Proppant prospects in the pipeline

By Mike O'Driscoll
Published: Tuesday, 08 January 2013

Trends in potential new demand for fracking in Middle East and Indian gas exploration

The Middle East is about to embark on a new phase of oil and gas exploration and development as existing reserves become exhausted and domestic demand for energy, especially in Saudi Arabia, increases.

The move marks a potential new era of demand for oilfield minerals: in particular, proppants used in hydraulic fracturing, such as frac sand, and sintered bauxite and kaolin; but also for drilling fluid minerals such as barite (barytes), bentonite, calcium carbonate, calcium chloride, and haematite.

Trends in oilfield mineral demand in the Middle East is the focus for the next IM Roundtable, Oilfield Minerals Outlook: Middle East, 21-23 January 2013, Dubai.

Fracking from the Middle East to Asia

The evolution of hydraulic fracturing in the Middle East and its influence on proppants is the subject of the presentation by Pickard Trepess, regional sales manager Europe, Africa and the Middle East for Sintex International, part of the Mineraçáo Curimbaba group of Brazil.

Fracturing has been evident in the Middle East and the central Asian region for a long time. According to Trepess most operations have been performed using acid, where the formation is carbonate or dolomite, but there are many reservoirs that respond better to propped fracturing.

In his presentation, Trepess will summarise the experience from Algeria to north-east India, and the development over time, the local constraints, and the reasons for fracturing.

Trepess observes that many countries are now looking very seriously at shale gas exploitation as economies move away from oil, which can instead be exported onto the world market.

Countries that are active in propped fracturing include Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Oman, Saudi Arabia, India, and Kuwait.

Significant plans to increase activity in India, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria are underway.

In the future it is expected that Iraq and Pakistan will be performing large operations, and that there will be enhanced activity in Kuwait and in other parts of the western regions such as in Jordan, Cyprus and Turkey.

Certainly these comments echo the recently announced strategies of the leading Middle East oilfield service companies and oil and gas explorers.

“Halliburton is focused on positioning ourselves for the unconventional and HP/HT [high pressure/high temperature] business of the future,” said Mike Hugentobler, Halliburton VP Middle East and Eurasia in November 2012.

Dr Bernard Duroc-Danner, CEO of Weatherford, said: “We need to look harder at unconventionals. There is a lot of experience coming out of the US oil patch. We will know a lot more in ten years on how to exploit these unconventionals, the frontiers, and the difficult shale areas.”

Khalid al-Falih, CEO of world leading oil and gas producer, Saudi Aramco, called for increasing conventional and unconventional gas supplies by almost 250% over the next 20 years. Aramco is to invest $35bn in oil and gas exploration and development over the next five years.

Aramco is also taking a leaf out of the US shale gas book. Up to 50 Aramco staff are being trained in the US by the likes of Baker Hughes and Schlumberger in order to gain experience found in the US shale gas plays to utilise in Saudi Arabia.

Proppant evolution in India

Hallmark Minerals (I) Pvt Ltd of India has been pioneering the manufacture of ceramic proppants in the country.

AK Dasgupta, managing director, of Hallmark Minerals, will be presenting: “The future of ceramic proppants production in India” in Dubai.

Dasgupta maintains that ceramic proppant demand in India is expected to increase “many times” in the near future owing to modification of state policy to enhance oil exploration as well as liberalisation for private and global producers for shale gas based on unconventional drilling policy.

On 6 December 2012, US independent explorer ConocoPhillips announced that it was nearing a deal with India’s state owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to explore and develop shale-gas resources in the country.

ONGC plans to explore the Damodar, Cambay, Krishna Godavari, and Cauvery basins for shale gas.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that India has a total of 64 trillion cubic feet of potential recoverable resources, and has the 15th largest technically recoverable shale-gas resources.

Key trends and developments in oilfield mineral supply and demand for the Middle East will be examined and discussed at Oilfield Minerals Outlook: Middle East, 21-23 January 2013, Dubai -

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