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Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5230

Barite—A Case Study of Import Reliance on an Essential Material for Oil and Gas Exploration and Development Drilling

By Donald I. Bleiwas and M. Michael Miller

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (551 KB)Introduction

Global dependence on a limited number of countries for specific mineral commodities could lead to sudden supply disruptions for the United States, and barite is one such commodity. Analyses of barite supply amounts and sources for the United States are demonstrative of mineral commodities on which the country is import reliant. Mineral commodity trade flows can be analyzed more easily than import reliances for commodities in which U.S. domestic demand is primarily met by materials contained within manufactured products, as with the rare-earth elements in cellular phones and computers. Barite plays an essential role as a weighting material in drilling muds used in oil and gas drilling, primarily to prevent the explosive release of gas and oil during drilling. The Nation’s efforts to become more energy independent are based largely on the domestic oil and gas industry’s ability to explore and develop onshore and offshore fuel deposits. These activities include increased efforts by the United States to locate and recover oil and gas within unconventional deposits, such as those in the Bakken, Eagle Ford, and Marcellus Formations, using advanced drilling technologies.

Domestic barite production was about 670,000 metric tons (t) in 2012, equivalent to about 20 percent of the domestic drilling industry’s barite demand. Mine production for the United States in 2012 was about one-third of what was produced in 1980. In 2012, barite imported from China was approximately 2.2 million t and comprised about 77 percent of total barite imports and about 70 percent of the barite used in domestic drilling. Barite from India (14 percent), Morocco (6 percent) and Mexico (2 percent) comprised the bulk of the remaining total import balance; drilling applications consumed nearly all barite imported from these three countries.

First posted March 19, 2015

For additional information, contact:
Director, National Minerals Information Center
U.S. Geological Survey
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
988 National Center
Reston, VA 20192

Or visit the USGS Minerals Information Web site at

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Suggested citation:

Bleiwas, D.I., and Miller, M.M., 2015, Barite—A case study of import reliance on an essential material for oil and gas exploration and development drilling: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5230, 6 p.,

ISSN 2328-0328 (online)



Drilling for Oil and Gas: The Primary Use for Barite

U.S. Barite Production

Barite Imports

Domestic Barite Reserves and Resources


References Cited

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