The global market for fracking chemicals and fluids is forecast to grow at a compound annual rate of 9.6% between 2013 and 2018, rising to a value of $20.4 billion by the end of the period, according to a new report from analytics firm MarketsandMarkets.

MarketsandMarkets places North America way ahead of other regions in terms of revenue contribution. This is attributed to the widespread availability of advanced technology for unconventional resources exploration. While fracking is still in its early stages in the rest of the world, MarketsandMarkets detects signs of a promising future, most notably in the Asia-Pacific region.

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The key growth driver for the fracking fluids and chemicals market is the need to tap more unconventional oil and gas reserves. This will help narrow the gap between global supply and demand. In the long term, growth will be driven by the desire of countries to meet their energy needs by exploiting their own reserves. In order to do that, they will have to boost recovery from conventional oil and gas deposits or turn to unconventional resources. In either case, fracking will be required for the extraction.

One problem is that fracking has been associated with various environmental issues and this has made it the target of strong public opposition, MarketsandMarkets goes on to add. Among the key concerns are water usage, water contamination and seismic activity. Market participants are investing heavily in R&D with the aim of developing eco-friendly fluids and chemicals.