Baker Hughes using natural gas in fracturing jobs

Baker Hughes has converted a fleet of its most fuel-intensive equipment used in hydraulic fracturing to run partially on natural gas, the company said Monday.

The conversion has turned a fleet of Baker Hughes pressure pumps into bifuel units that now run on both diesel and natural gas. The move allows the company to take advantage of lower-cost natural gas, cutting diesel use by up to 65 percent without losing any hydraulic horsepower, the company said.

Pressure pumps are used to fire millions of gallons of fluid, including water, sand and chemicals, into shale rock formations thousands of feet underground to free up oil and gas. The process is particularly fuel intensive, consuming 1.2 billion gallons of diesel annually across the industry, according to figures from David Hill, vice president of natural gas economy operations for Encana Corp.

With diesel selling for as much as $5 this year in some areas, the incentive to find more ways to power operations with natural gas has grown substantially over the last year.

“Baker Hughes has seen excellent results with this initiative,” Mike Davis, Baker Hughes’ president of pressure pumping for U.S. land, said in a statement.“The environmental benefits are significant. We’re reducing emissions from the engines driving the stimulation pumps and less fuel is needed to keep our pumps going. In addition, this has the added value of improving job site safety by eliminating re-fueling demands during operations.”

The converted Rhino T units were used in a recent frack job for Cheyenne Petroleum Company in the Eagle Ford Shale, Baker Hughes said. Cheyenne was interested in the savings involved with cutting diesel production while also reducing emissions.

Throughout the job, Baker Hughes was able to replace 65 percent of diesel with liquefied natural gas with no loss of horsepower, the company said.

“The use of the converted Rhino Bifuel units was transparent during the job,” said Greg Presley, Cheyenne Petroleum Company’s senior operations engineer, in a statement. “The job pumped the same as a 100 percent diesel job with many environmental benefits.”