barite - 250 ml display bottle of the milled barite used in oil well drilling mud
This mineral is particularly dense for a non-metal and students ought to notice the unusual density. Milled barite is used as an additive to oil and gas well drilling mud. Drilling mud is pumped down the middle of the drill pipe, exits at the bit and flows up between the drill string and the edge of the hole, carrying up rock fragments and acting as a sealant against gas blowouts. When the presence of gas is suspected in an oil well, or when a gas well is being drilled, barite is added to the mud to make it heavier. Barite is variable in color, from colorless to pink to shades of brown. This brown barite was mined in China, shipped to the U.S. and milled in California.
With new well-drilling techniques causing a large increase in domestic production of oil and natural gas, the U.S. has become a net energy exporter for the first time since the late 1950s. The ability to turn a drill string from the vertical to drill horizontally deep underground has made wells more prolific and the ability to fracture dense shales is releasing volumes of oil that were previously unattainable.
Students ought to have an appreciation for the many uses of petroleum beyond transportation. The buttons on their shirts and the elastic that holds up their shorts and socks are all petroleum based, as is the plastic seat of the chair they sit in during class and the top of the table in front of them. The polyester in their cotton-polyester shirts or polyester stretch pants is manufactured from petroleum. So is the handle of their toothbrush and the plastic bags they use to carry home food from the market, as well as the soles of their sneakers. Who would think?
The early days in the oil patch were messy, with blowouts, rivers and lakes of oil, but oil companies have no interest in losing one drop of oil today. In the newer oil fields there is no petroleum visible and oil field workers take pride in keeping it clean.
We fill these bottles all the way to the top. We want the density to be immediately obvious to students.
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