Cesium Formate In The Oil Industry

Caesium formate (CsCHO2) was initially synthesised in the 1990s, through a reaction of formic acid and caesium hydroxide. It is used nowadays mainly by oil companies as a drilling and lubricant fluid in high-pressure high-temperature oil and gas extraction wells.

As popularity of this compound grows with oil companies, leading to a significant increase in its production, many studies have been carried out to test not only efficancy, but also safety for the workers and the environment. It was concluded this chemical has a “gentle” non-corrosive nature, and while being safe for the environment, it is nevertheless, very effective in gas and oil extraction systems.

Main functions include:

  • Facilitating drilling by reducing friction
  • Lubricating drill parts
  • Increasing drill power and speed
  • Transporting debris back to the surface
  • Stabilising temperature, thus avoiding rapid shifts in pressure
  • Being used as a suspension fluid to ensure accurate dispersion of other minor components

Revolutionary Chemical

This truly is a revolutionary chemical, as companies consistently report increased production and lower costs, despite caesium formate being an expensive chemical to produce. One of the main advantages is its non-corrosive nature, thus reducing repairs needed and prolonging the life of all machinery used in the extraction process. Furthermore, this is a biodegradable or recyclable chemical, minimising the impact on the environment. It’s no surprise then that most oil companies have switched from hazardous and corrosive chemicals to “friendlier” caesium formate.

How Is Cesium Formate Used?

A caesium formate solution is used during the most sensitive phase of the drilling, as the oil or gas reserves are breached. During this process, drilling fluid containing this chemical is pumped down the shaft, lubricating the drill at the same time as it transports any rubble removed from the bore hole. Pre-caesium formate, this drilling fluid would be a combination of various chemicals, each with a specific function, including barium sulphate as a weighting agent and others. The advantage of using caesium formate is that it dispenses the inclusion of any other hazardous chemicals, reducing risks of environmental contamination and it’s even claimed it improves extraction efficiency.


Although considered safe, appropriate protective clothing, as well as gloves and goggles must be worn at all times, especially by those workers directly dealing with this chemical. Periods particularly critical include when taking samples to test viscosity or when recycling the solution. It is essential that these members of staff are trained in these procedures.


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