Bentonite – What is it Really?

Looking at recent conversations about the “inadvertent return” of drilling mud, there is definite confusion over the makeup of that fluid and linked impact in the surrounding area.

It is important to understand that the “inadvertent return” of drilling mud is not uncommon, wherein a mixture of water and naturally occurring bentonite clay rise through cracks in the soil to the surface. Though this discharge often creates temporarily murky conditions, Bentonite does not pose long-term environmental ramifications and is used in horizontal directional drilling (HDD) to lubricate the drill bit, keep the drilling tools cool, remove the drilled material, and seal the drilling hole. Bentonite is non-toxic and is in point of fact found in household items ranging from mineral water to medicines. Many enthusiasts even call Bentonite a “healing clay” and promote its antioxidant properties.

According to licensed professional geologist and former geologist for the Texas Railroad Commission, Bill Godsey, “It’s expected that drilling fluid can and will arise through naturally occurring, pre-existing cracks in the soil during horizontal directional drilling (HDD), which is considered an industry best-practice for installing pipe under wetlands and other sensitive areas. These ‘inadvertent returns’ are common during the HDD process, and do not pose any long-term threats to the environment.”