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Polyurethane in Hydraulic Fracturing: How Polymers Drive the Oil & Gas Boom

Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” has given natural gas and oil production a new lease on life.

Fracking is done by pumping a slurry of sand, water and chemicals into oil-containing geological formations to produce “fractures” and release gas and oil.  Drilling and servicing companies strive to achieve greater efficiencies, performance improvements and reduced downtime in the highly competitive oil and gas market.

More and more, polyurethane is helping them accomplish this. The versatile material is used in hydraulic fracturing operations in many ways. Here are just some of them:

Proppants. The sand used is abrasive to equipment and can cause unwanted “back flow,” so operators these days use coated sand that flows better, is less abrasive and more adhesive to rock. Proppants are essential in developing shale gas and tight oil because they “prop up” the fractures, allowing oil and gas to reach the surface. They must meet closure stress requirements and resist diagenesis (the process where sediment converts to sedimentary rock) under downhole conditions.

Many types of proppants have been developed in the oil & gas industry, from silica or ceramics, to ultra-lightweight polymers. A few years ago, Dow Chemical and Preferred Sands developed a polyurethane proppant to coat sand. Now, the most commonly used resins used to coat proppants are epoxy resins, furan, polyesters, vinyl esters, and polyurethane. The polyurethane resin has exceptional crush strength, conductivity and is effective at stopping flow back.

Protection: The constant abrasion of frac sand can wear down your material handling and transloading equipment and cut into your profits. That’s why urethane specialists like Mark Tool create liners and coatings that reduce the abrasion of frac sand. This means fewer repair costs for your operation.

Industrial urethane coatings (available in a variety of thickness) bonds to drilling equipment. They are flexible and will shrink or expand with the substrate. Industrial urethane coating is hard and durable, protects machinery against abrasion, corrosion and impact, extending the life of the equipment. You can bond urethane liners directly to pump housings, fan housings, cyclones and semi-trailers. You can also manufacture a bolt-on or drop-in liner for a specific application.

Seals: Valves take a beating from repeated cycling in highly abrasive fracking fluids. But urethane valve seals let you run longer and more efficiently. Urethane and polyurethane is also used to seal pistons and plunger-style pumps as well as positive displacement-style pumps.

Polyurethane piston seals can reduce costly downtime and eliminate leaks. Urethane well service and veering packings for positive displacement pumps also have exceptional compressive force resistance to manage side loading, yet remain pliable enough for sealing.

Hydraulic fracturing operations rely on Mark Tool, Inc. because of our expertise in polymer science. When you’re working with drilling mud and fracking fluids, you need coatings, seals and other tools that can rise to the challenge. Polyurethane gives you superior wear resistance and the highest operating temperature on the market. Contact us today and we’ll show you how polymers can help your operations.

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