Huge potential for growth in high performance polymers for oil and gas

Smithers Rapra has published a new report that examines the emerging opportunities for suppliers of high-performance polymers within a rapidly changing energy industry.

Smithers Rapra has published a new report, The Future of High-Performance Polymers for Oil and Gas to 2020, which sees the global energy industry in a state of flux due to factors including the fall in oil prices and depletion of fossil fuel reserves.

Although in global terms, traditional sources of oil and gas are starting to deplete, there are exciting new discoveries every year, in more and more challenging locations – deep water in South America, extremes of cold in the Arctic and Siberia – and these require more technically versatile materials.

The vast reserves of energy in deep water reservoirs accounted for over 50% of all new discoveries between 2010 and 2014. As the industry is forced to go deeper, so the occurrence of major corrosion problems to steel pipes and other metallic components increases.

This scenario presents a major opportunity for suppliers of high-performance polymers to produce a corrosion resistant alternative. According to a new report from Smithers Rapra, The Future of High-Performance Polymers for Oil and Gas to 2020, demand for high-performance polymers in oil and gas applications is estimated to be some 17,000 tonnes, with a material value of $430 million.

The energy industry is entering an interesting phase of development at the same time as the polymer industry is developing ever more sophisticated materials and seeking to identify profitable niches into which to channel those innovations. It has become clear that we need a ‘sensible’ and pragmatic approach to the issue of energy supply mix if the future needs of a rapidly expanding global population are to be accommodated. Moreover, as three of the largest industrialised nations – the US, China and India – have not signed up to the Kyoto Protocol it is clear that oil and natural gas will remain as significant parts of the global energy mix well into the future.

Ewan Green Report author

Growth has been steady in recent years. In the four years between 2010 and 2014, while global oil and gas production grew by around 1.5% per annum, the use of high performance polymers increased by some 4.6% per annum, indicating a reasonable level of steel substitution.

According to the report there are in the region of 950,000 oil wells in production across the globe, each with ongoing needs for new and replacement parts. If the oil companies are forced to save money by reducing the number of new projects, more attention will be placed on extending the life and productivity of existing wells.

Advances in drilling techniques are opening up massive new potential in shale gas reserves. Although concerns over the environmental impact of fracking are causing debate and hesitation in several countries, in the US shale gas exploitation is providing a major impetus to an otherwise mature and declining sector.

PVdF has enjoyed the greatest recent advance, doing especially well in the flexible pipes sector. Seals in PTFE and PEEK have also benefited from the growing technical demands imposed by deeper, more challenging demands of the newer reserves. Other product areas to show positive progress have been wire and cable protection – for downhole cables, umbilicals and other applications – and corrosion resistant coatings and linings for pipes, tanks, vessels and pumps. The latter has been a productive source of business for several polymers sectors.

The Future of High-Performance Polymers for Oil and Gas to 2020 examines the progress made by high-performance polymers and assesses their future prospects in the light of a rapidly changing energy landscape.