Hydraulic Fracturing is the process of stimulating rock to capture gas from shale formations in the Earth, and is also one of the main reasons the United States is on its way to be a world leader in energy production. In this technological age, advancements are happening daily and rapidly. One nuance to the oil and gas industry is making the hydraulic fracturing process more seamless, efficient, safer, and less pollutant and that is coming to fruition with the innovation of Electrical Hydraulic Fracturing. So what is Electric Hydraulic Fracturing? The technology is based upon electricity powering pressure pumps and fracking equipment fueled 100% by natural gas fueled by field gas or alternative natural gas sources.
This innovation comes at an age where pollution, cost effectiveness and efficiency are key to growth and success and electrical powered fracturing is one path to achieving these goals. Traditional fracturing processes include diesel powered fleets of 20+ engines yielding around 2,500 break horse power (bph) each. The cost of fueling trucks as well as employing additional people to help run the operation becomes to be a pricey element when it’s all said and done. An average fracturing crew is efficiently operated with 25+ crew members whereas the electrical powered route requires 60% less personnel with equipment automating some of the more manual conventional processes. These electrical fleets can run based upon three to four turbines depending on the hydraulic horsepower (hhp) of each one. Each electric fleet has eight dual hydraulic pump trailers which are rated at 3,500 hhp which is a total of 28,000 hhp per fleet.
Another benefit of moving away from the traditional conventional fleets is reducing emissions, noise pollution and silica dust associated with using diesel powered equipment at these sites. Many operators have been facing regulatory pressures in regards to emissions, noise pollution and silica dust and this electric powered pressure pumping provides a solution to those concerns. As natural gas is cleaner than diesel fuel it produces fewer pollutants when burned associated with the airflow provided by these turbines results in more of a thorough burn of the fuel which leads to more utilization of the fuel with reduced emissions resulting from the process. The electric fleets emit low frequency noise compared to diesel powered fleets which are known to emit high frequency sounds as a result of the equipment. Silica dust is contained by a 600 volt vacuum system which assists in controlling the inhalation of silica dust which is very harmful to humans and more effective than administrative controls or protective equipment. Safety is a key concern on these sites as is on any work site, one major benefit of the electrical process is eliminating the need to refuel equipment in “red zones” or “hot zones”. These zones are the space in between equipment used to refuel dangerously hot equipment during the active fracking process.
Could this be the future for upstream/midstream exploitative companies looking to streamline processes and become more cost effective and efficient? There are two companies breaking into this new age market in Southwestern Pennsylvania by the names of Evolution Well Services and US Well Services. CNX Resources Corporation, an exploration and production company, has teamed up with Evolution Well Services to cut fuel costs and be one of the first companies to explore this Electrical Fracturing process. Huntley and Huntley has also dipped into the pool of Electric Fracking with US Well Services. A provider of hydraulic fracturing services, U.S. Well Services plans to provide electric fracture stimulation services to Huntley and Huntley with operations slated to begin in the second quarter of 2019. Electrical Hydraulic Fracturing is cleaner for the environment and provides a cost effective strategy to help exploration companies grow and be more efficient within their processes. Currently there is evidence that supports that there higher energy utilization rates through the equipment powered from diesel fuel but this alternative option is a bright step into the future. Companies like Evolution and U.S. Well Services are innovating fast and are actively bringing attention to the ever-evolving economics and technological advancements surrounding the oil and gas industries and we should all keep our eyes as vigilant for the next innovation on the horizon.