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The reality behind a friction reducer’s carbon footprint

The carbon footprint of friction reducers has been a topic of discussion in recent media posts and articles, and in particular whether powder products have a lower carbon footprint than emulsions. Media comparisons are based primarily on the difference in the number of trucks it takes to deliver the needed polymer to the frac site. While the number of deliveries is one consideration, a deeper analysis shows that emulsions have an equivalent or possibly lower carbon footprint than powders do.

As a manufacturer of both emulsion and powder products, Kemira uses ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 standards and assessment methods to evaluate our own environmental lifecycle analysis for our plant operations and our products. The details behind our model will be presented in our webinar “Calculating the carbon footprint of friction reducers” on March 2.

For example, a slickwater frac consuming ten (10) metric tons of dry powder produced in our Aberdeen, MS plant consumed over four days, the dry polymer itself and the supply chain used to get it to the frac site contributes 25.3 metric tons of CO2-e. But when you add in the CO2-e impact of the hydration unit used to put the dry into solution, this adds another 2.0 metric tons of CO2-e to the atmosphere over the four days of the frac job and the total footprint for drys is raised to 27.3 metric tons of CO2-e, compared to an emulsion’s total carbon footprint of 26.4 metric tons. If the dry powder comes from outside of North America, the dry powder footprint is even higher as the supply chain footprint contribution is tied to the distance traveled as well as the modes used to get it from one place to another. (See Table 1)

For a frac job using an HVFR, the dosage ratio (emulsion to dry), typically is in the range of 2.5 to 1, making the carbon footprint advantage of an emulsion even greater. Kemira manufactures and promotes both emulsion and dry friction reducers, and we are positioned to work with our customers to determine which form suits their needs best from both a performance and sustainability point of view.

Learn how Kemira made these calculations and the specific methodologies we used to perform this analysis at our upcoming webinar!

Table 1

Emulsion Dry
Sourced from
Mobile, AL
Sourced from
Aberdeen, MS
Polymer carbon footprint 0.85 2.5 MT CO2-e per MT of polymer
Transportation to Midland 0.0237 0.0234 MT CO2-e per MT of polymer shipped
Last mile delivery 0.0052 0.0052 MT CO2-e per MT of polymer shipped
Delivered polymer carbon footprint 0.879 2.529 MT CO2-e per MT of polymer
Slickwater frac metric tons used 30 10 MT shipped
Slickwater carbon footprint (delivered, pre-hydration) 26.4 25.3 comperative metric tons of CO2-e produced
Hydration unit CO2 generation per MT of polymer 2 MT CO2-e produced through hydration over frac job
Slickwater applied carbon footprint 26.4 27.3 Total MT CO2-e generated to apply polymer