As technology fuels natural gas growth in the US, leading some to believe the nation could become an exporter of gas, some producers are making use of that gas in their operations.
The majority of gas produced in the Marcellus shale is extracted using diesel fuel from imported oil; however, the Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that some producers are ditching the diesel-fueled drilling rigs and opting for gas-powered rigs.
That news sets a good example when it comes to ways of becoming energy independent by utilizing homegrown assets, reducing the impact on the environment, and practicing what is preached. It also provides incentives for other companies and industries to ramp up their technology by equipping vehicles and other items of daily use to run on natural gas.
Among the companies making the switch, according to the article, are:
• EQT Corp., which started operating an LNG-powered rig in July. The LNG is trucked in from Pennsylvania. The company also has a rig that uses unprocessed natural gas from nearby wells;
• Energy Corp. of America has a bifuel rig capable of running on diesel or field natural gas;
• Consol Energy operates two dual-fuel systems; and
• Seneca Resources Corp. has converted two of its rigs to run on natural gas.
On Nov. 27, Seneca Resources and Ensign Drilling announced they have installed two of GE’s Jenbacher gas engines to power the firs LNG-fueled drilling rigs of their kind in the Marcellus shale. After converting the power plants of two existing diesel-powered rigs to use LNG in the Jenbacher unit engines, the units were combined with Ensign’s rig packages to provide needed electricity for each rig, according to a news release.
The article stated that a natural-gas rig emits 20% to 30% less carbon dioxide than diesel-powered rigs. That should give environmentalists and others concerned about the ozone something for which to be pleased. One rig alone can guzzle as much as 80 gallons of diesel an hour to power electrical generators.
Although these gas-powered rigs are better for the environment, just like many other things that are environmentally friendly, the rigs cost more. But using LNG instead of diesel could reduce the annual fuel cost of one rig by $660,000, according to Ensign Energy Services. The company told the media outlet that it estimates nitrogen oxide emissions could be lowered by 250,000 tons a year and particulate emissions could drop by 6,300 tons per year if every land-based drilling rig in America opted for gas instead of diesel.
Given that natural gas is available, switching to a cleaner fuel is something all operators should consider doing. And federal and state governments should continue providing tax incentives for companies, and individuals, that make the switch.
If other industries followed the same path as some of these producers, imagine the good that could come from the move. There could be more natural gas vehicles on the road, for example, and consumers would be happier paying less at the pumps. Currently, natural gas runs about $1.50 to $2 less per gasoline gallon equivalent, according to Natural Gas Vehicles for America (NGVA).
But to get there, it’ll take substantial infrastructure improvements, more natural-gas fueling stations along roadsides, and less expensive natural-gas powered vehicles.
Already, several cities across the US have added vehicles powered by natural gas to their fleets. The NGVA reported that transit buses make up about 62% of all vehicular natural gas use. And the fastest-growing NGV segment is comprised of waste collection and transfer vehicles. Also, more than 35 US airports have natural gas vehicles in their fleets.
These are steps in the right direction, and it’s good to see that the operators who make natural gas available are joining the movement.
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