Bentonite, a naturally occurring clay mineral with a core composition of montmorillonite, holds a fascinating place in various industries, including construction, drilling, agrichemicals, and foundry to mention some. When bentonite comes into contact with water, it undergoes a transformative process, swelling and creating a thick, gel-like substance. This unique behaviour makes bentonite an invaluable resource across a spectrum of industries and applications. Beyond the intriguing chemistry of bentonite, its applications in construction and drilling are truly remarkable. In the construction and drilling world, bentonite is a game-changer, and we’ll explore how it revolutionises these industries. Other remarkable applications are as a carrier of fertilisers,  purifying aid in the wines and beer industries as well as its use as an absorbent for cat litter and emergency response cleaning kits for the chemical industry. 

A Closer Look at Bentonite

At its core, bentonite consists of montmorillonite, a specific type of smectite clay. There are two main types of montmorillonite: sodium (Na-montmorillonite) and calcium (Ca-montmorillonite). The former is particularly notable for its superior swelling capabilities compared to the latter. When bentonite encounters water, it undergoes a transformation, swelling and forming a viscous, gel-like substance. This unique behaviour is what makes bentonite so valuable in multiple applications.

Applications in Construction and Drilling

  • Drilling Fluid Enhancement: Bentonite’s swelling property is beneficial for the oil and gas industry. When incorporated into drilling muds, it acts as a lubricant for drilling equipment and stabilises borehole walls, ensuring smoother and safer drilling operations. Its unique rheological properties also assist in creating thixotropic suspensions in the geotechnical engineering and civil sectors.
  • Diaphragm Walling: Deep foundation projects often employ bentonite to create a protective slurry wall. This wall acts as a barrier, preventing groundwater from entering the excavation site, thereby ensuring the safety and integrity of the construction.
  • Piling: Bentonite’s role isn’t limited to just drilling. In piling, it’s used to create a stable environment, preventing soil collapse during the installation of piles, which are crucial for the structural integrity of buildings and other structures.
  • Pipe-Jacking: Trenchless construction methods, such as pipe-jacking, benefit from bentonite’s lubricating properties. It minimises friction between the pipe and its surroundings, ensuring a smoother jacking process.
  • Tunneling: In tunnel construction, bentonite proves invaluable. It forms a protective layer around tunnel boring machines, reducing wear and ensuring the stability of the tunnel walls.

Other Applications

  • Bentonite is also utilised as a binder for foundry sand in iron and steel foundries.
  • For purification or decolourising or clarifying mineral and vegetable oils, wine and beer.
  • Absorbent in cat litter and emergency response kits for chemical cleanouts. 
  • Carrier in pesticides and fertilizers.
  • As a filler (or extender) in adhesives, rubber and soap.

The Benefits of Utilising Bentonite 

  • Fluid Loss Control: In drilling operations, bentonite helps in controlling fluid loss, ensuring that there’s minimal impact on reservoirs and the environment.
  • Enhanced Drilling Efficiency: Bentonite’s properties not only ensure the safety of drilling operations but also increase their efficiency, reducing wear and tear on equipment.
  • Groundwater Protection: Bentonite’s sealing ability is crucial in projects like diaphragm walling and tunnelling, where it protects groundwater from potential contamination.
  • Economical Construction: In foundation works, bentonite ensures the efficient installation of piles, leading to reduced construction costs and faster project completion.
  • Versatility: Beyond the mentioned applications, bentonite’s adaptability means it can be used in a plethora of other projects and industries.

In the realm of construction and geotechnical engineering, bentonite stands out as a natural clay with unparalleled benefits including sustainability. Its unique properties, from fluid loss control to soil stabilization, make it an indispensable resource. For those in the industry, sourcing high-quality bentonite is crucial. At Bisley & Company we proudly supply a range of raw materials tailored to your needs. Browse our range to find the perfect fit for your next project.

Please note, that not all products are available in all regions, please check with the local Bisley office for your requirements.