Bismuth

The backbone of BiSN alloys

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What is Bismuth?

Bismuth, the 83rd element on the periodic table, is a high density, brittle metal. It has been known from ancient times but often confused with lead and tin. Although extremely stable, it is slightly radioactive with a half life of over a billion times longer than the current estimate age of the universe.

A sample of bismuth at the BiSN Houston facility

Common Applications of Bismuth

Bismuth is most commonly used in medicines and cosmetics or as a non-toxic replacement for lead in a variety of applications.

For example, bismuth forms the active ingredient in several antidarrheal medicines such as Pepto-Bismal. One of bismuth’s isotopes has also been used in newer treatments for leukemia. Additionally, bismuth is commonly found in compound forms of eye shadows and other cosmetics.

Bismuth Crystal - BiSN

Lead Replacement and Bismuth Alloys

A main use of bismuth is to replace the toxic metal of lead. It has been often used in as a directly replacement for lead in a variety of ballistics including bullets and hunting ammunitions.

As an alloy, bismuth is commonly used in fire suppression systems, in aviation as part of the casting process, and to manufacture precision machining parts.

Bismuth Alloy - BiSN

BiSN Applications of Bismuth

BiSN uses bismuth to create custom alloys mixed with other metals such as tin. In its pure form, bismuth would not be suitable due to how brittle it is when it solidifies.

Different alloys have been created by BiSN and used commercially in over 300 deployments globally. BiSN creates different alloys based on operator need to accommodate for difference in downhole temperatures and pressures.

Bismuth alloy brewing at BiSN Houston

How is BiSN’s Bismuth Alloy So Effective?

Two of bismuth’s characteristics are keys to creating a V0 gas tight seal downhole:

  • In a melted state, the allow is light and has a viscosity similar to water, meaning it can flow into the smallest of perforations or cement micro-annuli.
  • It expands rapidly as it cools, creating a mechanical bond between the seal and the annuli.

Within minutes the bismuth alloy expands and returns to a solid, creating a permanent gas tight seal across the well annuli. Furthermore, the bismuth alloy seal can withstand temperature pressure, aggressive fluids, as well as not shrinking, crumbling or deteriorating over time.

Bismuth bricks being organized by a BiSN employee.

What Makes Bismuth Eco-friendly?

Bismuth alloy is listed as a non-toxic metal with very little effects on its surrounding environment.

The main eco-friendly property of bismuth is its permanence. According to BiSN computer modelling, bismuth plugs in wells can last up to and potentially surpass 3000 years. This differs greatly from traditional cement plugs that can leak hydro carbons in as little as a few years depending on the context of the well.

Bismuth has the potential to create a permanent seal in a well the first time, meaning a win for the environment and also for the operator who stands to save a substantial cost from having to reseal a cement-plugged well in the future.

BiSN employee making bismuth based shot for a downhole application.

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