Bentonite is used in drilling fluids to lubricate and cool the cutting tools, to remove cuttings, and to help prevent blowouts. Much of bentonite’s usefulness in the drilling and geotechnical engineering industry comes from its unique rheological properties. Relatively small quantities of bentonite suspended in water form a viscous, shear-thinning material. Most often, bentonite suspensions are also thixotropic, although rare cases of rheopectic behavior have also been reported. At high enough concentrations (about 60 grams of bentonite per litre of suspension), bentonite suspensions begin to take on the characteristics of a gel (a fluid with a minimum yield strength required to make it move). So, it is a common component of drilling mud used to curtail drilling fluid invasion by its propensity for aiding in the formation of mud cake.

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