News from SPE ATCE 2012: Companies exploring guar alternatives in fracing operations
BY NELL LUKOSAVICH
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- While the scare over a guar gum shortage has turned out to be less of a threat than initially thought, several factors, including price, supply and permeability optimization, have prompted oilfield service companies to explore alternatives to guar in hydraulic fracturing operations. While some companies have even projected lower margins due to the price hike and scarcity of guar, many are now looking at how to synthetically replace guar to keep fracing operations safe and cost-effective.
Guar, grown mainly in northern India under very specific weather conditions, is processed into a gum-like substance that acts as a balancing agent, keeping chemicals, water and sand suspended and evenly distributed through the fracturing fluid.
A sharp increase in demand, coupled with a supply shortage, has prompted the price of guar to skyrocket over the last 24 months—from $1 to $12/pound. And, in turn, encouraged companies to explore synthetic options, which are able to provide the same properties as guar gum, but can be manufacturing and used at a more cost-effective rate.
Companies such as Halliburton, Baker Hughes, FTS International, Nabors, and Exceleron Energy Products are working to develop guar alternatives. Halliburton has tested and seen very positive results with its PermStim line of derivatized natural polymer as has Baker Hughes, who has so far used its AquaPerm synthetic substance to replace 5% of its guar usage.
As the market continues to feel the crunch limited supply, more and more companies will start looking into alternatives for this rare substance. Until then, guar farmers are carefully tending to their crops of gummy gold.