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Redeployment: Battlefield engines take on oil field mission
Fuel Fix ^ | May 31, 2013 | Zain Shauk

Posted on 05/31/2013 6:08:32 AM PDT by thackney

Deep in the swamplands of Louisiana, out of a clearing in the dense foliage that covers this coastal stretch, the roar of jet engines echoes across the landscape.

It is the sound of military aircraft — an escalating hum that evokes images of acceleration, takeoff and things on the move.

But these engines — which once transported troops in Iraq and Afghanistan — now move water. Millions of gallons of water.

They are a part of what two Louisiana companies believe will be the next step in the high-powered, fuel-intensive business of hydraulic fracturing — the technique that has created an American oil and gas boom.

Using retired military helicopter engines, Green Field Energy Services and Turbine Power Technology are building pressure pump systems that are key to that most important service in modern oil and gas drilling while doing what no competing pumps can: Run completely on low-cost natural gas.

Their products have added to an intensifying engineering race among several companies vying to offer oil field machines that can use natural gas instead of diesel.

The key to the effort lies at the heart of the companies’ Louisiana plant, where stacks of green, steel canisters hold powerful battlefield engines that came from the mountains of Afghanistan and deserts of Iraq to this land of alligators and shrimp boats on the nation’s southern edge.

The turbine engines — compact cylindrical packages of high-grade steel — once powered massive Chinook and Huey helicopters. But in a flourish of innovation, Turbine Power Technologies has turned the old engines, formerly destined for scrap, into oil field machines.

“We basically take one man’s junk and turn it into treasure,” said Ted McIntyre, CEO of Turbine Power Technology, an engine company that he co-owns with Green Field Energy Services.

A team that includes more than a dozen military veterans works at the Louisiana plant to restore the worn engines. Some tinker with the delicate steel blades that help move air through the turbines at hundreds of miles per hour to generate power. They also tweak the machines so that they can burn diesel and natural gas, in addition to jet fuel.

Others in the plant load the engines into large, orange frames and configure them to drive pumps that can blast millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into underground rocks to free up oil and gas.

The novel use of turbines has drawn the interest of industry players including Shell, Apache Corp. and GE, each of which has partnered with Green Field or used its services. It also has turned heads at engine manufacturing icon Caterpillar, which makes both conventional diesel engines and turbines for other uses.

That’s because the shale boom has made natural gas a bargain fuel, and companies believe using it instead of diesel can cut fuel costs by more than 30 percent.

Switching fuels could mean huge savings for oil and gas businesses, which in 2012 used more than 700 million gallons of diesel for hydraulic fracturing, at a cost of around $2.38 billion, Apache estimates. Using natural gas in general would have reduced that cost.

But if companies had used field gas, burning natural gas tapped directly from wells instead of processing and trucking it to drilling sites, Apache estimated they would have cut fuel costs by 70 percent — about $1.67 billion industrywide.

The turbine-powered pumps that Green Field operates for oil companies can help make that happen, said Mike Bahorich, Apache’s executive vice president of technology, which has tested Green Field’s pressure pumps but hasn’t used the system for fracturing.

“We are extremely impressed,” Bahorich said.

Other companies have converted high-horsepower engines to run on a combination of natural gas and diesel, but only Green Field has done a fracturing job using liquefied natural gas alone.

Green Field says the turbines it uses are also flexible.

“On Monday, you can put diesel in it,” Green Field CEO Mike Moreno said. “If you run out of diesel and all of a sudden an LNG truck shows up, on Tuesday you can run on LNG.”

So far, Green Field’s pump assemblies have been active in some major shale plays, including the Eagle Ford and Permian Basin in Texas; the Haynesville, which lies under East Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana; and the Marcellus in the northeastern United States.

Its engines are smaller than comparable diesel setups of similar power, meaning that they can reduce the physical footprint of a well pad, Moreno said. And natural gas engines emit less of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide than diesels.

Evolution Well Services, based in Calgary, Alberta, is the only other company now using turbines in the oil field. It uses a different approach in which a turbine powers multiple electric pumps.

The emergence of Green Field and other companies looking to burn more natural gas in hydraulic fracturing has inspired a rush of innovation, even among manufacturers of engines that have long relied on diesel.

“It’s pretty exciting for us,” said Diana Hopkins, a product definition engineer for Caterpillar, which plans to offer “dynamic gas blending engines” for fracturing this summer. The engines burn natural gas and diesel at the same time.

Though Caterpillar has the capability to produce turbines like those used by Green Field, the company is focused on modifying its popular diesel engines to use more natural gas, Hopkins said.

While turbines have the advantage of being able to run entirely on natural gas, they require higher quality metals that make them more expensive than other engines, which is why Green Field has turned to retired turbines. Turbines also burn more fuel than conventional diesel engines to produce the same amount of power, but with the low cost of natural gas they are still able to provide fuel cost savings and emissions benefits.

“We think there is a place for turbines,” Hopkins said. But Caterpillar believes the efficiency and cost advantages of diesel engines continue to make them attractive, she said.

Green Field and Turbine Power Technology, meanwhile, may face some limitations based on their supply of engines. They have a stock of about 200 that they gradually are refurbishing and deploying. But to ensure a future beyond retired military engines, Turbine Power Technology plans to begin manufacturing an adapted version of the helicopter engines, based on a licensed design from manufacturer Honeywell, McIntyre said.

He would not detail the prices he paid for used engines, but said that the new engines the company manufactures will not have to use the same high-quality materials needed for new aircraft turbines, which can cost as much as $1.8 million each. That means Turbine Power Technology’s new turbines won’t drive up Green Field’s fracturing rates higher than competitors using conventional diesel engines, McIntyre said.

If Green Field even gets to the point of an engine shortage, “that will be a very high quality problem to have,” said Evan Templeton, managing director for leverage finance research for the investment bank Jeffries. Templeton researched Green Field before Jeffries helped raise $250 million in financing for the company.

For now, Green Field is hoping its capability to use all natural gas will help it gain ground.

“This certainly has the potential to change the industry,” Moreno said.

And the fracturing business isn’t Green Field’s only target, Moreno said. The company is producing generators for the oil field and is interested in dethroning diesel elsewhere.

“Anywhere there’s a diesel engine, we should have a shot at replacing it,” Moreno said.


TOPICS: News/Current Events; US: Louisiana
KEYWORDS: energy; naturalgas; oil
Pictures and video at the link
1 posted on 05/31/2013 6:08:32 AM PDT by thackney
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To: thackney

Another technology for the ChiComs to steal.....


2 posted on 05/31/2013 6:10:34 AM PDT by txrefugee
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To: txrefugee

This is using old engines. Not exactly a breakthrough of technology. It is just some hardworking folks applying existing technology to a different application.


3 posted on 05/31/2013 6:13:12 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney
The turbine can burn gas straight out of the well-head? No de-watering or cleaning?

/johnny

4 posted on 05/31/2013 6:13:17 AM PDT by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: JRandomFreeper
The turbine can burn gas straight out of the well-head? No de-watering or cleaning?

From the article:

But if companies had used field gas

A great BIG IF, not a claim it could.

I don't think old turbine blades are going to last any length of time with water saturated gas, not to mention a some H2S and CO in the stream. No talk of the permitting required for the exhaust of a contaminated fuel source.

Really, really big if, in my opinion.

5 posted on 05/31/2013 6:16:57 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

Very cool — thx for posting it


6 posted on 05/31/2013 6:17:11 AM PDT by Nervous Tick
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To: thackney

I’m sure the gas goes through a mesh to remove water and other liquids.

These engines run virtually maintenance free on gas, plus they are surplus.

Water is what is keeping fracking out of the mountain west, and these pumps may be part of a future solution.


7 posted on 05/31/2013 6:21:07 AM PDT by cicero2k
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To: thackney
fighting for freedom, or dollars!
8 posted on 05/31/2013 6:23:23 AM PDT by Drawn7979
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To: thackney

I love stories about entrepreneurs, booming markets, all the business opportunities created, novel combinations and uses of technology, people getting wealthy, and new companies starting up to meet unmet needs.

Now what I want to know is why didn’t the government do this? I thought they knew everything and all that is good springs from their insights and “investments.”


9 posted on 05/31/2013 6:23:52 AM PDT by ProtectOurFreedom
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To: cicero2k
I’m sure the gas goes through a mesh to remove water and other liquids.

It takes a heck of a lot more than some mesh to bring raw gas to pipeline quality de-watering requirements. I've been on the design team for several dehy units. It typically involves running the gas through a large vertical contactor with trays of Ethylene Glycol‎ splashing down many levels with the gas bubbling up. The glycol has to be pumped through a regenerative heater to remove the water from the glycol.

The pressure changes through the turbine blades would otherwise cause droplets of liquid to form that would chew up the blades.

Water is what is keeping fracking out of the mountain west, and these pumps may be part of a future solution.

This doesn't change the water requirements pumped down into the well. It only changes the fuel and engine used to drive the pumps.

10 posted on 05/31/2013 6:27:08 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

Of what material are the turbine buckets? Hastelloy C?


11 posted on 05/31/2013 6:31:04 AM PDT by imardmd1 (An armed society is a polite society -- but dangerous for the fool --)
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To: imardmd1

I don’t know the material, but understand the engines they are using were considered at end of life for use in helicopters before this company took them.


12 posted on 05/31/2013 6:33:26 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

My question is “how many hours between overhaul?”

I don’t know what the standard is on turbines, but piston aircraft engines overhaul every few thousand hours.


13 posted on 05/31/2013 6:34:29 AM PDT by Clay Moore ("In politics, stupidity is not a handicap." Napoleon Bonaparte)
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To: imardmd1

I have used a lot of New turbine engines for Natural Gas compressor stations. We go to a significant effort to clean up the already “clean” pipeline quality gas used to feed our fuel gas systems.


14 posted on 05/31/2013 6:35:13 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney
I want to know an energy conversion here...

Turbine Specifc Fuel Consumption ( TSFC ) is way worse than Gas or Diesel Engines, but we also have to compare it to what "work" they are doing.

IMHO they may be way more reliable than Diesels.

Inlet noise filters might be nice, that wine gets old....

15 posted on 05/31/2013 6:36:02 AM PDT by taildragger (( Tighten the 5 point harness and brace for Impact Freepers, ya know it's coming..... ))
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To: taildragger

Whine?


16 posted on 05/31/2013 6:40:47 AM PDT by al baby (Hi Mom)
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To: thackney
I don’t know the material, but understand the engines they are using were considered at end of life for use in helicopters before this company took them.

"Manned Hrs" determined by FAA / DOD, if the Turbines weren't over-soaked with heat on start up and ruined or close to it, Starting it up and running as a ground pounder might be a low risk venture if they can keep the turbine temps in line, if they just keep it running, think steady state.

I am not sure of the materials of the blades, and if you think of it, for a casting house this is a HUGE business opportunity.

The casting houses that make these blades could upgrade to "Single Crystal" or like technology for longevity and not have to got through FAA - DOD approval / flight test. Amazing what you can do when certain entities get the heck out of the way...

17 posted on 05/31/2013 6:41:26 AM PDT by taildragger (( Tighten the 5 point harness and brace for Impact Freepers, ya know it's coming..... ))
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To: taildragger

This is not a high volume business. I see their success based upon taking relatively low dollar used engines to drive pumps.

Also remember that they are dragged around from job site to job site every few days. The engines will get a lot of “abuse” without even operating.


18 posted on 05/31/2013 6:48:10 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

“The pressure changes through the turbine blades would otherwise cause droplets of liquid to form that would chew up the blades.”

Rain?

Besides, the hot section turbine downstream of the combustion chamber (i.e., where this fuel is introduced) is running around 700 degrees Celsius. Not a lot of water droplets there.


19 posted on 05/31/2013 6:50:08 AM PDT by BwanaNdege ("To learn who rules over you simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize"- Voltaire)
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To: BwanaNdege

There is a compressor section in the air inlet prior to the ignition chamber.

I’ve worked the installation of a quite a few turbine engines for Natural Gas compressors. The fuel gas specifications is VERY clear of how clean and dry it has to be to meet the warranty.


20 posted on 05/31/2013 6:52:52 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

“There is a compressor section in the air inlet prior to the ignition chamber.

The fuel gas specifications is VERY clear of how clean and dry it has to be to meet the warranty.”

1)The raw natural gas is introduced as FUEL after the compressor stages.

2) Warranty? These are scrap engines. Of course, you don’t want to abuse them any more than necessary, but the warranty conditions were written by engineers AND lawyers.

I flew a Bell 206 in very remote areas of Africa. I wrote Bell, sending the Shell Oil specs for all their fuels and asking if I could burn Kero in an emergency. Shell Jet A & Kero have the same physical specs, to 3 decimal places. An engineer wrote back, sounding like he had a lawyer looking over his shoulder.

“ASTM 1655 fuel is all that you are allowed to burn.”

BTW, Aerospatiale was allowing diesel in the Turbomecca Arriel engine at the time.


21 posted on 05/31/2013 7:18:25 AM PDT by BwanaNdege ("To learn who rules over you simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize"- Voltaire)
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To: BwanaNdege
1)The raw natural gas is introduced as FUEL after the compressor stages.

You're right, I wasn't picturing that correctly.

2) Warranty? These are scrap engines

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply a warranty, just a quality of fuel standard from a manufacture.

I recognize the legalize and CYA of such statements. But it was the basis of fuel requirements I can access.

22 posted on 05/31/2013 7:27:45 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

I remember the early turbine pump packages. You didn’t see them around very long.

Maybe something has changed sine then.


23 posted on 05/31/2013 7:28:49 AM PDT by Sequoyah101
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To: taildragger

You are correct heat cycles (moving the throttle) is one of the main factors in wear. For constant power situations the turbine works well. For higher power applications for their weight turbines are hard to beat, as a Professor once told me, turbines surpassed pistons because of their ability to burn more fuel. The P&W 4360 radial had 4 rows and 28 cylinders and was a maintenence nightmare compared to a turbine. Large diesels are used in applications where weight is less of a factor.


24 posted on 05/31/2013 7:35:02 AM PDT by phormer phrog phlyer
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To: thackney

Thanks for the article and thanks to those in the know who responded. I’m getting educated despite myself. :-)


25 posted on 05/31/2013 7:38:36 AM PDT by Oatka (This is America. Assimilate or evaporate.)
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To: Oatka

That is why we are here, to learn from each other.


26 posted on 05/31/2013 7:40:41 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

Understood.

There is often a great difference between what WILL work and what MAY be used.

Of course, aircraft use and ground power are two completely different worlds as far as the stringency of requirements.


27 posted on 05/31/2013 8:25:09 AM PDT by BwanaNdege ("To learn who rules over you simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize"- Voltaire)
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To: thackney
The article said they use LPG, which ought to be pretty clean.

Great article! Thanks --

28 posted on 05/31/2013 9:14:49 AM PDT by imardmd1 (An armed society is a polite society -- but dangerous for the fool --)
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To: imardmd1
The article said they use LPG, which ought to be pretty clean.

I don't see that. The talked about using natural gas or a mix of natural gas with diesel. From the article:

That’s because the shale boom has made natural gas a bargain fuel, and companies believe using it instead of diesel can cut fuel costs by more than 30 percent.

The discussion of dirty fuel was from this in the article:

But if companies had used field gas, burning natural gas tapped directly from wells instead of processing and trucking it to drilling sites

My point was they only talked about the potential savings, not that it was feasible with their current set up.

Were you think the following was referencing LPG?

but only Green Field has done a fracturing job using liquefied natural gas alone

That is not LPG, but LNG. It is methane chilled down to -260°F. Ultra-clean natural gas in a more truckable form.

29 posted on 05/31/2013 9:22:56 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

It takes a heck of a lot more than some mesh to bring raw gas to pipeline quality de-watering requirements.
..............
Seems to me I’ve seen a couple articles on an emergent technology of portable LNG plants that they can wheel up to a well head that’s flaring off gas—& liquify the gas instead.
but if they liquify it —seems to me they’d first have to dewater the natural gas & generally make it production grade.

hmm yeah. it looks like the EPA has taken things a bit further. they have mandated that the oil companies can’t flare off natural gas anymore after early 2015— so the companies are looking to capture the natural gas for their own operations.

http://eidmarcellus.org/marcellus-shale/natural-gas-and-green-completion-in-a-nut-shell/15507/


30 posted on 05/31/2013 11:16:41 AM PDT by ckilmer
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To: ckilmer
I’ve seen a couple articles on an emergent technology of portable LNG plants that they can wheel up to a well head that’s flaring off gas—& liquify the gas instead.

I think you combining two separate topics. LNG being used for some of the new drilling rigs is being trucked in from other locations.

Creating LNG is a massive operation producing methane of a far higher purity than what comes into our homes. It produces several other byproducts from a typical Natural Gas Pipeline and that is after cleaning up raw gas to pipeline quality.

The flaring at wellhead is a separate issue. At most locations, there are significant limits to how long you can flare. This has become a problem for places like the Bakken which have a low gas to oil ratio. It is not a technical problem but and economic one. Some of these fields produce so little gas that the cost of the infrastructure to put in the gas gathering lines and compression will exceed the value of the gas produced. And you cannot stop the gas flow without stopping the oil flow, where the dollars are made.

Some places like Alaska North Slope still allow the flaring, but charge the oil company royalties on any gas that is not re-injected. The state doesn't care if they flare it, burn it for power & heat or sell it. If the gas comes out of the reservoir and not re-injected to maintain pressure, then it needs to be paid for. I like that method best as it gives more flexibility to the production company while protecting the value of the mineral owner's assets.

31 posted on 05/31/2013 11:29:06 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: All


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32 posted on 05/31/2013 11:31:03 AM PDT by musicman (Until I see the REAL Long Form Vault BC, he's just "PRES__ENT" Obama = Without "ID")
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To: thackney

Jet engines run in thunder storms at speed.Would be more concerned with acidic component of raw well production.


33 posted on 05/31/2013 7:21:33 PM PDT by Ozark Tom
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