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North American demand to exceed 100 billion pounds
Proppants have been one of the most dynamic products in the North American market over the past decade, with sales increases outperforming most other industrial sectors. While growth is expected to slow somewhat from the heady early years, double digit gains are still expected, with overall demand reaching over 100 billion pounds in 2017, valued at more than $10 billion. Proppants are a relatively simple product, as most of the volume used is raw sand, but they have been critical to the expansion of oil and gas production in North America, setting off a chain of events that is revitalizing other North American manufacturing industries.
High oil & gas prices to sustain oilfield activity
Proppants have been used in the oil and gas industry for decades, but the advent of horizontal drilling technology combined with multistage hydraulic fracturing opened up significant new opportunities for high volume growth starting around the mid 2000s, especially as success in early applications such as the Barnett Shale in Texas was translated to even more productive formations across the region. These technological advances became more prominent at the same time oil and gas prices skyrocketed, providing further growth impetus to drilling and completion activity. Continued high oil prices and recovery in natural gas prices will sustain oilfield activity, with particularly good opportunities expected in a variety of states such as Texas, North Dakota and Pennsylvania, as well as in several up-and-coming plays in Western Canada. However, nearly every state with significant unconventional reserves is expected to benefit from these trends.
Raw sand to remain key proppant type
Raw sand will continue to account for a large share of proppant demand. While it generally cannot be used in wells with high closure pressures, raw sand performs suitably in most conditions. Due to their higher cost, ceramic proppants will be restricted to production areas that require stronger products. However, these production areas include some of the larger centers of upstream activity, including the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas and the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, Montana, and Canada. Coated sand proppants are expected to increase their market presence, as they offer cost advantages over ceramic proppant and performance advantages over raw sand.
Higher value markets to see gains as gas prices recover
Development of unconventional resources such as shale oil and gas has been the driving force behind growth in proppant demand over the past decade. While significant demand began with drilling in the Barnett play in Texas, more recent growth has been in liquid-rich formations such as Bakken and Eagle Ford. Demand in these and similar regions is being driven by high oil prices, which is spurring drilling activity, as well as by the deep and highly challenging geology of these wells, which require greater amounts of proppant to complete. In the future, gas prices are expected to recover and this should renew gains in important higher value proppant markets such as the Haynesville formation in Louisiana. Gains will also result from further development of fields in the Marcellus and Utica plays, with other large potential markets like the Monterey Shale in California probably a decade away.
This upcoming Freedonia industry study, Proppants in North America, is priced at $5100. It presents historical demand data for 2002, 2007 and 2012, plus forecasts for 2017 and 2022 by type. The study also details market environment factors, assesses company market share, and profiles industry players such as Fairmount Minerals, CARBO Ceramics, Mineração Curimbaba and FTS International Services.
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