The discovery of an estimated 8.6bn barrels of oil reserves
in the southern UK county of Sussex could spell fresh demand
for mineral-based drilling muds.
UK Oil & Gas Investments (UKOG) revealed today that
estimates for its Horse Hill well in the Weald Basin in Sussex
has total oil in place amounting to 158m barrels per square
mile, over an area of 55 square miles
Even though the oil identified is tight oil contained in
shale rock, UKOG says that the reserves will be recovered using
conventional drilling techniques using muds and not hydraulic
fracturing (fracking) with frac sand or ceramic or resin-coated
proppants, explained a UKOG spokesperson.
This is because the rock is already naturally fractured, the
As is typically the case with shale oil, approximately 3-15%
of the reserves are recoverable, or 258m–1.29bn
barrels of oil, according to the company's press release.
Mud used in oilwell drilling typically contains barite
(barytes), calcium carbonate, bentonite, graphite, ilmenite and
mica. Completion fluids using bromine chemicals are also
During the drilling process, the mud is circulated to cool
the drill bit, convey rock chippings to the surface and to seal
permeable layers and fractures.
World barite production is very closely correlated to the
total world rig count (see graph). The 8.6bn barrel
total at Horse Hill is over half of the total number of barrels
of oil in reserves in the whole of Brazil (14bn barrels).
Over the past two years, barite prices have moved up from
$145-160/tonne to $157-172/tonne for Moroccan (OCMA/API, bulk)
SG 4.2 material on a C&F North Sea basis, according to
IM Prices Database. Indian and Chinese barite
prices have also risen, although these are marginally cheaper
than material sourced from Morocco.
The Horse Hill asset will have further results shortly,
according to the press statement published today.
An estimate of total oil in place in the licence will be
given following ongoing analysis of the asset by US
petrophysical intelligence outfit, Nutech.
"These initial results suggest a very large volume of oil in
place, which could potentially help to stem the rise in
oil imports and improve Britain’s energy security
and balance of payments. Further appraisal work will be
needed to test what could be economically and technically
recoverable," said Ken Cronin, the chief executive of United
Kingdom Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG).
Graph: World barite production compared with world
oil and gas rig count 1975-2013
For more information on drilling-grade barite, contact
IM Research, which has
recently published an in-depth report on this mineral and its
use in conventional and unconventional drilling worldwide. The
above graph has been taken from the Drilling-Grade Barite research