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Clearing the Air on Oilfield Electrification

Oil & Gas operators increasingly look to oilfield electrification as a promising pathway for improving the long-term sustainability – both environmental and economic – of the oil and gas industry by reducing emissions at well sites and facilities. Although there are many strategies an operator can take to electrify its operations, the term “oilfield electrification” is commonly thought of as simply plugging well site equipment into the local utility grid, eliminating the need for diesel powered reciprocating generators..

Instead of arguing over the definition of what “oilfield electrification” is, we suggest it is more important to define its purpose. In our view, the primary objective of oilfield electrification is to reduce emissions by adopting the most emissions efficient power alternative, which may or may not be the local utility grid.

Although much of the impetus to move towards greater oilfield electrification has been emissions related, an often-overlooked aspect driving the trend is basic access to power. In the Permian Basin, for example, demand for power is rising faster than the utility grid can supply it, as we noted previously in our article, What Are Your Options for Oil and Gas Power Generation?

Many decision makers assume that their best option for oilfield electrification is plugging into the utility grid serving their area. Although doing so has the potential to significantly reduce their Scope 1 and Scope 3 emissions reported to the U.S. EPA Greenhouse Reporting Program from what their current levels, the local grid may not necessarily be the optimal solution since many relevant power grids generate higher emissions than competing alternatives.

In this article, we delve into the emissions profiles of power grids serving some of the most active oil and gas regions and explore whether oilfield electrification, particularly with solutions from FlexEnergy, can indeed result in lower emissions compared to other options.

READ MORE: Understanding Field Power Emissions Profiles and Options

Relevant Grids

To fully evaluate the emissions implications of oilfield electrification, we must first consider actively producing Oil & Gas regions and the power grids serving them. In this article, we focus on eight grid regions as defined by US EPA eGRID:

  • ERCT: ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas or ERCOT)
  • SPSO: SPP South
  • MROW: MRO West
  • RFCW: RFC West
  • RMPA: WECC Rockies
  • RFCE: RFC East
  • NYUP: New York Upper State
  • NYCW: New York City West

The chart below illustrates the various regions and displays relative annual nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions (source: US Environmental Protection Agency).

Source: US Environmental Protection Agency

Grid Emissions Profiles

Based on data source from the eGRID Data Explorer, we compared the emissions of field power solutions from FlexEnergy Solutions to the relevant grids with a focus on NOx.

Figure 1 below compares the annual NOx emissions for the relevant grids, sorted from highest to lowest (left to right) plotted on the blue bars.

In 2021, the most recent year for which data is available, every relevant electric grid serving active Oil & Gas regions reported NOx emissions greater than the Flex Turbine® (orange bar). We note that NYUP does not serve a major fossil fuel producing region, more on that shortly.

Utility Emissions Profiles

Data Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and FlexEnergy Solutions

Grids serving the most active Oil & Gas development regions, namely SPSO, MROW, RMPA AND ERCT all generate annual NOx emissions more than twice the level of the Flex Turbine. FlexEnergy off-grid field power options using the Flex Turbine GT333S or the GT2000S, offer a compelling alternative to traditional grid power for oil and gas operations in most regions.

The data is clear – oilfield electrification by plugging into the local power grid in most cases will result in higher Scope 2 emissions than a clean power solution from FlexEnergy.

Grid Resource Mix Drives Emissions

The data begs the obvious question – Why are oilfield electrification solutions from FlexEnergy Solutions cleaner than most grids? Look no further than the resource mix used to generate power in each grid region for the answer.

Figure 2 below illustrates the resource mix in each of the relevant grid regions for 2021, sorted in order of annual NOx emissions from high to low (left to right).

Utility Emissions Profiles by Grid Region

Data Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

With one exception, power grids with a heavier reliance on fossil fuels also have relatively higher NOx emissions than those sourcing a greater proportion of their power from emissions-free hydroelectric and nuclear sources. The notable exception is NYCW, which is heavily reliant on fossil fuels but has the second lowest NOx emissions of the group.

Figure 3 helps explain why NYCW is an outlier. Figure 3 compares only the fossil fuel resources used in each grid region, again sorted in order of annual NOx emissions from high to low (left to right).

Data Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The difference is natural gas. All NYCW’s fossil fuel resources consisted of clean burning natural gas, as compared to SPSO that used a higher percentage of dirtier coal (26.8%) and only 36.0% natural gas. The data demonstrates the importance of natural gas as a clean, low-emissions power source.

Notably, SPSO generated 29.4% of its power from wind turbines, but since wind turbines do not generate power on calm days, they tend to be an intermittent source of energy not suitable for base load power without heavy investments in battery storage.

Takeaways

As we previously noted in our article What Are Your Options for Oil and Gas Power Generation? we noted how Oil & Gas operators are leveraging oilfield electrification as a strategy to both reduce their emissions footprint and generate the power that utility grids are unable to provide fast enough.

  • Looking at just the Permian Basin, S&P Global estimated 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%.
  • The two grids that serve the Permian Basin region, SPSO and ERCT, are just not growing power generation capacity fast enough, forcing operators to come up with alternatives. Access to clean, cost-effective and reliable field power is a critical factor for operational success.
  • As it turns out, plugging into the grid may reduce Scope 1 and Scope 3 emissions, it merely shifts emissions produced from the oilfield back to the grid. In most cases, NOx emissions for the most relevant power grids are higher than available gas turbine alternatives because of their reliance on dirtier burning fuels like coal and crude oil.

It bears repeating that pursuing oilfield electrification by plugging into the local power grid in most cases will result in higher Scope 2 emissions than an off-grid power solution from FlexEnergy Solutions.

READ MORE: Best Practices for Oil & Gas Field Power Options

Off-Grid Power Options for Oil & Gas

Sturdy enough for extreme conditions—including cold weather, high elevation, hazardous climates, and offshore environments—the modular, transportable Flex Turbine is the foundation of our off-grid power solutions.

A FlexGrid microgrid from FlexEnergy Solutions can provide clean, reliable and simple power to both brownfield and greenfield Oil & Gas projects.

Power an Existing Distribution Network. Brownfield operations already equipped with a power distribution system can unplug from the utility grid and into a FlexGrid microgrid. A FlexGrid microgrid serves as your power plant, untethered from the constraints and potential unreliability of the local utility and providing clean, high-quality power.

Create a New Microgrid and Distribution Network. For greenfield projects involving ongoing drilling programs and bringing on multiple wells, pads and facilities online over time, FlexEnergy Solutions can design a scalable FlexGrid microgrid and distribution system that can scale up as power needs grow and then back down over the life of the asset.

Single Site Deployment. Large production pads in remote areas may find it easier to deploy one or more Flex Turbines, or our larger GT2000S 2.0-Megawatt turbine on site.

LEARN MORE: Off-Grid Power Solutions from FlexEnergy

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® GT333S Microturbine. The GT333S is a microturbine offering high reliability, low emissions and wide fuel tolerance in a scalable/modular design that is quick and simple to deploy. 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). 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. The modular design of the Flex Turbine allows special and custom turbine configurations to be built ranging from 200kW to multi-Megawatts, including microgrids. Individual main components can be modified or designed out of custom turbine configurations.

Remote Monitoring Capability. Turbines from FlexEnergy Solutions come equipped with remote monitoring capabilities, enabling real-time performance tracking, predictive maintenance, performance reporting and rapid service response, ensuring maximum uptime and efficiency.

Service Locations. Flex Energy has service locations strategically positioned in key oil and gas regions, including North Dakota (Bakken), Texas (Permian Basin), Grande Prairie, Alberta (Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin), Pennsylvania and Southern California, guaranteeing swift and efficient support.

Leasing Option. FlexEnergy provides a leasing option, offering cost-effective access to their reliable and efficient power solutions.

Ultimately, FlexEnergy provides a cleaner, faster, more reliable and less expensive option than the utilities.

Benefits of FlexEnergy Field Power Options

Off-grid power options from FlexEnergy Solutions deliver multiple operational, economic and environmental benefits to Oil & Gas operators, including:

  • Lower Emissions than the Grid. FlexEnergy Solutions off-grid systems typically outperform relevant grids (Scope 2) in terms of emissions.
  • Lowest Scope 1 and Scope 3 Emissions. Maximize emissions reduction with the lowest Scope 1 and 3 emissions of any off-grid option.
  • Reduce Flaring and Venting. Significantly mitigate or even eliminate routine flaring and venting of associated gas and tank vapors.
  • Maximize Production. Increase uptime with 99+% mechanical availability and only one 8-hour scheduled maintenance interval annually.
  • Capitalize on certified gas markets. A minimized emissions footprint helps achieve higher gas certification standards.

Oilfield electrification is a promising strategy for reducing emissions from Oil & Gas operations and infrastructure, but before plugging into the grid make sure you have analyzed all your options. In most cases, grid emissions will be significantly higher than an off-grid power solution from FlexEnergy Solutions.

Contact FlexEnergy Solutions to learn more about our reliable, clean and simple field power solutions at sales@flexenergy.com or +1 (720) 826-0708.