The rise in demand for energy and decline in oil and gas production from depleting conventional reserves have forced the world to move toward unconventional reserves of oil and gas such as shale oil, shale gas, tight oil, and tight gas. The extraction of hydrocarbons from these sources have increased, due to combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing or hydraulic fracking is a process wherein fracking fluids are injected at a high pressure into the wellbore to fracture the formation reservoir rocks to help hydrocarbons move freely out of the formation.
Water is the primarily used fracking fluid that contains sand and other proppants suspended in the water with the help of thickening agents. However, factors such as legislations regarding the usage of water as a fracking fluid, sensitivity of the formation to water, and water hampering the gas production from reservoir call for using alternative fluids for hydraulic fracturing. Alternative fluids are not water-based and hence, require less or no water consumption. They also cause less damage to formations that are water-sensitive and hence are becoming popular among the operators.
Based on the base used, the alternative fluids for hydraulic fracturing market can be segmented into foam-based, oil-based, acid-based, alcohol-based, emulsion-based, and other fluids. Foams are being consistently used in the oil & gas industry due to their low liquid content and high viscosity. Foam-based fluids are considered as one of the best alternative fluids for hydraulic fracturing. These fluids are generally beneficial for liquid-rich gas wells. They can be easily used in gas-bearing, water-sensitive reservoirs, wherein water blockage could be a major concern. Oil-based alternative fluids were the first high-viscosity fracturing fluids to be used in hydraulic fracturing.
The major advantage of these fluids is their compatibility with almost all types of reservoirs and formations. Acid-based alternative fluids etch channels into rocks, which function as walls for created fractures. These fluids require the reservoir rocks to be partially soluble in acid so that the acid can etch channels into fractured walls. Generally, methanol-based fluid is used as an alcohol-based alternative fluid, due to its various advantages such as bio-degradability and fluid properties. A variety of emulsion-based fluids are being developed and used as fracking fluids today. Other fluids generally include liquid CO2, liquid natural gas, liquid nitrogen, and liquid helium. The market for alternative fluids for hydraulic fracturing can also be segmented on the basis of location into onshore fields and offshore fields.
Based on region, the alternative fluids for hydraulic fracturing market can be segmented into North America, Latin America, Europe, Middle East & Africa, and Asia Pacific. North America is expected to dominate the global market during the forecast period, primarily due to ongoing shale activities in the U.S. Asia Pacific is expected to be the rapidly expanding market during the forecast period, due to large-sized, technically recoverable reserves of shale and coal-bed methane in China, India, Australia, and Indonesia. Various policy support for the explorations could boost the investments into the market. The market in the other countries such as Argentina, Russia, Iran, Algeria, and Poland are also likely to witness significant growth during the forecast period, due to increase in the ongoing activities related to unconventional reserves, primarily shale gas.
Some of the key players operating in the alternative fluids for hydraulic fracturing market are Halliburton Co., Chemtotal, Schlumberger Limited, Praxair Technology Inc., Canyon Technical Services Ltd., and Air Products.