Hydrate Inhibitors are used to prevent or reduce gas hydrate formation. Gas Hydrates are formed in offshore production systems under low temperature and high pressure conditions. The hydrates block the pipelines, drill strings, BOP’s, by forming plugs and cause flow assurance issues. Hydrate inhibitors are used where mechanical methods such as insulated flow line and active heating are not feasible options.
Subsea equipment such as pipelines, risers, Christmas trees, jumpers and manifolds are exposed to low temperatures at the seabed. For example, North Sea seabed temperatures are 32-40OF which are ideal for hydrate formation. Remediation measures such as pigging, depressurization of pipelines, jetting, solvent addition, heating are expensive and leads to increase in non-productive time. Hence, technical and economic advantages over other inhibition methods have resulted in a booming hydrate inhibitor market.
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Thermodynamic inhibitors on addition shift the thermodynamic equilibrium and disrupting hydrate formation. Methanol and MEG are most commonly used. MEG can be regenerated and is more cost effective. Methanol though cheaper on volume basis cannot be regenerated and is not environment friendly as well.
Low Dosage Hydrate Inhibitors are used when large concentrations of thermodynamic inhibitors are required, making their use uneconomical. They do not disturb thermodynamic equilibrium, instead affect the hydrate growth. Anti-Agglomeration Agents prevent the agglomeration of hydrate crystals by disrupting hydrate growth process and transportable slurry is formed. These inhibitors are typically used below a 50% water cut level. Kinetic Inhibitors prevent nucleation, so the produced fluid is transported further to downstream before hydrate formation.
Hydrate Inhibitors Market Outlook
North America is the largest market for hydrate inhibitors. This is primarily due to extreme high pressures and 40OF temperature in the Gulf of Mexico which is a large oil producing zone. Wells in Alaska also require the use of hydrate inhibitors. Kaikias deep-water in the Gulf of Mexico is currently in Appraisal Phase and will be commissioned by 2020.
Middle East and Africa is also showing a significant growth in hydrate inhibitors market due to the substantial number of hydrate threatened wells. Saudi Arabia controls the world’s largest offshore oil field and Qatar is the largest producer of LNG in the world. The largest gas field in the world is also present in this region.
Europe is the next largest market with conditions conducive to hydrate formation present in oil fields of North Sea and Russia. With increased exploration and drilling in the Arctic where sub-zero temperatures are the norm, hydrate inhibition shows vital performance which will drive the hydrate inhibitors market.
Asia Pacific market is expected to augment market growth in the near future, as exploration in the offshore regions of Bay of Bengal, South China Sea and Indian Ocean gains momentum. The emerging countries of this region such as India, China, Indonesia are highly dependent on oil imports from Middle East, ramped up exploration activity is due to a need to become energy independent. In June 2017, Reliance and BP sanctioned further development in KG Basin with an investment of US$ 6 billion.
Latin America is projected to witness an increase in hydrate inhibitor market as oil production moves to deep and ultra-deep-water zones due to depletion of onshore reserves. Exploiting the reserves of Santos basin off the coast of Brazil will require hydrate inhibition due to low temperatures on the Atlantic seabed. This will boost hydrate inhibitors market in the region. Chile and Argentina are expected to follow suit in exploiting offshore reserves.
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The environmental concerns regarding methanol, which is a toxic chemical, have led to development of newer hydrate inhibition methods such as Low Dosage Hydrate Inhibitors and use of MEG instead of Methanol. This switch has had environmental, technical and economic perks. Major players in the hydrate inhibitor market are Ashland, Halliburton, NALCO (ECOLAB COMPANY), Woodview Technology, BASF, NEFTECHIM Technologies, JSC Gazprom Neftekhim Salavat, Clariant Chemicals, GasHydrate LLC, Evonik, Ecolab, ClariantOilServices, Yara International, Stella Mar, LEWA