Why are industry leaders banking on biobased oilfield surfactants?

Why are industry leaders banking on biobased oilfield surfactants?

Oilfield surfactants industry players are counting on a rise in oil exploration activities as chemical usage in the oilfields is almost ubiquitous among operators. Oil and gas companies have seemingly exhibited traction for surfactants which they perceive as one of the most prevalent oilfield chemistries for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), corrosion inhibition, flowback aids and drilling fluid applications.

Anionic and non-anionic surfactants, for instance, have gained an uptick as a lower-toxic surfactant amidst prevalence of several surfactants having high toxicity. Use of these surfactants for enhanced oil recovery operations is believed to be based on performance, stability, price, environmental restrictions and compatibility.

Industry experts are banking on anionic surfactants to provide a good correlation between interfacial tension and solubilization parameter. Anionic surfactants for EOR are likely to sought-after when compared with cationic surfactants.

Industry experts further opine that oilfield chemistries—preferably surfactants—will remain at the forefront to manage and control risk linked with transportation and production issues, such as gas hydrates, wax & asphaltene deposition, mineral scaling, foaming or emulsifications, corrosion and hydrogen sulfide. In terms revenue, oilfield surfactants market size is expected to surpass US$1.31 billion by 2027.

Lately, enhanced oil recovery technologies have come to the fore as a high-margin portfolio to help rebound oilfields through maximization of efficiency from the reservoir. Oil & gas companies believe EOR will customize the chemical solution to reservoir conditions through laboratory testing and modeling.

Echoing similar sentiments, BASF apparently completed installation of enhanced oil recovery polymer injection plants in Argentina in early September 2020. One of the top officials from BASF was quoted stating that the new installations were part of “lab-to-well” chemical solution to boost reservoir life. Moreover, the company is swearing by polymer injection units to reduce mechanical degradation of the polymer used in the EOR process.

As the world unites to promote green products, green oilfield solutions have slowly and steadily gained ground with reduced flammability, lower exposure toxicity, lower bioaccumulation, higher biodegradability and sustainability in production and application.

Biosurfactants have become a go-to-solution in green oilfield chemistry given that it is fast degradable that reduces the inherent toxicity of surfactants. That said, exorbitant costs associated with biosurfactants have not augured well with the business outlook.

Companies are bringing green biosurfactants to the field given that commercialization has picked pace, thereby prompting the development of a fermentation process to produce high-quality bio-based surfactants in a cost-competitive way.

Well-established players are gearing to introduce more innovative and environmentally-sound solutions which provide lower toxicity, better biodegradability and meet the latest regulations. In the similar vein, Nouryon has reportedly decided to boost its surfactants capacity by two-fold in Sweden to underpin innovation pipeline.  The mega-project—to be completed by Q1 2021—is likely to include the €12 million expansion and upgrade project, including the installation of a new reactor to create more sustainable ingredients.

With the emphasis on the growth engine, leading companies are gearing to acquire a pole position in North America. Evonik announced the selection of IMCD as the distributor for oilfield chemicals in North America through its press release on March 16, 2020. The company asserts it will help them streamline drilling, production, stimulation, cementing and completion.

Industry insiders believe product portfolio expansion to take stronghold in the next few years. Whether it is exhibiting traction for bio-based surfactants to reduce the need for new drilling and bolstering the life of declining wells or showing palpability for EOR technologies, growth opportunities appear to be more pronounced in these business segments.