One of the most significant trends unfolding in the energy sector is the electrification of the oilfield. Growth in the North American oil and gas industry is expected to drive significant increases in demand for electric power in the years ahead.
The Journal of Petroleum Technology recently reported that a S&P Global paper Electrifying the Permian Basin is forecasting an increase of oil production from the region to 7 million barrels of oil per day (BOPD) by 2036 and “…for Permian producers to top 7 million BOPD while achieving emissions targets, they will need a quadrupling of their electric supply from the 4.2 GW available in 2022 to 19 GW by 2036.” S&P Global estimates the region must add approximately 1,500 MW of capacity every year for the next several years to meet growing demand. Further, S&P Global estimated this dramatic grid expansion would result in a surge in industrial power usage in the Permian, mostly in the upstream sector, from 66 to over 90%.
Reliability and environmental performance are important considerations for upstream producers when considering their power options. Unfortunately, blackouts in Texas have become more common as a growing population and rising oil and gas production puts more stress on the regional grid. In remote areas, not only is reliability a top concern, but increasingly environmental performance is a decision driver.
In this article, we cover the most common field power alternatives available to oil and gas operators and compare and contrast them.
Oil & Gas Field Power Alternatives
The most commonly available power alternatives include:
Utility Power (The Grid). Wherever possible, connecting to the local power grid is an attractive option due to its convenience. However, this may not be feasible or available in remote oil and gas fields. In areas with access to the grid, reliability is a growing concern because just one unscheduled power interruption (aka “blackout”) can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage on a single well site, in addition to the lost production uptime.
Although the February 2021 Texas power outage was widely reported and regulators promised to take action, stresses on the system continue to grow. In fact, the Texas Tribune recently reported on September 5, 2023, “The state has broken its power demand record 10 times so far this summer because of economic and population growth and the punishing heat.”
Off-Grid Options. To solve the reliability problems associated with the grid, Oil & Gas operators are increasingly turning to off-grid solutions that can deliver reliable power quickly. That is where on-site generators come into play.
Reciprocating Engine Generators (Diesel and Natural Gas Powered). Generators operated by diesel and natural gas reciprocating engines have been around for decades. They are portable and fuel is readily available.
A significant drawback to diesel fueled gensets, however, is that they typically produce the most emissions, including the generator itself and the trucks used to haul diesel to the location.
Natural gas reciprocating engines usually produce less emissions than diesel, but they still have the inherent disadvantage of wear and tear on moving parts. Consequently, reciprocating engines (diesel or natural gas powered) typically require maintenance intervals every 750 to 1000 hours. These relatively short maintenance intervals increase service costs, disposal fees and planned downtime. To get around this, in some cases an operator may choose to simply replace a down unit with one that works and then repair the other unit off line. This is an efficient use of capital and resources.
Natural Gas Turbine Generators. Gas turbines fueled by natural gas produced at the well site or from tank vapors captured from liquid storage tanks are popular with operators seeking high reliability and low emissions performance. Gas turbine generators tend to have fuel flexibility, modularity, high quality power output, efficiency and above all, reliability. Additionally, gas turbines typically have a single planned maintenance per year that can be accomplished in one shift, minimizing downtime.
Field Power Options Compared
When considering these power alternatives, it’s essential to compare them across a range of criteria:
Emissions (Scope 1, 2, and 3): The perception is that grid power often offers reduced emissions, however, it’s important to consider the source of that electricity. Clean Natural gas-powered turbine generators, for instance, frequently produces fewer emissions than the blended emissions from most utilizes throughout the US.
Maintenance: Generators, whether reciprocating engine or gas turbine, require regular maintenance, whereas grid power requires minimal upkeep on the end-user’s part.
Reliability: The grid, especially in well-established areas, offers consistent power. However, in remote locations or during peak demands, generators might offer more reliability.
Scalability: Gas turbine generators can be particularly scalable, while grid connections might be limited by infrastructure and capacity.
Fuel type and flexibility: While grid power is largely fixed in its source, generators offer flexibility. Companies can choose between diesel and natural gas, depending on cost, availability, and emissions targets.
The table below compares the relative performance of the power options mentioned above with green checks indicating good performance (the more green check marks, the better).
The FlexEnergy Advantage
The advantages of choosing FlexEnergy Solutions for your field power needs meets the best practices outlined above and provides meaningful advantages:
Flex Turbine® Microturbine. The Flex Turbine is a microturbine offering high reliability, low emissions and wide fuel tolerance in a scalable/modular design. With more than 20 years of engineering and manufacturing experience, coupled with over a decade of operating a lease fleet, the Flex Turbine is proven, dependable and delivers 333 kilowatts of continuous clean power.
GT2000S Gas Turbine Generator (powered by Siemens). For larger projects, the GT2000S delivers up to 2.0 megawatts of clean electric power, capable of powering large projects with the operational simplicity of one unit.
Scalable. Multiple Flex Turbines can be combined into a single FlexGrid microgrid that can scale up, or down, based on changing power needs.
Remote Monitoring Capability. Flex Turbines come equipped with remote monitoring capabilities, enabling real-time performance tracking and predictive maintenance, ensuring maximum uptime and efficiency.
Service Locations. FlexEnergy Solutions has service locations strategically positioned in key oil and gas regions, including North Dakota (Bakken), New Mexico (Permian Basin), Texas (Permian Basin), Alberta (Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin), Pennsylvania (Appalachian Basin), New York (Appalachian Basin) and Southern California, for guaranteed swift and efficient support.
Leasing Option. FlexEnergy provides a leasing option, offering cost-effective access to their reliable and efficient power solutions.
Benefits of Flex Turbines®
Choosing FlexEnergy Solutions can give you a competitive advantage in uptime and cost control:
- Reliable (Maximize Production). High reliability and few moving parts contribute to the highest uptime of the Flex Turbine microturbine and GT2000S, especially when compared to reciprocating engine generators, safeguarding continuous production and cash flow. The Flex Turbine requires only one eight-hour scheduled maintenance annually, typically completed in one shift.
- Eliminates Diesel. Site gas is used for power. Eliminates the need for diesel transport, simultaneously cutting added emissions from typical diesel- or gas-powered reciprocating engine turbines.
- Low Operating Emissions. Flex Turbine represents the lowest emissions alternative, aligning with environmental objectives and regulations. Low exhaust emissions of ≤10ppm NOx and CO (corrected to 15% Oxygen on natural gas at ISO conditions). Meets most stringent state and federal requirements for air permitting.
- Reduce or Eliminate Flaring. The Flex Turbine reliably generates power using collected flare gas and vent gas, converting a waste stream into beneficial use, reducing overall wellsite emissions.
- Flexible, Scalable. The modular design of the Flex Turbine allows special and custom turbine configurations to be built, including microgrids. Individual main components can be modified or designed out of custom turbine configurations.
- Wide Fuel Tolerance. Runs on gas ranging from 350 Btu/scf to 2500 Btu/scf, handles sour gas with H2S content up to 6,500 ppmv, contains up to 70% CO2 and can burn gas with nitrogen content up to 30%.
Upstream Oil & Gas operators and midstream transporters in the Permian Basin have several electric power options to choose from. What they have in common is a clean, reliable and simple field power solution to maximize uptime and economic returns without sacrificing environmental performance. Natural gas turbines have emerged as the preferred alternative, able to provide the best performance on these critical factors.
Contact FlexEnergy Solutions to learn more about our reliable, clean and simple field power solutions at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 (720) 573-7664.