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The potential of electric fracking

11 September 2019

The energy industry continues to adopt electric fracking and explore new pumping technologies. In fact, Baker Hughes debuted the technology in the Permian Basin earlier in 2019. What are the advantages and disadvantages to e-fracking? Our cost and technology analyst, Jesus Ozuna walks us through the electric fracking basics and where he sees the market going in the future in our latest podcast. Here's an excerpt of the conversation:

Jessica Nelson:

So, let's start at the beginning. I gave a little preview of some recent news, but for a lot of our listeners who may not be familiar with electric fracturing, can you define it for us, and then give us a little bit of the history behind electric fracturing?

Jesus Ozuna:

Thank you for having me. When people hear it, they automatically think that it's maybe something where it's being powered by solar. I mean, it has the word electric, but essentially, the power is coming from natural gas, but all the equipment that's being used to do the actual hydraulic fracturing process is electric. So, there are no engines from the traditional sense, like a diesel engine onsite. And, everything is being powered by electricity.

Hill Vaden:

Even though it's not solar, one would consider it a "greener" frack than your typical diesel?

Jesus Ozuna:

100%, because the emissions that come from using natural gas versus burning diesel. And, second because the whole spread of the fleet is electric, and therefore it has that advantage where it is an evolution. It is an evolution when it comes to green technology.

Hill Vaden:

And, how big are these fleets?

Jesus Ozuna:

It's just as large as your standard fleet. When it comes to the capacity and the ability to do the work, but the footprint we're looking at in some cases (when it comes to just the reduction of the pumpers) it's a 40% reduction on the actual footprint of on the pack. There is a significant reduction because these pumpers with these massive diesel engines just take up so much space and there's so much extra wiring.

Hill Vaden:

Is that some of the advantage of it - being in urban or more dense population areas? Is that where electric frack is most conducive?

Jesus Ozuna:

Well, electric fracking is most conducive for areas where there are potentially stricter regulations when it comes to sound pollution or stricter regulations when it comes to emissions, which then would in turn would be potentially a better option in a more urban environment. But, you could still use it out in a regular fracking site out in the middle of nowhere simply because of some of the cost reductions that are there when it comes to fuel costs. So, there's a variety of different factors to consider when looking at any fracking.

Hill Vaden:

So, if there's cost reductions, noise reductions…

Jesus Ozuna:

Emissions reductions.

Hill Vaden:

…emissions reductions, footprint reductions, what are the disadvantages? This is all good news.

Jesus Ozuna:

It is a lot of good news. To stay objective, the downfall is the entry to use the technology. The costs to enter. On average to go in and have an equivalent to a 45000 hydraulic horsepower fleet, it costs you around $60 million. So it's a significant increased costs versus other technologies which you can use natural gas, like dual-fuel or dynamic gas blending, where it costs only $3 million to do a conversion.

Hill Vaden:

60 versus three?

Jesus Ozuna:

60 versus three.

Hill Vaden:

Quite dramatic.

Jesus Ozuna:

But, you're not getting the same type of fuel cost savings. You're also still using diesel. You're still going to have to be bringing in diesel. A lot of hot fueling, a lot of risks when you wouldn't using diesel. You can't promote it as 100% dramatic shift forward when it comes to technology. And the other aspect of it too is that the electrification also has its advantages with maintenance costs like electric engine powering everything. Electric generator powering everything is easier to maintain and service than these traditional combustion engines.

Are the long-term advantages and climate goals enough to drive more operators to electric fracking? Listen to the full podcast for more on costs and who's leading the electric fracking revolution.

Learn more about our coverage of costs and technology within the oil and gas industry.

Posted 11 Sept 2019

This excerpt has been professionally transcribed as accurately as possible. Please note, some words and phrases may have been unintentionally excluded.


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