Rock core drilling lubricants were among the first products to go on sale after the UK’s shale gas boom, with many predicting they would provide a boost to the sector, especially if they can be found on shelves.
The products are made from a mixture of polymers and silica, which is extracted from rock layers in the Marcellus shale.
The shale is the fourth-largest in the US, and many are expecting the industry to grow.
But research by energy consultant EY and energy analyst Nesta found that rock core drilling oil and gas drilling fluids are less effective than they appear.
EY said rock core drills were less effective in removing oil and natural gas from the rock than the conventional drilling fluids used in conventional oil and coal drilling.
The firm said the industry should also look to its own technology for lubrication, and consider adding a layer of oil or gas to the core to reduce the chances of failure.
The EY study found that, after the first three weeks of sales, more than half of the samples from the UK market were inoperable, compared to less than half in the USA and less than 20 per cent in Australia.
“The industry needs to develop a process to quickly find and replace the lubricant and find and upgrade the lubrication process,” said David Johnson, managing director of EY UK.
In the United States, shale oil production has exploded over the past few years, from less than 1.3 million barrels a day in the second quarter of this year to over 6 million barrels in the first quarter.
Last week, shale energy giant ConocoPhillips announced it was spending $3 billion to develop shale oil, shale gas and gas sands (GAS) projects.