Carbo Ceramics


Guar gum shortage: proppant misconceptions

Published Date: 5/10/2012
Author: CARBO

In the hydraulic fracturing process guar gum is a key ingredient in the viscous fluids used to transport proppant, a granular material used to fill the fractures and prop them open once the high-pressure hydraulic pumping stops. Proppant-filled fractures allow hydrocarbons to flow more freely, increasing the productivity of fractured wells.

  • Global guar gum shortage increases price by more than 500% from normal levels (Bloomberg)
  • Oil and natural gas industry migrates to lower-cost "slickwater" fracturing
  • Low-viscosity slickwater fluids require the use of smaller diameter and lower density proppants
  • CARBO lightweight ceramic proppants have specific gravities similar or less than sand – but with significantly higher conductivity
  • CARBO provides a complete line of made-in-the-USA lightweight ceramic proppants that include CARBOLITE, CARBOECONOPROP and CARBOHYDROPROP

The industry is experiencing severe guar gum shortages caused by substantially lower guar bean production in India and Pakistan which produce more than 96 percent of world supply. With demand remaining high, the price of guar gum has increased more than 500% in the past 15 months. The situation is not expected to change in 2012.

To avoid higher guar prices, many fracturing programs are pursuing "slickwater" treatments that forego guar gum and use a much thinner liquid to transport proppant. However, low-viscosity slickwater fluids typically require operators to specify small-diameter, low-density proppants. The narrow created fractures typically restrict well productivity unless propped with a high conductivity proppant.

Lightweight ceramics have similar or lower density than sand, which eases placement in the fracture but provide significantly higher flow capacity than similar sizes of sand. Intermediate-density ceramic proppants (IDC) have a higher specific gravity and cannot be efficiently transported by slickwater fluids, requiring much higher pump rates and excessive water volumes to convey IDC into the fractures.

Lightweight ceramic proppant provides the conveyance capability for slickwater fracturing but also has twice the conductivity compared to sand and resin-coated sand. Ceramic proppant is widely acknowledged to have greater strength and thermal stability, to have more uniform size and shape, and to yield higher conductivity than sand-based products.

CARBO Ceramics pioneered ceramic proppant technology and is the leader in lightweight ceramic production.

CARBOHYDROPROP was specifically developed to provide the benefits of ceramic proppant in slickwater fracturing applications. It offers a superior combination of conductivity, ease of placement and competitive pricing compared to sand-based proppants.

CARBOECONOPROP is the most widely used ceramic proppant for a broad range of applications. Its bulk density and specific gravity are similar to frac sand, yet its high conductivity makes CARBOECONOPROP more cost-effective.

CARBOLITE provides high fracture conductivity for increased productivity, particularly in oil and condensate wells. This lightweight ceramic proppant has bulk density and specific gravity similar to sand, yet provides high flow capacity for enhanced production rates.


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