Northwest Oklahoma has something other states in the U.S. do not have and that is iodine production.
Oklahoma’s iodine production is third in the world, with Chile being the largest producing country, and Japan is the second largest. Iodine is found underground in isolated areas and range in depth from a few hundred feet to 10,000-plus feet.
Iodine is a rare and essential resource found naturally in seawater, brine water, and halogens (fluorine, chlorine, bromine, and astatine). It is mined in Oklahoma and has a variety of materials manufactured and sold throughout both the United States and internationally.
Iodine was accidentally discovered by a French chemist/pharmacist in 1811. Bernard Courtois obtained a violet vapor by heating seaweed ashes with sulfuric acid as a byproduct of saltpetre (potassium nitrate). Iodine is thought to have been formed from seaweeds, oysters, and cod livers.
Three iodine mining companies are currently in Oklahoma. Woodward Iodine Corporation opened in 1977. Iochem Resources opened in Vici in 1987. Iofina opened sites in both Woods and Alfalfa counties in 2012. Each company has its own way of mining and producing iodine in northwest Oklahoma plus various products manufactured from the iodine.
“The iodine trench brine formation is about one mile wide and runs from the Kansas/Oklahoma border south to Vici,” said Leroy Goodman, chief executive officer and president of Woodward Iodine. “The brine is pumped up from the formation and the iodine extracted from the brine.”
Woodward Iodine is part of the Ise Chemicals Corporation of Tokyo, Japan. The plant in Woodward produces solid iodine from lands that are leased for brine production. It packages the iodine into 50 kilogram drums and has a distributor that ships the iodine to factories across the country. Their processed iodine is used in animal feed, pharmaceuticals, disinfectants, photo film, vapor bulbs, fungicides, paints, and coatings to control bacteria.
The downturn in the economy has had little to no effect on Woodward Iodine’s production and distribution. In fact, Woodward Iodine has been gradually increasing its production of iodine for two years due to the demand.
Iochem Corporation has a site in Vici that produces flake iodine, prill iodine, and resublimed iodine used for imaging, pharmaceuticals, and biocide industries. It is the largest producer of medical-grade iodine in North America. To preserve iodine and protect the environment, Iochem Corporation has implemented the first U.S. iodine recovery facility capable of processing iodine byproduct streams into market-ready, high purity iodine.
“Iofina Resources has found it cost effective to partner with existing oil and gas operators and isolate iodine rather than drilling its own wells,” states the company website. It then processes the iodine into a variety of medical and industrial products sold in the U.S. and around the world. Iofina is the 2nd largest producer of iodine in North America.
Iofina Resources recently reported that the current decline in oil and gas production may have an adverse effect on iodine production in Woods and Alfalfa counties. “Iofina’s technology extracts iodine from brine water and byproducts of onshore oil and gas production in the U.S., but turmoil in the energy industry is hitting the supply of brine water in western Oklahoma,” according to the company.
“On May 1, 2020, the saltwater disposal operator informed Iofina that oil and gas operators have shut-in or intend to shut-in wells due to reduced operating margins and current oil prices; this is likely to materially affect the volume of brine available for iodine isolation at site IO#8,” states Proactive Investors Company of the United Kingdom.
“Iofina’s other four iodine plants are fully operating and the company expects to continue. We are diligently working on possible solutions for IO#8 and will update the market as appropriate,” said Tom Becker, President and chief Executive Officer of Iofina in a released statement to Proactive in May.
In addition to the mining of iodine in Northwest Oklahoma, one company in Woodward manufactures a variety of products using the iodine. Deepwater Chemicals, Inc. was founded in California in 1931 and has been located exclusively in Woodward since 1994. It specializes in the manufacturing of approximately 25 organic and inorganic iodine derivatives utilized in food supplementation, disinfectants, pharmaceutical products, animal feed, water treatment, odor control, and potassium iodine used in the oil and gas industry.
“If there is a need for a particular compound, Deepwater can manufacture materials suitable to your application,” states the company website (deepwaterchemicals.com) and confirms Gary Gartrell, the Senior Technical Manager of Deepwater.
Deepwater Chemicals manufactures high purity iodine derivatives using their expertise in iodine chemistry. It is the only domestic iodine derivatives manufacturer that is inspected by the FDA and approved by the FDA for production. Their manufactured products are sold across the U.S. and internationally.
“The COVID-19 virus has resulted in decreased imports of iodine from other countries, such as Chile, which has increased the demand of iodine from Northwest Oklahoma’s sources,” Gartrell said. “Deepwater Chemicals gets some of its iodine from the Iochem plant in Vici.”
Iodine continues to be a rare and essential resource found naturally in sea water, brine water, and halogens located below the surface of land in northwest Oklahoma. This needed resource and its bi-products will continue to be mined and its products manufactured in the forseeable future, regardless of COVID-19 and a downturn in the oil and gas industry.