Crude Oil Flow Improvers Market: Overview

Crude oils are complex mixtures of hydrocarbons with nonpolar n-paraffins and polar asphaltenes. Fresh crude is relatively mobile since it is stored at very high pressure and temperature. When it has to be transported to longer distances, the ambient conditions are lower temperature and pressure. This causes the crude oil to form wax crystals on the pipeline walls from where it is being carried, produced, or stored. Crude oil flow improvers act as catalysts in reducing viscosity, depressing the pour point, and lowering the drag coefficient of crude oil. Crude oil flow improvers are also termed as drag-reducing agents (DRA).

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Thus by using crude oil flow improvers or DRAs, increased flow can be achieved using the same pressure or decreased pressure and flow rate. Crude oil flow improvers consist of long-chain hydrocarbon polymers, which acts as flow turbulence inhibitors along the pipeline walls to decrease the amount of energy lost in turbulent activity. In some cases where the pipeline carrying crude oil or where it is stored is shut for a prolonged period of time, the cooled crude oil in it slowly develops a gel structure which results in high yield stress. Crude oil flow improvers also help restart pipeline (onshore /offshore crude oil transportation assets).

Crude Oil Flow Improvers: Market Dynamics and Trends

The fluctuating viscosity and drag coefficient of crude oil are two of the major factors to consider when maintaining the uniform flow of crude oil. Crude oil flow improvers help achieving/maintain these factors at a constant level wherein energy and capital expenditure is less, with a desired result of smooth-flow crude.

Crude oils with high proportion of sulfur (heavy/sour crude) have API gravity higher 20, meaning the turbulence level is low. Those with a low content of sulfur (light/sweet crude) have API gravities of less than 20, thus turbulence level is high. Crude oil flow improvers help maintain the flow by varying the API gravities of the crude oil. The additives in the crude oil flow improvers have the below properties:

Long-chain hydrocarbon content;
Similarity of the molecular weight of additives to the crude oil in order to assist in its dissolution and make it easily extractable during the refining process;
Physical and chemical stability of the additives;
In the case of copolymer additives, monomer-to-monomer ratio is to be considered.
Currently, most of the crude extracted from all crude oil baskets worldwide is heavy and sour. It is essential for the crude oil flow improver additive to possess above properties. The market is set to increase in the future because of heavy crude extraction in E&P activities.

Crude Oil Flow Improvers: Market Segmentation

Based on the API gravity of the crude, crude oil flow improvers are classified as:

Viscosity reducers;
Drag reducing agents (DRA);
Pour point and pour point depressants.
Based on type of crude (heavy/light), crude oil flow improvers are segmented into:

Triethanolamine (TEA);
Polymer blend.
Crude Oil Flow Improvers Market: Region-wise outlook

In the crude oil flow improvers market by region, MEA and Asia Pacific are the market leaders as the maximum crude oil extraction comes from Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, followed by the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Latin America.

Crude Oil Flow Improvers: Key Players

The market leader in manufacturing crude oil flow improvers is LUBRIZOL (USA). Other players are BASF SE (Germany) and Infenium (the U.K.)

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