April 2021 Vol. 76 No. 4


Wyo-Ben Introduces A New Website

A new Wyo-Ben® Inc. website is live. The bentonite production leader’s homepage now features aerial footage of a Wyo-Ben production facility and bentonite “pie pan” outcroppings that create a surreal landscape at one of its Big Horn Basin resources. The homepage provides access to Wyo-Ben product line information, the Wyo-Ben Pet page, dealers and locations, and valuable driller resources including hole volume, annular velocity, HDD backreaming/pump volume, and mud recycling calculators.

The new website is just one of the ways Wyo-Ben is marking its 70th anniversary this year. It follows the release of an app that gives users convenient 24/7 access to Wyo-Ben resources no matter where they are.

“Customers value Wyo-Ben expertise,” said Tyson Smith, technical sales engineer at Wyo-Ben. “The app takes some of the most requested information,” Smith said, “and makes it available right on the user’s phone.”

The Wyo-Ben app is available at no cost in the App Store and on Google Play. For more information on the app and Wyo-Ben products, users can visit the new Wyo-Ben website at www.wyoben.com or contact their local distributor directly.    


70th Anniversary

Family owned and operated since 1951, Wyo-Ben is one of only five top bentonite producers. The clay’s unique properties allow Wyo-Ben to provide innovative, eco-friendly solutions ranging from drilling fluids, slurries, fluid absorption materials and seals and caps used in the drilling and civil engineering industries, to products for wine clarification, for pelletizing taconite ore, and for making the cleaning fluid used by the U.S. Treasury to make bank notes.

Wyo-Ben is also a leading provider of drilling fluids to the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) market. Wyo-Ben officials said they are planning in-person celebrations with employees of the milestone in the latter half of 2021, as the need for more restrictive social distancing precautions continues to decrease.

Later this year the website will also link users to a complete historical account of the company’s history and the evolution of the multiple, modern benefits of bentonite-based products. “The Wyo-Ben Chronicles focuses on our employees, shareholders and customers,” said Wyo-Ben President and CEO David Brown. “It goes through the very fascinating history of how a company in the base materials business 70 years ago came to be when there was very little use for bentonite and to bring it forward to today where there are so many uses for it. It’s really a compelling story.”

Brown credits founder Rockwood Brown Sr.’s foresight and business savvy for the company’s success. “Granddad was very, very industrious,” Brown said. “He was in a lot of businesses in addition to his law practice. He and his friends decided that bentonite, at some point, would be a good play.”

Rockwood founded the company now known as Wyo-Ben in Greybull, Wyoming, in 1951. Operations were based in a mill he had acquired decades earlier. Bentonite derives its name from the Fort Benton Shale Group in which it was first identified in 1890 near the Rock River in Wyoming. It is an aluminum silicate clay, whose unique properties were said to transform water into “miracle mud.”

Bentonite had seen small scale use in a wide variety of applications prior to that time, including dubious elixirs, women’s cosmetics, and spa applications such as facials and mud baths, the clay’s greatest commercial utility at that time may have been in manufacturing, where it improved the quality of casting molds.

Oil and water drillers, who at first used the clay as a grout to seal or cap a well, soon discovered the many benefits of adding bentonite to drilling fluid. As an additive, bentonite improved the drilling fluid’s ability to efficiently suspend and evacuate cuttings from the bore, stabilize bore hole walls, improving circulation and return, and lubricate a drill string’s components and cutting tools. Demand for the fledging company’s products for the drilling industry rose from 15,000 tons its first year to 50,000 tons by 1956. 

In the following decades, the Greybull plant was upgraded and expanded several times. Two mills and processing facilities were added with access to additional bentonite reserves, the first in Lovell, Wyoming, in 1978 and a third in Thermopolis, Wyoming, by 1980.


Today’s Wyo-Ben

The company remains a top provider of drilling fluid solutions, which includes significant sales within the HDD industry. John Wornom, Wyo-Ben vice president of sales and marketing, said “The trenchless market is very important to Wyo-Ben.”

Brown described today’s Wyo-Ben as a diversified materials supplier rather than as just a drilling fluid company. “Wyo-Ben continues to grow in the traditional bentonite markets to the extent that those markets are growing, but there are also new markets.”

Brown said the booming success of the company prior to the ‘80s oil crisis and its ability to survive it is testimony to the industry savvy and leadership of the founder’s children: Keith, Neal, Rockwood Jr. and Barbara Brown. Together with R.E. Dansby, a former Halliburton employee, the Browns formed the Wyo-Ben Products Co known today for its innovation and responsiveness to customer needs across an increasing wide array of markets.

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