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Manufacturer at Belle plant targets fracking fluid

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A product made by the Japanese company Kureha PGA at its facility in Belle may be used to help oil and gas companies.

The plant makes polyglycolic acid resin, or PGA, a high-performance polymer that has been certified as a biodegradable plastic in the United States, Europe and Japan.

Tom Provost, Kureha's executive vice president and plant manager in Belle, said that plant is "the only plant in the world to make this product on a commercial scale.

"A major focus for our business is to help oil and gas recovery companies develop more environmentally friendly and efficient solutions," Provost said.

"Our marketing staff works with customers to help them improve their fracturing efficiency of the oil and gas recovery. We are excited about the possibility of our product being used in wells in West Virginia and across the world."

Kuredux -- the name Kureha gave to its PGA products -- "helps customers minimize damages to subterranean formations while recovering natural gas and oil and to reduce the number of operating steps to bring productive wells on line faster," according to company promotional materials.

Today, Kureha produces and markets Kuredux in several forms, including pellets, flakes, powder, fiber, film and a variety of useful shapes.

Kureha began operating its own plant inside the DuPont chemical complex in Belle in June 2011. DuPont has been making glycolic acid, which is the raw material of PGA, since 1932.

Provost said that PGA "eventually goes back to carbon dioxide and water. In certain temperature ranges PGA has shorter time to degrade compared with other degradable plastics.

"Our product can help the oil and gas companies make their operations more efficient and more economical. They can put it underground to serve a useful purpose, and then it will biodegrade."

Rakesh Gupta, chairman of chemical engineering at West Virginia University, said PGA "is a polyester that was made for the last 50 years. Its major application is to make fibers that are absorbable sutures and can be implanted in the body."

Gupta said he was not familiar with PGA resins being used to help recover natural gas and oil from beneath the earth. He said he was surprised to hear PGA resins can be used to help gas and oil drilling operations.

Yoshiki Shigaki, president and CEO of Kureha PGA, said the resin the company makes functions effectively for oil and gas recovery use at temperatures ranging between 104 degrees and 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

Kureha is also seeking other customers for the PGAs made in Belle. Shigaki said Kureha's marketing division is working with many customers.

"Our marketing people have been working to develop brand new markets for products that never existed. Many applications are still under development. But for some applications, PGA has been supplied to customers," Shigaki said.

Kuredux can also be used as a barrier layer for a variety of plastic containers used for products including soft drinks, juices, beer, wine, condiments, cooking oils, cosmetics, household cleaners and other products, according to the company's website.

Corky DeMarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, said he had not heard about PGA being used to recover natural gas reserves from deep underground reserves.

"I can't find anybody who knows anything about that stuff that is made up at DuPont," DeMarco said. "So I don't know what they are doing with it, if they are using it in the industry."

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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