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First LNG-Fueled Hydraulic Fracturing Completed in Eagle Ford Play

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First LNG-Fueled Hydraulic Fracturing Completed in Eagle Ford Play

The liquefied natural gas (LNG) division of Calgary-based Ferus LP successfully completed in October what the company believes to be the first-ever hydraulic fracturing operation utilizing liquefied natural gas (LNG) as engine fuel in North America.

Ferus' LNG Division was engaged by a major oil and gas service company in the United States to conduct the pilot project, which involved six dual-fuel 2,250 horsepower pressure pumper units, powered by LNG, to stimulate well performance in the south Texas Eagle Ford shale.

The dual fuel systems allow for natural gas and diesel to be consumed simultaneously with no decrease in performance, Jed Tallman, manager of market development for Ferus LNG, told Rigzone. Approximately 10,000 gallons of LNG was used in the pilot project, which took place in the southwestern portion of the Eagle Ford play.

While the company cannot discuss the plans of the operator involved in the pilot project, Ferus LNG has been contacted by numerous operators and service companies regarding LNG as a low-cost, environmentally superior alternative fuel, Tallman said.
The increase in interest by operators and service companies in using LNG for hydraulic fracturing has been dramatic.

"Because of the large amounts of diesel consumed in fracturing fleets, the use of LNG as an alternative fuel will result in cost savings for the operator or service company, not to mention a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions," Tallman commented.

"LNG offers significant environmental and cost-saving advantages and is quickly becoming the alternative fuel of choice for heavy-duty high horsepower on-road and off-road applications in North America," said Ferus President and CEO Dick Brown in a Nov. 28 statement. "We were very pleased to play such a critical role in this ground-breaking project, and we intend to be at the forefront of this growing industry as more and more diesel consumers make the switch to North America's abundant supply of natural gas."

It is difficult to estimate the specific size of the market for LNG in hydraulic fracturing and in other areas such as railroad transportation and trucking moving forward, Tallman commented.

"But given the economic benefits, improved emissions profile, and increased gas production, we feel that LNG will make up a considerably larger percentage of our domestic energy consumption in the future."

While the use of LNG for hydraulic fracturing is not being specifically done to alleviate criticism of hydraulic fracturing, the improved emissions profile of natural gas certainly is a benefit, Tallman said.

To complete this project, which marks a significant milestone in the adoption of natural gas as an alternative engine fuel, Ferus managed the entire supply chain on behalf of its client including LNG supply, transportation, and on-site storage and vaporization using specialized equipment and highly-trained personnel.

In addition to being a cleaner-burning and less expensive fuel alternative, LNG is non-toxic, non-combustible, non-flammable as a liquid, and dissipates into the atmosphere in the event of a leak or a spill, making it safer than diesel and gasoline, the company said in a statement.

The use of LNG requires specialized fuel handling equipment and additional training for individuals involved in the LNG supply chain.

"As a leading provider of cryogenic liquids for the energy sector, Ferus is uniquely qualified for the undertaking," Tallman said.

The increased use of natural gas to fuel not only hydraulic fracturing but transportation has grown thanks to the abundance of shale gas in the United States.

The use of natural gas over diesel is becoming more widespread, likely due to the cost benefits associated with fuel switching, according to a Nov. 28 analyst report from GHS Research. GHS referenced Baker Hughes' Nov. 26 announcement that it would convert a fleet of its Rhino hydraulic fracturing units to bifuel pumps as a way to improve operational efficiency, lower costs and reduce health, safety and environment impacts. Bifuel is a mix of gas and diesel.

The new pumps use a mixture of gas and diesel, reducing diesel use by up to 65 percent with no loss of hydraulic horsepower. The converted fleet, which meets all U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emissions standards, can also reduce a number of emissions including nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide and particulate matter.

Baker Hughes first converted a small fleet of its units in Canada; the success Baker Hughes saw with this endeavor prompted to company to convert an entire fleet in the United States. The company is converting several more fleets of Rhino trucks to Rhino Bifuel equipment. Baker Hughes also has a test program in Oklahoma, where a number of light-duty vehicles have been converted to natural gas.

Westport Innovations, which manufactures natural gas-powered truck engines, recently reported it is building a railroad locomotive engine that can run on LNG. During 2012, the company saw "broad consensus" for the first time that natural gas will take material market share in every global transportation market within the next five years, said David Demers, chief executive officer for Westport, during the company's third quarter 2012 earnings update Nov. 8.

Demers noted that consensus suggests that the company will see 7 percent to 15 percent of the North American trucking industry run on natural gas in 2017.

Westport Innovations will also introduce new natural gas-powered versions of the Ford F-450 and F-550 Super Duty trucks in mid-2013, the company said in a Dec. 3 statement.

"Although current demand for natural gas used in vehicles is minor relative to the demand associated with power generation, industry and residential heating, it is catching on and may soon reach a tipping a point where growth rapidly accelerates, with or without government intervention," GHS reported.



Karen Boman has more than 10 years of experience covering the upstream oil and gas sector. Email Karen at kboman@rigzone.com.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Post a Comment Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.
John Faseler | Dec. 18, 2012
I lived in Thailand in 1998 & 1999 and almost 100% of the taxis there were using LPG even then. The reason is simple, Thailand has lots of natural gas and very little oil. (Bangkok also had an air quality problem that is now somewhat improved as a fringe benefit.)

Scott | Dec. 14, 2012
Ive been traveling to Colombia on and off for the last 20 years and they use natural gas/gasoline dual fuel vehicles, have been for years. It costs about $2,000 local currency to modify a vehicle, the taxi cabs can pay for that conversion in fuel savings in about a year, CNG sells for about 40% of what gasoline does on a fuel value basis. Dual fuel vehicles get rid of the "chicken/egg" dilemma, vehicle owners are more willing to invest in the vehicles, station owners more willing to invest in refueling infrastructure when the dual fuel option is there. The country wins because they conserve liquid hydrocarbons in the domestic economy meaning they have more to export and drive a positive balance of trade. We might consider doing that already in the U.S. .

Jack Nelson | Dec. 13, 2012
I forgot to mention: Contrary to the car makers saying a natural gas vehicle will cost another $2500, or more, at the time I priced it a natural gas kit could be installed in a "normal" gasoline powered car for about $650. Then you save 1/2 of your fuel bill.

Jack Nelson | Dec. 13, 2012
WOW Brazil has been using dual fueled cars, trucks, for a number of years. I have ridden in taxis with enough gasoline to get them somewhere, if they needed it. But mostly stop and fill up with what they call GNV (translated to natural gas for vehichles). The driver paid half what I paid for gasoline to take me to almost exactly the same place I would drive to. I went about an extra 4 miles? I remember in 1985 in Holland pesonal cars were using natural gas. Go get em US and Canada, but watch your economies as there are others that will surpass you.



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