GE (NYSE: GE) today announced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has certified two of the company’s Waukesha natural gas-fueled engine models for mobile, non-road applications. GE is able to offer a new, lower cost, lower emission choice for powering drill rigs and oilfield equipment in place of older diesel units as producers seek to meet the country’s increased demand for cleaner natural gas by developing unconventional oil and gas fields across the United States and Canada.
Powering a drill rig with natural gas instead of diesel fuel can result in up to 80 percent lower fuel costs for a producer. With diesel fuel prices remaining high compared to natural gas, Patterson-UTI Drilling had been looking to reduce fuel costs for producers, a major expense when operating their existing diesel-powered drilling rigs in West Virginia as well as other key gas-producing states. After considering various options, the firm selected GE’s innovative Waukesha gas engine technology.
“Now EPA-mobile certified and combined with the fact these engines run on produced site gas as well as other economically attractive gases, we are able to offer our customers significant cost savings because they do not have to purchase higher priced diesel fuel,” said Mike Garvin, senior vice president of operations support for Patterson-UTI Drilling.
As GE awaited the EPA’s decision to grant the mobile certification for its VHP engine family, Patterson-UTI Drilling replaced existing diesel systems with three Waukesha VHP L7044GSI gas engines at a well site in Harrison County, West Virginia—units that received EPA permit exemptions pending the agency’s mobile certification ruling. Patterson-UTI and GE are also working to replace additional diesel units with EPA-certified Waukesha L7044GSI-EPA engines in other locations in Ohio and Colorado.
Other companies making the switch to natural gas include Oklahoma City based Devon Energy, a leading independent oil and natural gas exploration and production firm. Devon Energy recently selected GE’s integrated Power to LiftTM solution, which combines power and grid technologies from across GE—including a Waukesha L5794GSI natural gas engine that also received an EPA permit exemption—to power electric submersible pump operations in the Mississippian formation near Oklahoma City.
The Patterson-UTI and Devon Energy projects demonstrate how GE’s Waukesha gas engines offer greater fuel cost savings and fuel flexibility for onsite power or mechanical drive uses in remote oilfields where reliable grid service is unavailable.
“The VHP L7044GSI-EPA and L5794GSI-EPA Waukesha gas engines can be easily exchanged with existing rig power generation drivers, almost to the point that they’re ‘plug and play,’ as we’ve seen in this project. And it offers great cost advantages of natural gas versus diesel and dual-fuel, with natural gas available at less than half the price of diesel. Plus, you can reduce diesel transportation costs because the engine can run on a much greater variation of readily available fuel sources, using everything from dry field gas to pipeline gas, including LNG and propane,” said Fred Stow, director of sales for Waukesha-Pearce Industries (WPI), authorized distributor of GE’s Waukesha gas engines.
Rich-Burn Combustion Technology Advantages
“For oilfield power generation applications such as drilling and enhanced oil recovery, rich-burn combustion technology—which is used in the EPA certified Waukesha gas engines—provides advantages that are ideally suited for these spaces. This technology allows end users the capability to operate on a wide variety of field gases without derate, achieve ultra-low emissions with a low cost, three-way catalyst, and application flexibility in altitude and temperature. Plus, exceptional transient performance with diesel-like loading is a key advantage here,” said Brian White, president of GE’s Waukesha gas engines.
Reflecting the industry’s shift from diesel to natural gas, GE is seeing a growing demand for its entire portfolio of gas-fueled distributed power solutions—including the company’s Waukesha and Jenbacher gas engines as well as its trailer mounted TM2500+ aeroderivative gas turbine technology—to provide cost-effective mobile on-site power/drive solutions for drilling rigs, White noted.
Fuel Flexibility Also Reduces Emissions
With performance ratings at altitudes up to 8,000 feet with no de-rate, the L7044GSIEPA and L5794GSI-EPA models use Non-Selective Catalyst Reduction (NSCR) technology—commonly referred to as a Three Way Catalyst (TWC)—achieving very low NOx, CO and VOC values, enabling more cost effective operation and providing greater return on investment.
“We firmly believe the natural gas solution will give drilling contractors a reason to consider the Waukesha L7044GSI-EPA and L5794GSI-EPA models for a number of reasons,” said WPI’s Stow. “They operate with a wide margin for both knock and misfire and have a higher tolerance for fuel composition. These are gas engines that have the power to change an industry.”
Unconventional gas is quickly becoming the most abundant source of natural gas in the U.S. and now accounts for about a quarter of U.S. natural gas production. By 2035, half of U.S. natural gas will come from unconventional sources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The boom in unconventional gas, up from just 2 percent of the total in 2000, has cut gas prices to record levels, reduced energy imports and set the country on a path to energy independence. It also is a major force driving the job market.