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High-Yield vs Single-Sack – Which is right for you?

Sodium bentonite: HDD machine working

Ever wondered what the difference is between a high-yield and single-sack bentonite?  If you’ve been in the horizontal directional drilling industry for a while, you probably have your preference. But are the differences clear, and you’re sure which is the ideal sodium bentonite for your HDD project?  When we discuss these topics, a lot of words are used to describe the two such as:  premium grade, yield / high yield / barrel yield, polymer, stabilize, etc.  Let’s take a moment to clarify what these words mean and what they can do for you.

When it comes to horizontal directional drilling, one misstep can lead to serious damage and large timeline extensions. It makes the use of proper materials crucial for success. Soil conditions can vary greatly depending on where and when you are drilling. That means the chemicals you introduce will likely yield different results. Fortunately, several chemical solutions can optimize your end product and make the HDD process easier for your team.

A Quick Note on Bentonite

Are all sodium bentonites the same?  Bentonite is a trade term referring to sodium montmorillonite clay, first mined from the Cretaceous Fort Benton Group (USGS) of the Mowry Formation in Wyoming, where it has since been mined for over 125 years.  Today more than 70 % of the world’s known deposits are in this area of Wyoming (WSGS). Of course, sodium montmorillonite clays can be found elsewhere in the world, but none are as widely produced as Wyoming bentonite.  What sets bentonite apart is the fact that it is highly reactive when mixed in water.  This means the platelets that make up the clay swell, and this swelling gives the fluid a “yield”.  Yield in this case is a reference to volume.  Barrel Yield is defined as the volume of mud (with a specified viscosity) 1 ton of bentonite will create / yield.  One barrel of fluid is equal to 42 US gallons.  Most “API Section 9” bentonites have a barrel yield of around 90 – 100 bbl, whereas a “high-yield” typically yields around 200 – 230 bbls per ton of bentonite.  How can bentonite vary so widely?  This brings us to “premium grade”.  As with any mine, the most productive assets have specific location and depth.  Identifying and targeting these specific geological bands for the most reactive clay are what separates premium grade from less than premium grade.  Those less than premium grades can still be used, but not for high-yield products.  A few examples of those would be bentonite used for absorbents, such as cat litter or bentonite chips, which are used for hole plugging or as a lost circulation material. 

High-Yield vs Single-Sack

Often due to soil conditions or demands of the project, bentonite alone isn’t enough.  We introduce other additives to help achieve our desired result.  Those typically include starches / cellulose derivatives such as PAC for filtrate control or “poly” anionic (co)polymer to improve both viscosity and filtrate control and add a layer of clay inhibition effect.  Together, by reducing filtrate (water invasion to the soil) and improving viscosity and clay interactions, we “stabilize” the hole.  More simply, to “stabilize” the hole is to make it more likely to stay open and near gauge for longer periods of time than a fresh water or bentonite alone could achieve.   

Single-Sack Evaluation

As a multi-component blend, the single-sack product can come in many different versions.  Each one contains a “secret sauce” approach by the producer.  In other words, the exact type and amount of component blend is held as proprietary secret.  In order to evaluate or compare single-sack products, it’s a good idea to take a closer look at the tech sheets and try to take an “apples to apples” approach with what product specifications are revealed.  It’s also a good idea to review these comparisons and alternatives with a trusted mud advisor.  Getting some unbiased and highly knowledgeable feedback can help you make the decision that is best for you.  

Bottom Line – High-Yield vs Single-Sack

Bottom line is that each situation calls for some level of evaluation.  And no one answer is right all of the time.  Each project is unique with its level of challenges, the skill and experience of the workforce, and the equipment chosen for the job.  High-yields leave all the room open for selecting other additives to combat challenges or choosing a no-additives approach.  Single-sacks prepackage some level of additive help, but may still need additional support.  At the end of the day, it’s not about the right or wrong choice, but selecting the method that works best for you.       

Sodium bentonite for sale: construction worker researching materials

Ensuring Better Results

It’s important to note, bentonite works best within a water pH of 8.5 and 9.5. With that in mind, your team should always test the water that you are working with. To get water within the right range, most businesses adjust the pH with soda ash. It softens the make-up water and raises the pH, which allows the bentonite to mix more efficiently and results in a higher-quality gel. Your chemical solutions provider should be able to provide more insight into how to properly prepare your water and materials to get the best outcomes from your bentonite products. 

Environmental Impacts of Bentonite

Fortunately, the environmental impact of bentonite clay is minimal when used for horizontal directional drilling and slurry wall construction. As an all-natural, non-toxic material, it is considered non-hazardous in nearly any construction application. In fact, because bentonite is a non-toxic clay material, some people use pure bentonite on the skin as a clay mask – so you can rest assured it is safe for your drilling projects and your team.  Please consult each SDS accordingly for more specific guidance. 

Buy the Best Bentonite Clay Through AMICUS

Interested in learning more about how AMICUS chemicals can improve the efficiency of your next project? Contact our team to discuss the specifications of your horizontal directional drilling conditions and uncover the ideal solutions for your project. Our experts have deep experience in horizontal directional drilling and provide insightful tips to cut costs while getting the best results. 

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