Hybrid energy solutions for drilling operations

Photo courtesy ECO-H

Battery storage and smart power management for upstream oil—in a box.

“Hybrid” is a term most of us would not likely associate with drilling for oil, but Automation & Power World is nothing if not a showcase for innovative technology, including novel ways of powering drilling operations.

That was the topic of a presentation given by Vince DiCristofaro and Jon Trask of ECO-H on Wednesday, March 4th, at the Houston event.

On-site power at drilling locations is provided sometimes by gas-fired generators, but more often by diesels. In either case, the gensets are almost always operated well below their optimal loading in order to achieve the response needed to handle rapid changes in demand.

In fact, as Trask noted, gensets at drilling sites rarely run above 50% load, and typically are capped at no more than 85% load to maintain a reserve margin. That kind of operation comes with a cost in the form of lower fuel economy and the need for more gensets than pencil and paper would indicate.

The ECO-H alternative involves using batteries to deliver fast response to changes in demand and allow gensets to run more efficiently. That, in turn, means fuel savings of 25 percent, less frequent maintenance, and in most cases fewer gensets on site to deliver the same or better performance. There are, of course, additional benefits in terms of reduced (25-30 percent) emissions, but power quality is also enhanced with a genset + storage arrangement.

In a sense, ECO-H is applying the same principles of grid management that any utility would be familiar with, except they’re doing it in a remote location with a modular, mobile solution. The containerized units can be set up in a day. Given that the average duration on site observed by ECO-H so far is just 14 days, mobility is a big part of the value proposition.

With some success under their belts in the oil sector, ECO-H is starting to look to other industries with similar challenges associated with high transient loads. Military installations and even theme parks could soon see ECO-H boxes arriving on trucks. With a typical payback in 2.0 – 2.5 years with gas-fired gensets and even less with diesels, it’s a compelling option.

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About the author

Bob Fesmire

Bob Fesmire is a Strategic Communications Manager at ABB, based in Cary, North Carolina. He has written more than 120 articles and white papers on a variety of topics including smart grid technology, energy efficiency and industrial automation. In addition to his work at ABB, Bob is also the co-author of Energy Explained, a non-technical introduction to all aspects of the energy industry. Currently, he is working on an introduction to power generation for the lay reader.
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