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What is Gilsonite?

What is Gilsonite?


Gilsonite is a natural resinous hydrocarbon found in Utah, United States of America, Iran located in Kermanshah Province, Gilangreb County and other parts of the world. Its unique properties make it an important material for a variety of industrial and commercial applications such as the production of paints, inks, adhesives, drilling fluids and asphalt.


In this article, we examine the characteristics of Gilsonite, its extraction and production, as well as its application in various industrial sectors. We will also compare it with other natural bitumen. Finally, we will look at the future prospects of Gilsonite and its potential for new applications.


The most comprehensive definition of Gilsonite:

Gilsonite, also known as uintahite, is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon resin found in the Uinta Basin in Utah, United States, and Iran. It is a unique form of asphaltite, which is a solid or semi-solid material consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons and other organic compounds. Gilsonite is a shiny black substance with a brittle texture and a distinct tar smell.

Gilsonite is formed from crude oil that hardens and oxidizes underground due to the passage of years, and the surface of mineral bitumen is smooth and shiny. After millions of years of oil, due to the pressure of the earth’s layers, it turns into a black solid body.

 It turns brown, this material becomes soft and fluid due to heat. Basically, natural bitumen is the residue of oil evaporation.Over many years, oil moves under the fractures and layers of the earth and gets trapped in pools surrounded by impermeable materials such as plaster, stone, etc. becomes mineral bitumen.

If the oil evaporates from an oil pond or lake, the remaining oil is formed in the form of a natural bitumen or asphalt lake, which is the Trinidad tar lake.

Gilsonite is also known by other names such as mineral bitumen, natural bitumen, bitumen, natural bitumen, asphaltum, natural asphaltum, mineral bitumen, asphaltum, mineral pitch, bitumen, asphalt.

The simplest definition of natural bitumen:

Gilsonite (mineral bitumen), is a natural hydrocarbon substance with high purity, it is a solid hydrocarbon, rich in asphaltene and nitrogen compounds, it is also black, shiny and brittle, contains sulfur and a little ash.

Although natural bitumen looks similar to hard coal or asphalt, its chemical properties are significantly different. Mineral bitumen is soluble in aromatic and aliphatic solvents, as well as in petroleum bitumen. Softer mineral bitumen products, Parallel and close to vertical fractures, it occurs in the Unita Formation in the Unita Basin.

Full history of Gilsonite:

Gilsonite was discovered in America before Samuel H. Gilson in 1860. Gilson was not one of the main discoverers of Gilsonite, but due to his great advertising efforts, the people of the region recognized this material as mineral bitumen instead of using its scientific name, i.e. uintaite.

In 1888, he founded a company called mineral bitumen with his business partner. He mined Gilsonite and offered it on a commercial scale, and Gilsonite became more known. Natural bitumen mines are found in most of the oil-rich countries of the world, except Saudi Arabia.


The most important Gilsonite mines according to the amount of reserves, respectively:

In the countries of America, Canada, Iran, where the most important and largest mine of gilsonite and Maad natural bitumen is located, and Iraq, Russia, Venezuela, China, Australia, Mexico and the Philippines are located. In general, about 65% of the world’s total reserves are in The American continent is located, and Iran, as the third largest reserve in the world, has about 15 million tons of these reserves.

تاریخچه گیلسونایت History of Gilsonite

History of Gilsonite in Iran:

The largest Gilsonite mines are located in the southwest of Iran. The discovery of oil in Iran dates back to the Sassanid period, and at that time, Iranians were aware of the existence of oil and bitumen in the southwestern regions of the country. In the Neolithic period, people used the method They were used in different ways, such as covering dishes, floors and walls of houses, and in making tools such as sickles, shovels, and medical tools, to treat many infectious diseases and rheumatic pains.

In ancient times, Gilsonite, as a mineral like obsedin and turquoise, played an important role in the regional trade. In the middle of the fourth millennium, the Elamites produced a compound called bituminous paste. This bituminous material was used in making objects such as: containers, ornaments, flat and cylindrical seals.

Types of origin of natural bitumen or gilsonite:

Natural bitumens or Gilsonite have 5 different origins and are classified accordingly:

1- Bitumens that are accompanied by layers and materials, in which oil is formed.
2- Bitumens that are along with hemoclinal layers and the ends of the mentioned edges are visible on the ground.

3- Bitumens that appear in places of discontinuities and other slopes.
4- Bitumens that are caused by large reservoirs that have been broken due to activities such as folding and faulting.
5- Bitumen which is observed along with the influence of some geological phenomena such as: volcanic eruptions, salt domes and igneous intrusions.

Properties and compositions of Gilsonite

Physical properties of gilsonite

Gilsonite or natural bitumen has several unique physical properties that make it ideal for various applications. Its high melting point is around 500°F, making it ideal for use in high temperature applications. It is also very hard and brittle, meaning it can be easily crushed into a fine powder. In addition, it is impermeable to most chemicals and solvents.

Also, Gilsonite, natural bitumen (a solid, brittle, shiny substance, with a lot of shine. Its ore is black and its powder is brown. In terms of physical and chemical appearance, it resembles coal, fossil fuels, bitumen and petroleum products. Its main difference with coal is its soft property and its melting before burning, and its main difference with bitumen is its hardness and the properties of its polar molecules, which gives it dispersive properties.

  Gilsonite’s fundamental difference with natural and artificial hydrocarbon minerals has made it used in most applied industries as a unique mineral in terms of physical and chemical properties. mineral bitumen is divided into three grades: normal, separated and screened, which is based on the melting point, their refractive index and the amount of fine particles.

Chemical composition of Gilsonite

Gilsonite is primarily composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. It also contains small amounts of sulfur and nitrogen. Its chemical composition gives it several unique properties, such as a high carbon content, which makes it an excellent source of carbon black and activated carbon.

Gilsonite molecular structure:

Mineral bitumen is made up of a complex mixture of organic compounds, in order to determine its special characteristics, various analytical tests are performed for its chemical structure.

Preliminary analysis of a sample of mineral bitumen identifies elements such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur, and oxygen in gilsonite.

ساختار مولوکولی گیلسونایت Molecular structure of Gilsonite

Gilsonite extraction and processing

Extraction methods:

Gilsonite is extracted from underground mines using methods similar to those used in coal mining. The mining process includes drilling, blasting and removing the ore from the ground. After the ore is separated, it is crushed and ground into a fine powder of natural bitumen powder or Gilsonite powder, and impurities are removed.

Quality control in Gilsonite extraction and production

Quality control is an important aspect of gilsonite mining and production to ensure that the material meets the specifications required for various applications. Quality control includes testing purity, ash content, moisture and particle size distribution. In addition, extraction and production processes are monitored to ensure safety, efficiency and environmental responsibility.

Gilsonite processing and refining

After the ore is extracted and processed, it is refined to different grades based on its properties. The refining process involves heating the powder in a rotary kiln at high temperatures. Then the obtained material is crushed and sieved to obtain the desired particle size. The refined gilsonite can then be used in various applications.

Gilsonite applications in various industries

Gilsonite is used in more than 160 important applications in various industries, including paint, resin, building materials, asphalt, road paving, foundry, chemicals, mud and drilling cement, wax, ISO roofing, black ink and rubber. Due to the fact that mineral bitumen is a mineral and non-toxic material, the use of this valuable product is increasing.

Application in road construction industry

Gilsonite is widely used in the road construction industry as an asphalt binder. It improves the durability and strength of asphalt and resists weathering, wear and tear, and rutting. It can also be used in pavement sealants, traffic paints and joint fillers. 

Use in ink and paint industry

  Gilsonite is used as a black pigment in the ink and paint industry. It provides unique black color and improves the viscosity and drying time of ink and paint. It can also be used as an adhesive in ink and varnish.

Black and brown pigments are extracted from mineral bitumen, which are used in the preparation of printer inks. Iranian gilsonite resin is widely used as carbon black to produce black ink and viscous ink. Iran’s mineral bitumen resin competes very well with petroleum-based hydrocarbon resins, phenolic resins, and metal resins, which can be used at the price of all the mentioned items with different concentrations.

  Different concentrations of this material are used to produce special inks with high brightness. A special type of Gilsonite is also used in the production of black asphalt paints and polishing oils. It can also be used to prepare a black-brown colored solution, which is used in the bitumen coating of gas pipes, sewage, etc.

This product is used to cover external surfaces, as well as to make surfaces resistant to acid, car chassis coating, coating metal structures. It is used as a low-cost alternative to other resins in black ink compositions.

Ink, glue, and printing industry

Gilsonite is used in inks, adhesives and the printing industry as a natural resin binder. It improves adhesion, viscosity and color of inks, adhesives and printing inks. Gilsonite is also used as a pigment dispersant and as a viscosity modifier.

Polymer and plastic industry

   Gilsonite is used in the polymer and plastic industry as a natural additive. It increases the properties of polymers such as strength, durability and resistance to UV light and chemicals. Gilsonite is usually used in polyethylene, polypropylene and PVC products.

Production of ISO steps

Since Gilsonite is highly hydrophobic and resistant to acid and base, it increases the quality of ISO grade and asphalt. One of the important features of Gilsonite materials is their solubility in non-polar solvents such as carbon disulfide, toluene, and molten bitumen. is.

This characteristic of mineral bitumen is used in isogam and waterproofing industries. Natural bitumen, due to the presence of polymeric hydrocarbon materials, is considered a suitable modifier for refinery bitumen, especially asphalt and isogam.


It is widely used in the insulation of dams, bridges and canals, Gilsonite powder has greater solubility and insulation ability. Due to the stability and resistance of Gilsonite against atmospheric conditions, its use in this field is increasing. . It is used as insulation in electronic kits in the electronics industry.

Preparation and production of emulsion bitumen

Gilsonite powder is used in the preparation of blue emulsion bitumen. Emulsion bitumens are mainly exported. Emulsion bitumens are known as green and environmentally friendly bitumens.

coke production

Natural bitumen or Gilsonite contains 70-80% carbon based on elemental analysis, so when it is added to molten steel, it creates a reducing environment and can be used alongside coking materials such as coal. did It is also possible to prepare coke from some of its types.

Bitumen is mixed with coal that has weak coking properties and coke is prepared from it. The obtained coke is often used in the sugar industry. Also, from its sulfur-free types or after desulfurization, a type of coke called needle coke is prepared, which is widely used in electric arc melting furnaces.

کاربرد گیلسونایت Application of Gilsonite

Use in drilling mud

 Natural bitumen or gilsonite is used in the production of mud and drilling cement slurry. It is used in drilling fluids for cementing oil wells. This mineral, a unique and stabilized combination of mineral bitumen grades, is used to provide optimal and appropriate action in drilling mud to stabilize shale (walls of oil wells). This substance reduces the weight of the slurry.

for fuel

Gilsonite lumps, along with fuel compounds such as diesel and coal, were used for fuel in thermal furnaces in the past, but today this use is limited to low-quality types of Gilsonite.

Gilsonite use in casting

Mineral bitumen or gilsonite is used as a carbonate additive in casting sands, which creates smoother plates on gray iron molds. Mineral bitumen is mixed with coal sea as a special binder for casting sands. It is used to reduce defects at the end of the casting operation.

It also improves mold release. Gilsonite is used in casting as a binder to shape metals. Mineral bitumen is used for mixing with chemical compounds such as magnesium and hydrated lime for desulfurization in the steel industry.


Chemical industry

Natural bitumen has been successfully used for the production of sealants and adhesives for many years. With new production technology and unique natural quality control, this product can be considered as a substitute for synthetic resin in the fraction of raw materials. take


  The effective use of this natural resin in executive applications is compatible with the high quality of Gilsonite.


After the investigations and specialized tests, they realized that this substance is a very good lubricant, and different products can be obtained by combining it with different resins; including pencil graphite, battery core.


Also, due to the fact that polyethylene or PVC materials in dark colors get corroded by the sun’s ultraviolet rays, it is possible to prevent corrosion by using this material. Due to the new technology and the use of carbon fibers, which are among the uses It can be mentioned that Gilsonite s

hould be used in the construction of the aircraft body.

Gilsonite extraction استخراج گیلسونایت

 Gilsonite extraction techniques

Gilsonite is extracted from mines using underground and open pit mining techniques. Most of the mines are located in Utah and Colorado and GilanGhreb County in Iran, where mineral bitumen deposits are abundant. Once gilsonite is mined, it must be processed to remove any impurities and prepare it for commercial use.

Gilsonite extraction from mines

  Underground mining is the most common method used to mine mineral bitumen. It involves digging shafts and tunnels deep into the ground to access sediments. Once Gilsonite is found, it is then extracted using specialized equipment. Open pit mining is another option for gilsonite mining. This involves using heavy machinery to remove the top layer of soil and rock to access the sediments.

Comparison with other natural bitumen

Gilsonite is only one type of natural bitumen. Here’s how it compares to some other types:

Comparison with asphaltite

Asphaltite is another natural bitumen that is similar to Gilsonite in many ways. However, asphaltite is typically found in larger sediments and has a higher sulfur content. This makes it more suitable for industrial applications that require high sulfur content.

Comparison with oil bitumen

  Petroleum bitumen, also known as asphalt or bitumen, is a byproduct of crude oil distillation. Unlike gilsonite and asphaltite, this material is not natural. Petroleum bitumen is widely used in road construction, roofing and pavement repair due to its high viscosity and water resistance.

Market trends and forecasting

The global demand for gilsonite is expected to increase in the coming years, mainly driven by the increasing demand for natural bitumen in the construction, drilling and adhesives industries. Asia Pacific region is expected to be the largest market formineral bitumen due to its growing infrastructure and industrial sectors.


Some customers demand jumbobags, which are relatively cheaper. But for some customers, packaging is very important, and for them, multi-layered 25 kg bags are used, which are more expensive. 25 and 50 kg bags are usually used for na

tural bitumen powder.

Frequently asked questions about Gilsoniteسوالات متداول درباره گیلسونایت

Frequently asked questions about Gilsonite?


 What is Gilsonite used for?

Gilsonite has a wide range of industrial applications, including use as a drilling mud additive, in asphalt and road construction, and in the production of inks, paints, and coatings. It is also used as a carbon black dispersant, in casting molds and cores, and in lithium-ion batteries. 

How is Gilsonite extracted and processed?

Gilsonite is usually extracted from underground mines using drilling and blasting techniques. After extraction, it is transported to processing plants, where it is crushed, screened, and milled to various sizes and grades. The processed Gilsonite is then packaged and shipped to customers around the world. 

What is the origin of Gilsonite?

Gilsonite is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon believed to originate from the remains of organic matter that has undergone thermal changes over millions of years.

What are the advantages of using Gilsonite in asphalt and road construction?
Gilsonite improves the quality of asphalt by increasing its durability, elasticity and resistance to deformation.


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