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Low-molecular-weight, fatty-acid esters as potential low-temperature drilling fluids for ice coring
Authors: Xu H, Han L, Cao P, Guo M, Han J, Yu D, Talalay P
Year: 2014
Keywords: ice coring
Periodical/Journal: Annals of Glaciology
Volume: 55
Number: 68
Page Range: 44-52

A challenge for future deep-ice coring in central Antarctica is to identify an appropriate inert drilling fluid with no undesirable physical or chemical characteristics. The drilling fluids currently in use (kerosene-based fluids with density-increasing additives, ethanol and n-butyl acetate) are not intelligent choices for the future from safety, environmental and some technological standpoints. Recently proposed drilling fluids based upon ESTISOL have high viscosity at low temperatures, which severely limits their application in cold environments. This paper presents our research into the application of low-molecular-weight, fatty-acid esters (FAEs), substances commonly used in the fragrance and flavoring industries. According to available data, selected FAEs are not hazardous to human health. Considering density requirements alone, ethyl butyrate and n-propyl propionate best meet our present needs. The viscosities of these two chemicals are also the lowest among studied FAEs, not exceeding 4mPas at temperatures down to 60°C. Both compounds are highly volatile, and insoluble in water. Such properties are attractive, but the applicability of FAEs to deep, cold, ice drilling can be evaluated only after field-based, practical experiments in test boreholes.

DOI: 10.3189/2014AoG68A003
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