'Frack The Future': Halliburton Pushes To Reduce Diesel Fuel In Drilling Fields

Halliburton officials last week unveiled their "Frac of the Future" program, which will save the company millions of gallons a year in diesel fuel costs in their fracking spreads and truck fleets, developed to make use of the natural gas that companies drill for every day.

Halliburton and several oil and gas exploration companies have been pushing to reduce their footprints in the oil fields for the last few years as they drill to record levels with the advent of horizontal drilling coupled with hydraulic fracturing.

Efforts have included everything from reducing the amount of water being used to using natural gas produced in the field to power equipment and their fleets.

Halliburton's latest are dual fuel-burning fracking pumps, gravity and solar-powered sand pumpers, and natural gas-burning light duty field trucks, all of which will be deployed in northern Colorado soon in varying numbers.

"That all is part of our initiative to be more competitive from a cost point of view, but at the same time, we knew those designs would give us environmental benefits by reducing fuel consumption," said Karl Blanchard , vice president of production enhancement for Halliburton. "That's part of our normal course of business strategy."

Halliburton works with oil and gas exploration companies to hydraulically fracture a well that's been drilled. The process uses 10-12 high-powered pumps surrounding the wellhead to pump water, chemicals and sand into the well, which helps extract oil and gas.

While celebrating the company's opening of a new $42 million Fort Lupton Halliburton facility, officials showed off the company's Q-10 pump "Clarence," its vertical Sandcastle pumps that put sand into the fracking mix and a sampling of the company's 100 light-duty trucks that will no longer need diesel fuel to operate.

Many in the industry estimate the United States has a 100-year reserve of natural gas from which to draw.

Natural-gas burning equipment in the field translates into a savings of at least 1 million gallons of diesel fuel and that much fewer air emissions, officials say.

"We spent much of our lives trying to produce natural gas, and now we're using it to power our fleets," Jim Brown , president of Western Hemisphere at Halliburton, told a crowd gathered to tour Halliburton last week. "With the abundance we have, we now have a more predictable supply. It's clean, abundant and affordable. Before, it was a source that was volatile in supply and volatile in price."

The Sandcastle relies on solar power and gravity to pump sand into the fracking stream in wells. "Clarence" runs on compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas or even conditioned gas produced in the field, meaning it could literally come out of the ground, be conditioned on site and used as fuel for its fracking operations.

The now two-year-old equipment will help the company reduce its diesel fuel usage, and thereby also reduce its emissions.

The company rolls out its more sustainable equipment in what are called "spreads," (or all the equipment necessary to frac a well) and has converted about 10 percent of its fracking fleets so far, Blanchard said. "By the end of the year, 20 percent of our fleets will be converted," Blanchard said. As older equipment is replaced, it goes to international drilling markets, he said.

Noble Energy, one of Halliburton's biggest customers in northern Colorado, is right alongside, developing ways to fuel its field fleets with natural gas. It's building the first liquefied natural gas processing facility in Colorado near Keota.

"We can take diesel usage out of play and burn a much cleaner burning fuel, which does do exactly what we're trying to do and minimize our footprint," said Dan Kelly, vice president of operations for Noble's presence in the Wattenberg Field, which is a gas-rich field that's been drilled from the bottom of Weld County past the northern edges of Greeley since 1970.

Blanchard said science is constantly improving the company's practices in the fields.

"We don't know how far we can go, but I will tell you, as a corporate policy, we have an objective that every time we develop a new product we may pump into ground, one of our criterion, the environmental index we evaluate it on is better than what it's replacing," Blanchard said. "We're constantly trying to move our technology, any time we design something new, we think in terms of making it more environmental friendly."

Kelly lauded Halliburton's continued efforts, but recognized diesel fuels won't be eradicated from the drilling fields any time soon.

"It won't happen overnight; this is the very beginning," Kelly said. "You're going to see this turn and turn and turn. It may not turn as quickly as we all would like. But if you have supply, people might use it. By creating a supply we can increase the demand, that's the space Noble has chosen to put capital toward, because it's that important to start having conversation ... for air quality." ___

(c)2013 the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.)

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