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Extracting natural gas would be difficult without guar gum

Guar gum powder is made by crushing guar beans, which are a primary crop in Pakistan and India. The guar gum is used in a host of food products as a thickening agent; it is also used in the cosmetic industry to keep lipstick from melting into a useless mess. For years, these uses were all that kept the guar gum industry busy and for these years, the price languished at about 50 cents a kilogram at the producer. Things have changed; a huge demand surge has cropped up, which keeps the Texas guar gum supplier working overtime.

The US oil and gas industry have found that the unique qualities of guar gum are ideal for fracking. The binding and emulsifying qualities make it ideal when extracting natural gas from shale. As more and more gas reserves are found by exploration, the demand for guar gum is expected to keep jumping. Natural gas has so far been identified in 32 countries around the world but only in the US and Canada have the oil companies, in co-operation with a Texas guar gum supplier, attempted to extract it.

What is the secret ingredient?

Finding that guar gum makes fracking possible, the gas boom is expected to blossom and move to countries other than the US and Canada, already Argentina is beginning to investigate the potential. The key ingredient in guar gum that allows for the extraction process is something called “hydrocolloid” which forms a gelatinous substance when mixed with water.

The rapidly increasing demand for guar gum is pushing the prices up; so far the growers of the guar beans have seen their incomes increase tenfold. As guar gum is an important component of puddings, ice-cream and other food stuffs that need thickening, the price of these foods is expected to rise as well.

The thing with guar gum when used in its traditional markets is: a little goes a long way. In producing a gallon of ice-cream, only a miniscule amount of guar gum is required. To frack a shale formation, it may well use up to ten tons of guar gum. The Texas guar gum supplier is having difficulty in keeping up with the demand. One of the major drilling companies reported that they are consuming 1,700 tons a month; the rapid increase in use has taken the price from $4 per kilogram to $30 in the last year and half. This situation makes it bad for the oil industry, bad for food and cosmetics, paper and pharmaceuticals, but good for the farmers in India and Pakistan.

The consumption is now so large that massive air lifts of guar gum are being arranged, delivering the product to shale gas fields in Texas, North Dakota and Pennsylvania.

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