Pennsylvania General Energy Co., LLC (PGE) and Universal Well Services, a Patterson-UTI Energy company (Universal), announced Jan. 21 a partnership to convert a hydraulic fracturing operation in Pennsylvania from diesel fuel to a blend that relies instead on up to a 70% equivalent of natural gas, a technology it says will benefit the environment, reduce fuel consumption, and remove additional trucks from Pennsylvania’s roadways. This represents the first such conversion in the Appalachian Basin.
PGE and Universal are on schedule to convert by mid-February a third of the hydraulic fracturing engines on a 16-pump operation that will be working for PGE, with plans to achieve a 100% conversion by May 1. PGE is headquartered in the Pennsylvania town of Warren, and Universal's offices are in Meadville.
Douglas E. Kuntz, PGE president and CEO, noted that the conversion of hydraulic fracturing engines and pumps to a fuel mix made up of 70% natural gas is an important milestone in advancing oil and natural gas development technology, and that it will provide significant environmental benefits as its use grows in the future.
“PGE has already worked with Helmerich & Payne in developing a purpose-built bi-fuel rotary drilling rig to use natural gas, saving more than 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel each day starting in early 2012,” Kuntz said. “Applying this new technology to our fracturing operations will more than double that reduction of diesel fuel. Reducing the amount of diesel by replacing it with cleaner natural gas, produced right here in Pennsylvania, is something that will become more commonplace, thanks to conversions like these. In PGE’s case, we estimate we will use 750,000 gallons less diesel fuel each year through this new technology. That’s fuel that can be saved.”
Roger Willis, Universal president, said, “The process of effectively implementing an engineered solution to allow for the use of natural gas in hydraulic fracturing while maintaining the torque and horsepower achieved with an all-diesel engine was a technical challenge our entire team embraced, and Universal is proud of its work with PGE and its suppliers to prove this technology and prepare for a full implementation with a 16-pump operation. Once again, Pennsylvania is leading the way with innovations in energy development that will improve the industry’s environmental performance and make its operations more efficient.”
Through research and development, PGE and Universal found that a bi-fuel mix made up of approximately 70% natural gas and 30% diesel fuel, in a 2,250-HHP engine, achieved the amount of compression and torque necessary to create pressures required for hydraulic fracturing. The companies will put five engines into operation at a PGE well in February, and are on a schedule for a full bi-fuel conversion by May 1.
PGE is uniquely positioned to use natural gas for its hydraulic-fracturing operations through the company’s extensive pipeline network, constructed over the past two years, which transports pipeline-quality gas to its drilling and completion locations. Natural gas from these lines can fuel the rotary drilling rig while the well is being drilled, as well as the hydraulic-fracturing operations to complete the well.
The benefits from this new technology begin with a savings of 7.72 gallons of diesel fuel by replacing that fuel with the equivalent of 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas. A second benefit will be achieved through a significant reduction in vehicle traffic and fuel consumption attributable to the transportation of materials and supplies to well locations.
These new initiatives are part of a broad effort by PGE to benefit the environment in the company’s areas of new development. In 2012, PGE completed an extensive pipeline project and constructed a state-of-the-art water plant in western Lycoming County. By using a pipeline system for transporting water and natural gas required at its well locations, PGE has taken approximately 165 trucks off the road each day for the drilling and completion of an average unconventional well. When the hydraulic-fracturing operation is fully converted to the bi-fuel system, an additional 20 trucks will be removed from area roadways.