  • Cross-link polymers

  • Inhibit corrosion

  • Create pH buffering

As with any additive, quality, consistency, and solubility rates are important. Our team can provide technical support to help you overcome operational challenges.

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Borates in drilling and exploration

Borates provide better control over materials and improve performance of key fluids

Drilling fluids
In drilling fluids, or “muds,” borates:

  • Enhance the performance of some polymer-based fluid-loss additives
  • Improve lubrication properties
  • Provide greater pH control of water-based muds
  • Inhibit corrosion to surrounding metal materials (steel tubing, casing, and pipework)
  • Cross-link viscosity-modifying polymers in water-based muds (deviated or horizontal wells)
  • Stabilize shale in reservoir formation by synergistically working with salts (such as potassium chloride) or mono- and oligosaccharides

Lost circulation treatments
Fractures in reservoir rock formations during oil drilling can quickly turn disastrous, resulting in severe loss of expensive drilling fluids. Lost circulation pills made with soluble borates can rapidly repair the problem by plugging fractures. Borates enhance the gelation of these polymer-gel-based pills through cross-linking capabilities.

Non-damaging completion fluids
Trace amounts of soluble borates act as bridging agents, preventing the inflow of fluid contaminants into the reservoir. Once well-completion operations cease, borates dissolve cleanly.

Pulsed-neutron well logging
If you use pulsed-neutron logging to better understand your reservoir, borates can help enhance the contrast between water and oil or rock zones.

How borates work in cement

Borates adsorb into the surfaces of cement grains, reacting with the available calcium ions to form calcium borate coatings that are a barrier to grain hydration and cement setting.

Borates in hydraulic fracturing

If your oil and gas operations use hydraulic fracturing to increase permeability and improve fluid flow through the reservoir, borates can help with both fluid gelation and breakdown.

Fluid gelation
Under extremely high shear conditions, boron’s cross-linking properties help prevent gels from being irreversibly degraded. Because borates are water soluble, the gels that they form are easier to clean up than alternatives such as zirconates or titanates.

Fluid breakdown
Perborate makes fracturing operations clean-up easier by breaking down polymer chains. The breaker particles can be coated to delay release of the perborate, which can be made more water soluble by blending with polyols. Borate cross-linked fluids clean up better than those that employ other cross-linkers.

Borates in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques

As primary production slows, maximizing the value of your oil well and extraction operations may involve secondary and EOR techniques. Borates are found in two common types of flooding—water and alkaline.

Neobor® and borax decahydrate for EOR

Strong pH buffering capacity and pH consistency over a wide concentration range means better EOR performance.

Water-flooding
Borates improve efficiency and oil recovery in two water-flooding processes: Slow-release systems and thermal precipitation. A slow-release system based on borate glasses and borate esters can be used to control viscosity via cross linking and viscosity-delay mechanisms. In thermal precipitation, a hot, nearly saturated borate solution can help block pores when it’s pumped into a reservoir’s high-permeability zones.

Alkaline flooding
For reservoirs containing water with very high salinity and hardness ions, borates can substitute or partially replace existing alkalis in EOR processes such as alkali-polymer and alkali-surfactant-polymer flooding.

Borates can be used in combination with other surfactants and polymers to achieve ultra-low oil/water interfacial tensions

Why work with U.S. Borax for your oil and gas application?

Reliable product performance, technical expertise, and superior quality make us the preferred choice for borates.

Unmatched consistency and quality

Any additives used in your operations must be reliable and consistent. Our high-quality borates possess low impurity levels and consistent granulometry, resulting in dependable performance.

Proven technical expertise

Our technical team can help you get the right borate concentration and solubility level for your specific needs. As a global leader in refined borates, we have an extensive knowledge base to apply for your use case.

20 Mule Team Borax Products

Recommended for oil and gas

Dehybor

Used in creating high viscosity oil-well fluids, Dehybor’s cross-linking capabilities can help increase the recovery of oil found underground. 

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This concentrated form of sodium borate is an effective set retardant in cement and is commonly used to boost EOR performance. 

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Known for effective cross-linking and corrosion inhibition properties, Optibor is well-suited for multiple oil and gas applications. 

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A readily soluble product that can be dissolved in cool water to provide high borate concentrations.

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This product is highly effective at delaying the set rate of cement, an important quality in oil well drilling that requires cement to be pumped to great depths before hardening.

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A strong pH buffering capacity makes sodium metaborate an excellent choice as an alkaline agent for enhanced oil recovery processes.

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This product provides superior lubrication and stabilization in oilfield wells and drilling fluids applications.

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If your operations demand a special level of solubility, our powders line can help you with finer particle size options.

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U.S. Borax, part of Rio Tinto, is a global leader in the supply and science of borates—naturally-occurring minerals containing boron and other elements. We are 1,000 people serving 650 customers with more than 1,800 delivery locations globally. We supply around 30% of the world’s need for refined borates from our world-class mine in Boron, California, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.  Learn more about Rio Tinto.

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