Oilfield surfactants are part of specialty oilfield chemicals which are used in various applications such as production, drilling, cementing and stimulation operations in oil and gas industry. These surfactants act as cleaning agents, corrosion inhibitors, demulsifier intermediate for oilfield applications. Currently, bio based surfactants/oleochemicals are a prominent choice of oil and gas industry due to growing stringent environment concerns of regulatory bodies. These biodegradable products are commonly derived from renewable feedstock (plants oils, plant carbohydrates, animal fats) such as coconut, palm oils, glucose, tallow and many more. During the production of these surfactants, the renewable substrates such as agricultural wastes, industrial wastes and animal wastes are reacted with biological enzymes.
There exist various types of bio based surfactants such as glycolipids, fatty acids, peptides, phospholipids and many more. Basic advantage of these bio based surfactants is low temperature manufacturing which leads to reduction of CO2 production and generation of lesser amount of by-products and waste products. These organic compounds act as surface-active agents that can improve the cleaning ability, wetting, solvency, emulsification, lubricity and various other properties of water based compositions in oilfields.
Traditionally, the bio based surfactants feedstock was palm kemel, tallow and coconut oil but now soy-based surfactants are also used due to its efficiency and effectiveness which will surge the demand of the bio products in the market. The structure of bio based surfactants supply industry is relatively complex but growing environment awareness, use of renewable resources and innovative emerging technologies provides prolongs for using soybeans as feedstock for surfactants.
Soybean is used as a raw material for the production of oilfield surfactants and it is mainly produced in the U.S. and Brazil. There was a decline in 2011 and 2012 and then again increased in 2013 and 2014. The reason for the decline was drought conditions in the Midwest. As a result, the production of crops such as soybean and corn plummeted in 2011 and 2012. In 2016, the production of soybean reached the highest to 3.95 billion bushels as compared to previous years due to growing demand in the market.
Some factors which may lead to escalation in demand of green surfactants are:
- Advanced technologies (microfluidizer technology) to manufacture surfactants to formulate unwavering emulsions.
- Burgeoning alertness in enzymatic practices that are associated with fermentation to yield surfactants
- Growing responsiveness in protein-based surfactants to offer functionality
- Increasing consciousness about oil content to generate fatty acid components with unsaturation
- New technology to produce biodegradable products with less impurity which will surge the consumption level of end-user industries especially in food and personal care.
Overall, the advancement in biodegradable products to create a sustainable environment is playing an essential role in developing bio based surfactants market.
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