Clariant - Chemical Innovation to Meet Environmental Standards
Updated: Nov 7, 2018
Resource extraction industries are capital-intensive due to the nature of their operations. Companies invest heavily in assets, facilities, and, particularly, in the offshore oil and gas sector, which are constantly exposed to highly corrosive and harsh environments. Therefore, chemical companies have played a crucial role in supporting the oil and gas industry to maintain their assets in optimal conditions. In the particular case of the North Sea and the Norwegian oil and gas sector, Clariant has built a strong reputation as an experienced chemical and services provider.
Clariant, since its spin-off from Sandoz and creation in 1995, has undergone numerous mergers, acquisitions, and divestments. One of Clariant’s early acquisitions in 1997 was the specialty chemicals business, Hoechst, in Germany; this had been the company’s milestone for its oilfield chemicals business. In Norway, Hoechst had a joint-venture company called Norol Hoechst Oil Chemicals A/S. Later on, the Norwegian company became a subsidiary of
TR Oil Services, which then became TR Oil Services, Scandinavia.
As years went by, all of the global oilfield chemical businesses within Hoechst and TR Oil Services were fully integrated into Clariant and became Clariant Oil Services. “We have been active in the North Sea since the 1970s as TR Oil Services; therefore, it really is one of our home markets,” says John Jex, Head of Clariant Oil Services, North Sea. “Treatment of mineral scale in the North Sea is a real challenge, particularly in the early life of oil fields. Over many years, we have successfully developed and deployed countless innovative chemical substances and technologies for managing scaling,” he continues. When it comes to scale management, Clariant has acquired a reputation of being a very technical, focused, and capable company. As oil fields mature, technical challenges will change and scaling issues are reduced due to technical and chemical reasons.
Furthermore, in Norway, the productive lives of fields have been extended beyond the original design, so companies have to avoid corrosion to ensure that such fields are fit for continued operation. “We see increases in hydrogen sulfide, which can be found in gas. This contributes to corrosion and can be dangerous if not treated. Clariant’s innovative chemical technologies can help address this problem to mitigate and prevent corrosion,” says J. Jex.
On the other hand, Norway has implemented strong environmental regulations, which can present both challenges and opportunities. “The regulations limit the chemicals that are allowed to be used. This means that we have to be creative and innovative when developing new chemical solutions that are more environmentally-friendly, sustainable, and applicable
to the market,” says J. Jex.
In order to support the oil and gas industry efficiently, Clariant has embraced the digitization trends of the market. VERITRAX™, a tool that helps operators optimize the supply chain of chemicals, automate processes, and track deliveries and inventories, was launched in North America for onshore applications, and a prototype for offshore operations is currently being developed. This software creates an efficient, real-time platform that enables a higher transparency in operations, optimizes dosage of chemicals and predicts future chemical needs by linking the tanks to the cloud through smartphones and transferring information directly to the client’s dashboards. In addition, VERITRAXTM automates billing and optimizes the value chain processes to achieve a positive impact on both the costs and the environment.
Furthermore, the Norwegian market has shown a growing interest in Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) technologies, and Clariant has taken an active role in this field. “We see EOR as the classical case of injecting polymers into the oil reservoirs. Clariant also has products that help clean up wellbore areas after drilling and producing,” says J. Jex. “We hold active discussions with customers in Norway about the technology, which helps control water production and enhance oil production,” he adds. The Head of Oil Services North Sea at Clariant emphasizes the fact that some of the operators and regulatory authorities are considering EOR as a tool for long-term sustainability of an oil reservoir. “In Norway, partly because the state has a much stronger control of the industry, operators tend to adopt a long-term view, which does not happen in some other sectors in the North Sea,” says J. Jex. Clariant sees promising opportunities and recognizes that EOR solutions need further development.
Chemical solutions are applicable to upstream activities while also playing a crucial role in midstream and transportation operations. “Chemical products are used in pipelines. When referring to the aging infrastructure of the pipeline system, the challenges are related to managing corrosion and ensuring that the products are helping maintain the integrity of those assets,” says J. Jex. Oil and gas companies deploy numerous tools to inspect and confirm the integrity of their assets, and chemicals support the extension of their lifespan by
Clariant aims to stay innovative because numerous chemicals that were traditionally used in corrosion inhibitors had negative environmental impact and, therefore, may no longer be used. “We had to develop alternatives, and we have to be constantly looking for new and better solutions to reduce our environmental impact and improve the sustainability of the products,” comments J. Jex.
Finding balance between technical performance and environmental regulations has been one of the greatest challenges faced by Clariant, where the company sees this situation as an opportunity to improve. “The oil industry is facing many common technical challenges. All of our activities are concerned with ensuring proper management of scaling, corrosion, and integrity, controlling dangerous substances, such as hydrogen sulfide, and helping operators meet the environmental requirements for discharged water specification,” says J. Jex. The complex challenges connected to the chemicals used in the production of crude oil, water, and gas has kept Clariant motivated to keep improving. “Norway has the most challenging environmental legislation, which enables us to develop best-in-class products that comply with these regulations,” says J. Jex.
As an example of the company’s success, Clariant is also experienced in the deepwater regions of the golden triangle between West Africa, Brazil, and the Gulf of Mexico, in which fields are being developed at depths of 3,000 meters. In deepwater locations, challenges such as extreme pressure and temperatures, both cold on the subsea and hot in oil wells and reservoirs, arise. “What allowed us to be successful in deepwater locations is the 3Ps: People, Products, and Process,” explains J. Jex. “Our people have many years of experience
delivering and deploying products in deepwater, and Clariant has a range of products with technologies specifically developed to address the problems of deepwater fields, such as antiagglomerate technology used for treating gas hydrates,” says J. Jex. In deepwater, Clariant focuses on the golden triangle and is a market leader in Brazil, the company’s business in Africa is growing considerably, and in North America, including the Gulf of Mexico, the business has been growing because the company has recently made acquisitions in the region.
The oil and gas industry is directing more attention towards regions in the Barents Sea. Performing operations in this area involves increased challenges due to the harsh environment and low temperatures. Clariant has obtained more than 40 years of experience under such conditions from its operations in Russia. According to J. Jex, the challenges are similar to what Clariant experiences in deepwater fields: high salinity waters, high temperatures, and high pressure in oil production. “The region presents many difficult challenges. Environmental regulation is important because it is a sensitive area, so we must ensure the products that we are supplying meet or exceed these guidelines,” concludes J. Jex.
Clariant continues to put considerable effort to adapt to the changes experienced by the oil and gas industry. Because the market is evolving, oilfield service providers are a key pillar in operations and are required to find innovative solutions to ensure the success of the entire sector for the future.
Learn more about Clariant by visiting www.clariant.com