Fracking 2.0: Hydraulic fracturing companies find alternatives to diesel-powered pumps

Fracking 2.0: Hydraulic fracturing companies find alternatives to diesel-powered pumps

Sergio Chapa Feb. 7, 2020  houstonchronicle.com

Two Houston-area companies are working to make an industry known to be notoriously unfriendly to the environment more responsible and profitable.

In recent weeks, The Woodlands-based Evolution Well Services and Tomball’s BJ Services have taken steps to replace diesel-powered turbines and pumps used by hydraulic fracturing fleets with those powered by either natural gas or electricity.

In late January, Evolution announced a two-year deal to provide electric hydraulic fracturing services to a customer in the Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvania later this year. And last week, BJ Services said it’s testing a natural gas turbine-powered pump to provide power to a hydraulic fracturing crew in the Haynesville Shale of East Texas.

Touted as replacements for noisy and polluting diesel-powered hydraulic fracturing pumps, the two company’s products have the same goal — lower greenhouse gas emissions, lower maintenance costs, lower fuel costs, fewer workers needed at a well site and less noise.

But they take slightly different approaches.

Evolution Well Services deploys a large, natural-gas fired turbine to a well site that is used to generate electricity for flatbed trailer-mounted pumps used to create the high amounts of pressure needed in the hydraulic fracturing process.

BJ Services spent more than two years developing its 5,000-horsepower Titan, which uses a smaller natural gas-fired turbine on the same flatbed trailer as the frac pump. The turbine-powered frac pump was designed to use natural gas either delivered to a hydraulic fracturing site or excess natural gas from a neighboring well.

“We are excited about the potential for the Titan to deliver a new standard of environmentally responsible, cost-effective, and efficient solutions for our clients,” BJ Services CEO Warren Zemlak said in a statement.

BJ Services is testing the Titan on a hydraulic fracturing site in East Texas where stored liquefied natural gas is the fuel source. The next test will be at a hydraulic fracturing site in the Haynesville Shale where natural gas will be delivered from an active, neighboring well.

The use of natural gas to power fracking operations comes as the industry works to reduce emissions at drilling sites and to curb a practice known as flaring, in which excess natural gas is burned off at wells.

BJ Services has entered into an agreement that will support the first commercial deployment of a hydraulic fracturing fleet using the Titan in the second half of 2020.

The turbine-powered pump has twice the horsepower of conventional diesel-powered frac pumps and reduces the number of hydraulic fracturing pumps needed at a work site from 18 or 20 to as few as eight, Zemlak said. As the company’s older frac fleets are retired, Zemlak said the goal is replace them one-by-one with the Titan.

"Not only do you get all the benefits of less emissions, but there's also less people -- because you’re only running eight pumps," Zemlak said. "That's also less equipment to move, so it's a faster rig in, rig up."

Evolution Well Services estimates that its customers could save 5.5 million gallons of diesel per each fracking fleet every year.

With roots going back to 1872, BJ Services specializes in hydraulic fracturing and oil well cementing services. The company has crews in shale basins across the United States and Canada. Briefly owned by Baker Hughes, the Tomball company became independent again in 2017.

Founded in 2015, Evolution Well Services is one of the few service companies whose pressure pumping fleets provide only electric hydraulic fracturing. Its technology is used in South and West Texas, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.

 

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