Oil industry's use disrupts guar gum market

by Jeff Gelski
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SAN DIEGO — Prices of food grade guar gum, normally below $1 per lb, have risen above $2.50 per lb because of the oilfield industry’s use of guar, according to a July 28 “Hydrocolloid News” e-mailed report from IMR International, a San Diego-based hydrocolloid consulting company. Buyers are having trouble even finding supplies of food grade guar gum, which is used in such applications as ice cream and tortillas. They are facing prices of more than $5.75 per kilogram ($2.61 per lb), delivery times of four to six months and, in some cases, demands to pay in advance.

“The guar situation has reached dire circumstances,” the report said. “Unless there is a paradigm shift in technology for the oilfield industry or a shift in policy away from hydraulic fracturing, there is no end in sight for the current guar shortage. In the meantime, both producers and users of food guar are scrambling to find substitutes or extenders to guar.”

The oilfield industry has increased its use of guar gum in drilling, specifically in a process called hydraulic fracturing.

According to IMR International, imports of guar into the United States in the first five months of 2011 were 98,000 tonnes valued at $211.2 million for an average price of $2.16 per kilogram, which compared with 46,000 tonnes valued at $77.2 million for an average price of $1.67 per kilogram in the first five months of 2010.

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