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Today I came across this very interesting article, that explains how a byproduct of Guar beans (Guar gum) is being used as a chemical additive in fracking wells in shale formations (to extract oil).

What adds zing to the above fact is that India produces some 80% of the world’s guar gum, a hydrocolloid — a substance that forms a gel when mixed with water.

Here is an analysis of India’s Export of Guar Gum to the United States.

Guar gum is used in a wide variety of industries including textiles, paper, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, even as a fire retardant. For ordinary consumers, it is the ingredient that makes ice cream silky, salad dressings thick and creamy, and helps maintain the flavor of a beverage in the mouth after that initial gulp. But while a gallon of ice cream calls for just a smidgen of guar gum, to frack a well in a shale formation may take 20,000 pounds of guar beans. At a recent New York capital markets conference, one of the major exploration companies reported using 1,700 tons a month resulting in a first quarter cost of some $40 million. Given that level of demand, prices for guar have jumped from $4 a kilo (about 2.2 pounds) to $30 a kilo in the last 18 months.

The rising price of the gummy gold was blamed by Halliburton late last month for a decrease in profits so far this year. “The price of guar gum has inflated more rapidly than previously expected due to concerns over the potential for shortages for the commodity later in 2012. As such, the costs have impacted the company’s second quarter North America margins more than anticipated,” the company asserted in its earnings statement.

In order to extract gas trapped some 6,000 to 10,000 feet beneath the surface, exploration companies use hydraulic fracturing, dubbed fracking, according to NaturalGas.org, an industry educational website, to “make hard shale rock more porous.” Large amounts of water, typically three to five million gallons, are mixed with small amounts of chemical additives, injected deep into the earth, forcing cracks in the rocks, allowing the gas to escape into the wellbore.

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Read on: How is guar gum made?

Its amazing how interconnected the world is. I hope the poor farmers in Rajasthan get a share of the pie as well.

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