Methods of studying oilfield mineral scale deposition in the laboratory do not work for barium sulfate because only small nonadhering crystals are formed. On the other hand, barium sulfate scale found in down-hole or surface equipment is strongly adhering and may contain very large crystals. Results suggest that most of the difference derives from the extremely low solubility of barium sulfate. Firm adherence of scale and the consistent development of oriented crystals 100 microns and larger suggest a relationship between scale adherence and crystal growth. Data from this study indicate some reasons for barium sulfate's occurring as a deposit in oilfield waters. The unique characteristics as well as the associative properties of barium sulfate scale as related to calcium carbonate and calcium sulfate are shown.


The first observed deposition of barium sulfate scale in oilfield production equipment is unknown but probably coincides closely with the beginnings of the oil industry itself. Moore described barite oolites in some producing wells in the Saratoga field, Tex., in 1914. Currently, positive identification of barium sulfate deposition is recorded in most of the major oil-producing areas of the United States. As efforts continue to identify the composition and functions of the materials found in scale deposits. the geographic and economic importance of the part played by barium sulfate will become even more important. This belief is based on the following facts.

  1. Many oil fields in the U. S. are in or entering their mature phase and the volume of produced water is increasing; thus, the cumulative effects of low-solubility minerals become more significant.

  2. Secondary recovery techniques and increased emphasis on waste disposal systems require controlling the behavior of all constituents of water to prevent formation plugging.

  3. The more general use of instrumental analysis has reduced the time and improved the accuracy of complete scale and water analysis.

  4. Once formed, barium sulfate scale is resistant topresent methods of chemical removal; therefore, costly mechanical methods are necessary.

Thus, new methods of prevention and control will require specialized chemical techniques and better knowledge of the causes of scaling. Consider the results of some simulated field deposition studies illustrating this need (Fig. 1). The studies utilized a Scale Deposition Test Cell* and each coupon was exposed to 8,000 ml of a 300 me/liter solution of the various types of mineral scale. All tests were conducted at 140F. Only the calcium sulfate and calcium carbonate deposited scale. The solution containing 300 me/liter of barium sulfate exhibited copious amounts of precipitate, but none of the precipitate adhered. The fluids from the effluents were also allowed to impinge on glass slides. Fig. 1 shows the relative adherence of the three types of scale on unetched glass. The barium sulfate failed to deposit in the same manner as the calcium carbonate and calcium sulfate solutions.


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