US demand for oilfield chemicals is expected to remain strong through 2017 following double digit annual growth in recent years – according to a new report published by Freedonia group.
Newer technologies such as multistage hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have allowed development of shale gas and tight oil plays, resulting in a significant improvement in the country’s oil and gas outlook. Following decades of declines, oil production has begun to increase again.
Natural gas is abundant and prices are low, spurring changes across the entire US manufacturing sector. However, rapid growth has also led to problems with product shortages, rising material costs, and concerns about water use. In addition, other environmental concerns remain, and the oilfield chemical industry will be called upon to provide high performance products with an increasing level of environmental friendliness.
Demand high for chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing
Chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing have become the largest segment of the US market. The boom in fracturing activity is expected to persist, with both the number of fractured wells and the average volume of fluids per well continuing to increase. Of the chemicals used in fracturing, guar gum has presented unique challenges to the industry due to a severe price shock in 2012. Helping to offset the oilfield chemical industry’s reliance on this commodity will be the rising use of slickwater fracturing as well as efforts to find alternative polymers that can match guar’s performance. Growth is expected to be above average for “green” fracturing products. This will benefit new formulations that use advanced, biodegradable chemicals in place of conventional high volume products such as biocides and surfactants.
Drilling activity to fuel US demand
Drilling activity is expected to remain elevated in the US through the coming years, driving healthy demand for drilling and completion fluids and the chemicals they contain. The ability to increase drilling efficiency and reduce rig time, improve well productivity through reduction of formation damage, and better the environmental profile and disposal requirements of these fluids will all be of significant concern. As the performance of water-based drilling fluids continues to improve, they will see increasing use even in difficult drilling conditions such as the Haynesville Shale, where oil-based muds have been the preferred choice.
However, demand for oil-based muds will remain healthy for the foreseeable future. Offshore drilling, which is expected to rebound going forward, will support strong demand for both synthetic drilling fluids and high density completion brines.
Other chemicals important in oilfield applications — such as cementing chemicals, production chemicals, and enhanced oil recovery (EOR) products — will also see healthy growth. Field production of oil and gas in the US is expected to continue climbing, while the amount of water and other undesirable contaminants rises as well. Both factors will necessitate greater use of production chemicals including biocides, demulsifiers, and corrosion and scale inhibitors. The mature nature of most large oilfields in the US and continued high oil prices will support the use of EOR practices.
Additionally, interest is increasing in the use of carbon dioxide EOR as a method of carbon sequestration.
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