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Learn All About Uintaite


Found only in the United States.

What is Uintaite?

Uintaite is a naturally occurring, glossy black hydrocarbon resin found only in America’s Uinta Basin, which straddles the states of Utah and Colorado. It is an organic material that originated from the solidification of petroleum and is found in oil-bearing sediments in dikes (veins), sills, and fracture fillings. Uintaite is a member of the asphaltite group of hydrocarbon bitumens, but it is not a pyrobitumen (like coal and lignite); therefore, it is considered a non-energy mineral commonly found in association with the oil shale and tar sand deposits that are used for energy production. Uintaite is non-hazardous, non-toxic, and non-mutagenic; rich in nitrogen and beta-carotenes; and low in sulfur. Explosive by nature, uintaite extraction requires underground hand mining with pneumatic hammers, which is labor intensive, complex, and costly.

In 1885, renowned geologist William Phipps Blake gave the substance its official scientific name—uintaite. One year later, Samuel H. Gilson began mining uintaite. Today, only two companies mine uintaite, and only in northeastern Utah.

  • In the past, uintaite has been used in phonograph records, fingerprinting powders, and as a safe and effective lining for beer barrels.
  • From 1914-1925, Ford’s Model T “Tin Lizzie” was only offered in black paint that incorporated uintaite. As Henry Ford said at the time, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it’s black.”
  • During World War II, metals foundries substituted uintaite for linseed oil, which grew scarce and costly when the United States exported large quantities to combat famine in Russia.

Where to Find Uintaite

Uses for Uintaite

Nanotechnologies Uintaite is considered the premier raw material for high-tech nanotechnology applications that include filtration of rare earth minerals, naturally occurring radioactive material, and heavy metals, as well as for carbon capture, battery technology, and graphene.
Energy Production of uintaite also supports domestic energy security and cleaner oil and gas extraction. Though it is a non-energy mineral, the primary market for uintaite is in oil and gas applications, as a fluid-loss additive in drilling fluids (“mud”). Uintaite prevents the migration of drilling fluids into underground formations, including aquifers. It also maintains wellbore stability, reducing the occurrence of stuck pipe and drill bits, which can be very costly and pose a safety hazard to oilfield workers. Because it is a naturally occurring, non-hazardous natural resource, uintaite helps protect our environment in applications that otherwise require synthetic polymers that have a much larger carbon footprint.
Cement As a lightweight, self-healing component of slurries used in cementing applications, the presence of uintaite lightens cement slurries and expands when it encounters methane, which has the effect of filling any gaps or fissures within the cement, greatly reducing, or eliminating gas migration into the wellbore (and possible contamination of aquifers).
Construction As a critical component of specialty paving and roofing materials, uintaite replaces refined asphalts and polymers and increases the use of recycled materials, such as used motor oil, recycled asphalt, and used cooking oil. Uintaite’s lower high-temperature viscosity, lower water content, and fewer volatile materials enable it to produce significantly less fumes during asphalt production. This reduces the concentration of chemical substances in the air (MAK value), which promotes a more healthful workplace. In asphalt paving, uintaite is the critical component for high-modulus applications that also require fuel resistance, such as airports, seaports, bridges, and other high-traffic areas.
Other Uses Additional products include fiberboard, roofing, newsprint, lithographic and gravure inks, UV-resistant paints, coatings, and foundry sand additive.

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