Colony, WY – It may not be as big as coal-bed methane,
but bentonite is booming in northern Wyoming, southern Montana, and western South Dakota.
The yellow or greenish-gray clay is common in the areas. Bentonite plant production has increased 40 percent since 2000, and the severance taxes Wyoming has collected off the substance have nearly doubled in that time period.
Part of the success can be attributed to the energy boom -- bentonite is used in drilling oil and gas wells.
But that's not its only use.
From clumping cat litter to face creams and foundry molds, bentonite is everywhere.
The clay was created millions of years ago, when shallow sea water reacted with volcanic ash.
Bentonite reserves in the area are estimated at one (B) billion tons.