The road to net zero can start at the wellhead, where technological advances are enabling a shift to natural gas for fueling hydraulic fracturing equipment—and cutting CO2 emissions.
“Today, most frac pumps run on diesel. It’s kind of the standard, but has a lot of CO2 intensity,” Kurt Harpold, strategic business manager for Halliburton Co., told Hart Energy. “So, one of the ways you can mitigate that or try to reduce your emissions is to burn more natural gas. So, you can burn more natural gas in a dual-fuel application where you’re blending natural gas with diesel.”
Halliburton has these capabilities with its Tier 4 dual-fuel systems. The system costs more, but offers an emissions profile 35% less than dual fuel Tier 2 fuel systems. The dual-fuel systems pair easily with the company’s Q10 X Fracture Pump, a positive displacement pump that takes slow pressure water and creates high pressure water needed to fracture rock, he said.
Another way to reduce emissions is to “burn more natural gas in an electric application where you use natural gas to generate electricity for either turbines or gas [reciprocating] engines,” Harpold said.
Halliburton’s Zeus electric fracturing system allows pumping at higher rates while also lowering emissions profiles of the wellsite. The power-agnostic Zeus system offers a frac pump with no need for a diesel engine or transmission, allowing it to be more efficient on location, Christopher Atchley, product manager for Halliburton told Hart Energy.
“The difference between what you see in a Zeus pump and what you have with the diesel pump, is that your diesel pump is going to be about 2,000 hydraulic horsepower, where the Zeus pump is 5,000 hydraulic horsepower,” he said. “We can actually operate [Zeus] at 5,000 hydraulic horsepower, which we feel gives us an advantage in the market. It’s more advanced than what we see with some of our competition.”
The Zeus pump comes paired with Halliburton’s newly designed large-bore, dual-manifold trailer that can deliver up to 230 bbl/min. Since it does not require diesel for fuel, its footprint is also 34% less than that of conventional frac fleets and is easier to maintain because there is no chance of a leak.
“When you think about what operators really want, the old adage is, ‘cheaper, better, faster, pick two,’ right? It’s hard to have all three. Well, with our electric solution, operators want to lower the cost, they want greater performance and they want lower emissions. And electric is the answer,” Harpold said.
‘E’ is for economics
Another cheaper, better, faster solution for hydraulic fracturing comes from Texas-based Catalyst Energy Services.
“One thing I do say about ESG in general is that it’s missing an ‘E’. And the first ‘E’ needs to be economics,” Seth Moore, Catalyst Energy Services co-founder, COO and executive vice president, told Hart Energy. “People want an economic solution. They care about ESG, they’ve told the world that they care about ESG and this industry cares about ESG. But when you make the first ‘E’ economics and you’re talking up to $18 million a year in savings, who wouldn’t do that? Why would you not want to have this ESG solution that also produces real value for the system?”
Catalyst Energy Services’ VortexPrime is designed to provide both. It is a compact, military-grade, natural gas-powered direct drive turbine. Each unit is easily transportable, self-contained and has its own turbine, drive train and pump. The fleet only requires six to eight pumps as opposed to a traditional frac fleet that might need 20 pumps.
Since VortexPrime requires no outside power source and has its own frac control software, the unit is able to go to location, rig in to the well via a manifold system, rig in water and fluid from the blender, and rig in fuel. From there, the team runs a cable to the data van and completes the job.
“We frac by wire, kind of to steal the phrase ‘fly by wire’ from the air aviation industry,” Moore said. “Everything we do is sensor controlled…you're dealing with this pretty impressive mechanical device, but it’s all controlled electronically.”
The fleet’s control system was automated with operators in mind, Moore said. It has safety systems engineered into the technology to ensure that the system will not crash, including “pressure limiters, rate limiters, kick-outs and numerous vibration sensors.”
While VortexPrime’s invention was spurred by Catalyst Energy Services’ desire to shrink some of the technology used for fracking, it also came with the added benefit of reduced emissions. The fleet is in the 95th percentile of waste stream reduction, and Moore estimates that there is a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions when compared to a Tier 4 system. In a recent project, the fleet was able to save 658 metric tons of CO2 emissions.
“If you could look at all the things you would want out of a frac unit or a frac fleet, VortexPrime checks all the boxes,” said Moore.
Both Halliburton and Catalyst Energy Services have fully deployed their fracking technologies with the intent of bringing net zero goals within reach.
“I think that we’ll continue to see that grow and we’re to a point now where it’s not just a cartoon in some LinkedIn post,” Atchley said. “We’re doing this on location every day.”
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