sulfonated asphalt

Sulfonated asphalt is a specialized drilling fluid additive, known for its popularity and cost-effectiveness as a high-performance well-bore shale stabilizer and inhibitor. It is manufactured through a specialized sulfurization process, which imparts properties such as water solubility, lubricity, filtration control, and bentonite inhibition. This versatile additive is widely used in oil drilling applications.

sulfonated asphalt

What Is Sulfonated asphalt?

Sodium sulfonated asphalt is an additive used to control shale in drilling operations. Its purpose is to prevent the swelling and caving of shales caused by hydrous disintegration. Additionally, sulphonated asphalt serves as a lost circulation additive, effectively plugging zones where drilling fluid is being lost. This prevents a complete loss of drilling fluid into the formation being drilled, ensuring continuous circulation from the bottom of the drill hole to the top.

To plug such zones, sulfonated asphalt agents can include inorganic chemical grouts or cement mixtures containing silicates, metallic oxides, and limestone. These substances effectively seal off the area and prevent further loss of drilling fluid.

Sulfonated Asphalt is a water soluble sodium asphalt sulfonated product, created through a distinctive sulfonation process. It serves as a highly versatile mud conditioner, offering numerous benefits such as stabilizing shale formations, enhancing lubricity, reducing high-temperature high-pressure fluid loss (HTHP), and improving filter cake properties in both oil based and water based drilling fluids. This additive can be easily mixed with most water based, oil based, and synthetic muds.

sulfonated asphalt

There are two variations of sulfonated asphalt additive available: Regular and Potassium enhanced. The Potassium sulfonated asphalt additive is a specially formulated potassium salt of sulfonated asphalt. Along with possessing the same unique qualities as the regular additive, it also contributes water-soluble potassium ions at approximately 400 ppm/lb of product carried in the mud system.

This feature proves particularly advantageous in areas where the specific action of potassium is required to effectively minimize water-induced clay swelling.

Asphalt stands as a highly regarded and extensively employed additive in the realm of drilling fluids, renowned for its exceptional properties. Derived from oil asphalt, this remarkable substance manifests itself in the form of brown, easily breakable pieces or fluidized powder. Boasting a density of 0.98g/cm3, it possesses the unique ability to dissolve partially in water and oil, rendering it a versatile choice for a wide range of drilling fluid applications.

Sulfonated asphalt is primarily used by the oil industry as a crucial component in both water- and oil-based drilling. This versatile substance serves several vital functions within drilling solutions:

• It acts as an inhibitor for clay shale, fortifying well walls and preventing them from fracturing. Additionally, it facilitates the swift sealing of cracks.
• Sulfonated asphalt effectively reduces water loss under high pressure and intense heating conditions.
• It enhances the lubricity of the solution, resulting in a less adhesive filter cake.
• Furthermore, it enables the creation of high-quality solutions without the need for additional emulsifiers.

Enhanced Technical Data of Sulfonated Asphalt:

– Water-soluble content: ≥90.0%
– Oil-soluble content: ≥18.0%
– High-temperature, high-pressure fluid loss reducing rate: ≥40.0%
– pH range: 8-10
– Moisture content: ≤10.0%

Advantages of Sulfonated Gilsonite Additive

For over 52 years, the unique chemistry of Sulfonated Gilsonite additives has consistently delivered exceptional results in various drilling fluids. These additives offer a multitude of benefits, including:

  1. Stabilizing shale formations: Sulfonated Gilsonite additives effectively stabilize shale stratum, ensuring a more secure drilling process.
  2. Reducing rotative torque and preventing jamming: By incorporating these additives, the risk of rotative torque and jamming is significantly reduced, leading to smoother drilling operations.
  3. Substituting oil: Sulfonated Gilsonite additives can serve as a substitute for various oils, including crude oil, waste engine oil, and diesel oil.
  4. Depressing solid expansion of drill chips: These additives effectively minimize the expansion of drill chips, enhancing drilling efficiency.
  5. Producing thin and tenacious mud cakes: Sulfonated Gilsonite additives contribute to the production of thin yet durable mud cakes, which aid in maintaining well integrity.
  6. Reacting with shale to prevent sloughing and swelling: The additives react with shale formations, effectively preventing or halting sloughing and swelling, ensuring a stable drilling environment.
  7. Reducing high-temperature high-pressure fluid loss (HTHP): Sulfonated Gilsonite additives have a proven track record of reducing fluid loss under high-temperature and high-pressure conditions. Numerous case histories attest to their effectiveness.
  8. Producing thin compressible filter cakes: These additives facilitate the production of thin and compressible filter cakes, which are crucial for efficient drilling operations.
  9. Significantly increasing lubricity: Sulfonated Gilsonite additives, whether used alone or in combination with small amounts of oils, synthetic oils, or glycol, greatly enhance lubricity, reducing friction and improving drilling performance.
  10. Prevents drill pipe from getting stuck.
  11. Exhibits exceptional temperature stability, lacking the softening point commonly found in unreacted asphaltic additives.
  12. Possesses minimal and easily distinguishable fluorescence, allowing for unhindered well logging and core analysis.
  13. Leaves no oil slick, sheen, or rainbow on water in offshore locations.
  14. Requires no emulsifiers for proper mixing.
  15. Does not necessitate bypassing solids control equipment during the mixing process.
  16. Mitigates high-temperature gelation and stabilizes mud properties.
  17. Recommended dosage: 1-4%.

HS Code for Sulfonated Asphalt 

The Harmonized System (HS) Code is an internationally standardized system employed to classify traded products. It is characterized by a six-digit code applied to each item according to its composition, purpose, and nature. Customs authorities the world over utilize this code to determine the corresponding restrictions, regulations, and applicable tariffs when trading a certain product, like asphalt sulfonated.

The HS Code corresponding to asphalt sulfonated varies according to the particular form that it is in, such as liquid, powder, or any other kind. That being said, an approximate HS Code that encompasses bituminous mixtures based on natural asphalt and natural bitumen, and therefore likely includes asphalt sulfonated, is 2715.00. 

Of course, the exact HS Code may differ depending on the destination country and its regulations, thus it is highly recommended to seek advice from the competent customs authorities or consider employing specialist help to secure the exact HS Code for trading sulfonated asphalt in the particular trade context.

 How to Use Sulfonated Asphalt?

sulfonated Asphalt is normally applied to gilsonite by mixing the two materials together in a specific ratio, depending on the desired application and performance factors. The mixing procedure can be done using varied equipment such as a high-shear mixer or a homogenizer.
In some cases, sulfonated asphalt may also be added to uintaite during the extraction process, before the uintaite is refined and processed into a final product. This can help to improve the water solubility and dispersibility of the asphaltum from the outset.

sulphonated asphalt is a fully emulsified substance in water, whereas gilsonite tends to remain on the surface.

Packing and Shipping

The sulfonated asphalt is packed in 25KG or 50LB quantities, securely sealed within a 4-in-1 compound paper bag lined with plastic. It is crucial to ensure the bag remains intact during storage and transportation, as the product is water-soluble.

sulfonated asphalt

Once the sulfonated asphalt is mixed with the uintaite, the resulting product can be used in a variety of applications, such as asphalt emulsions, drilling fluids, coatings, and sealants, depending on the certain properties and performance requirements of the final product.
To use sulfonated asphalt is typically added as an additive or admixture during the mixing phase of the application. The exact application and dosage will vary depending on the specific use case and the desired final properties of the product. It is recommended to consult with a specialist to determine the appropriate dosage and application method for your specific project.

Usage of Sodium sulphonated asphalt

Sodium sulfonated asphalt is widely used as an additive in drilling fluids for oil and gas wells. It acts as a surfactant and helps to lessen the surface pressure of the drilling fluid. This property helps in the efficient movement of the fluid through the wellbore and helps to avoid the buildup of gas and other contaminants. Asphalt sodium sulfonated is also utilized as an emulsifying agent in the production of asphalt emulsions. It is utilized to make the asphalt mix more solid and more resistant to water penetration. Furthermore, it is used in the formulation of cleaning agents, paint, and other industrial products.

Gilsonite Application in Sulfonated Asphalt

Gilsonite or uintaite is a naturally occurring, shiny black hydrocarbon that can be used as an additive to modify and strengthen asphalt. When uintaite is added to sulfonated asphalt, it offers several advantages including enhanced stability, increased strength, and better resistance to harsh weather conditions.  Asphaltum or uintaite acts as a reinforcing agent, adding strength and durability to the asphalt. The high melting point of uintaite also contributes to its stability and enhances its resistance to deformation under high temperatures. 

In addition to its physical properties, uintaite also increases the chemical properties of sulfonated asphalt. The presence of asphaltum increases the overall chemical stability of the paving asphalt, decreasing its susceptibility to chemical reactions and degradation. This helps to extend the life of the asphalt, reducing the need for expensive repairs and maintenance.

Uintaite is also known for its water-repellent properties. Gilsonite application in sulfonated asphalt helps to prevent water from penetrating the surface of the pavement, reducing the risk of damage from freeze-thaw cycles and other harsh weather conditions. This is particularly important in areas with high rainfall or considerable temperature fluctuations.

The technical data of sulfonated asphalt

Asphalt sulfonated is an integral component in controlling losses and contributing to successful drilling in the oil and gas industry. The properties of this asphalt can vary following the formulation and application requirements; nevertheless, here are some typical characteristics of this material:

Chemical composition

sulfonated asphalt is naturally originated from asphaltic crude oil, which is treated with sulfuric acid to create a sulfonated product. Its chemical identity mainly consists of a mélange of organic components, sulfonated with acid groups


sulfonated asphalt is a dark brown to black, viscous liquid.It is commonly a dark brown to black, viscous liquid or semi-solid substance.


Sulfonated asphalt is utilized in a variety of applications, including as a dispersant and emulsifier in asphalt and bitumen products, and as a wetting agent and surfactant in drilling.

Performance properties

It is excellent in terms of reducing fluid loss during drilling, increasing drilling fluid’s steady state, and manipulating viscosity.


 Paving sulfonated asphalt is soluble in water and polar solvents.


The pH of asphalt sodium sulfonated is usually in the range of 8 to 10.

Sulfonate content

The sulfonate content of asphalt can vary widely depending on the grade and factory, but is commonly in the range of 5% to 30%.


The density of asphalt can also differ depending on the degree and temperature, but it typically can be ranged from 100 to 500 cSt at 25°C.

Molecular weight

Asphalt sulfonated molecular weight ranges from several thousand to several hundred thousand grams per mole.

Sulfonated asphalt Drilling Mud Additive

Sulfonated asphalt is a kind of drilling mud additive that originates from naturally occurring uintaite. It is a powdered product that is typically added to drilling mud during oil and gas drilling procedures to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the drilling process. 

The sulfonation operation utilized to develop this drilling mud additive involves treating uintaite with sulfuric acid. The reaction produces a water-soluble product that includes a high concentration of practical groups, such as sulfonic acid and carboxylic acid groups.

The addition of sulfonated uintaite to drilling mud has uncountable advantages. The functional groups present in this chemical formula can help to reduce the potential for the formation of hydrocarbon sludge, which can cause damage to equipment and slow down the drilling process. The product can also increase the lubricity and stability of the drilling mud, thereby reducing friction and making the drilling process more efficient.

Moreover, this product is a significant filter cake stabilizer that can help to reduce the permeability of the wellbore walls and provide a barrier against the influx of unwanted fluids or gases. It can also reduce the risk of differential sticking, where the drill pipe becomes stuck to the wall of the wellbore. These benefits eventually result in cost savings and improved drilling operation.

Gilsonite Processing to Sulfonated Asphalt and Pellets

Gilsonite can be refined into sulfonated asphalt and pellets through various methods. The two most common processes are the sulfonation process and the pelletization process.
The Sulfonation Process: this process involves treating uintaite with sulfuric acid to create sulfonated as. During this process, the uintaite is first crushed and pulverized into a fine powder.

The powder is then mixed with concentrated sulfuric acid in a heated reaction vessel, typically at high temperatures and pressure.

The sulfuric acid reacts with the hydrocarbons in the uintaite, forming sulfonic acid groups that replace some of the hydrogens in the asphalt. The resulting sulfonated asphalt has improved performance properties such as better adhesion and water resistance.

The Pelletization Process:

In this method, uintaite is converted into compact, easy-to-handle pellets. The process begins with the same pulverization of gilsonite into a fine powder. The powder is then mixed with a binding agent, typically a thermoplastic polymer, in a high-speed mixing chamber. The mixture is then extruded through a die to produce compact, cylindrical pellets that are suitable for storage, transportation, and application.
Both the sulfonation and pelletization processes improve uintaite’s performance properties and significantly enhance its value and versatility. The resulting  sulphonated asphalt and pellets can be used in many ways, including as an additive for paving asphalt and roofing, in the manufacturing of paints and coatings, or even as an additive in drilling mud for oil and gas wells.
In general, the processes of sulfonation and pelletization significantly enhance uintaite’s value and versatility, enabling it to be used in various applications, including sulfonated asphalt and pellets. While each process is unique, they both result in asphaltum with improved performance properties that make it an essential ingredient in many industries.


The addition of gilsonite to sulfonated asphalt offers a wide range of benefits. From improved stability and strength to increased resistance to harsh weather conditions, the use of uintaite in sulphonated asphalt  is a practical and cost-effective way to improve the quality and longevity of asphalt. As such, it is becoming an increasingly popular choice for road builders, industries, and other infrastructure developers around the world.

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