The benefits of electrification in the oil and gas industry

A line of wooden utility poles stretches into the distance under a partly cloudy sky. The landscape is dry and barren with a dirt path in the foreground, reminiscent of areas where Gil Henry once toiled in the oil and gas industry. A small cliff on the left and more utility poles dot the horizon.

The oil and gas industry in the United States relies on the generation of onsite electrification using diesel or natural gas to power facilities and well pads. Despite this need, there is not always enough electrical infrastructure in rural areas to meet the demand, so generators are used to run some components of a typical well pad. These combustion engines are powered by diesel and natural gas, which tend to be reliant on older technology and mechanics that fail to match the uptime and reliability of electrified well pads located close to power sources.

Electrification has many benefits, including reduced emissions and reduced maintenance. Atwell has been working with clients to electrify well pads and pull power from the grid to increase uptime and replace the older equipment.

Realizing the power and potential of electrification in the oil and gas industry

Several years ago, Jake Kapp, Senior Project Manager at Atwell, was asked to develop a field-wide gathering system for a project. Knowing the client was reliant on electrification for their entire field, Kapp tapped into his experience in oil and gas gathering systems. He ensured that the land and survey were acquired right away for power lines and compressor stations, which would then become entirely electric.

Similarly, Kapp managed another project that involved nearly tripling the capacity of an existing 140 MMSCFD compressor station.  The scope was to add new electric powered units, as the existing station was operating natural gas-powered compression units. The station was successfully converted to electric compressors and added 260 MMSCFD throughput for a total of 400 MMSCFD without any additional emissions.

The success of these two projects opened Kapp’s eyes to the potential of electrification and the future of the oil and gas industry. It has also resulted in Atwell putting even more attention and effort into advancing its electrification capabilities.

“In my opinion, this is the wave of the future from a reliability and runtime standpoint,” said Kapp. “The simple fact of electrification is that it will reduce emissions and required maintenance. The electric motor is much more direct and straightforward than that of an internal combustion engine.”

The initial innovation shown in Kapp’s work led other clients to express interest and seek Atwell’s electrification expertise for their projects. “This isn’t a one-time project,” Kapp explained. “We’re seeing this movement across the nation, and we can support our clients on a national level across industries. Be it wind, solar, or gas, electrification can be a game changer and we can meet client needs in all areas.”

Serving clients and various markets with electrification

From an electrical delivery standpoint, there is nothing Atwell does not touch. For example, we can design a power generation site, from wind or solar, and deliver that power to a substation or existing transmission line. From there, we have the design and engineering capabilities to deliver distribution power to a well pad and supply power to all of the equipment, should a client choose to do so. It is because of our vast capabilities and national presence that we know the electrification program can meet the needs of each industry we serve.

“We understand that some companies are hesitant to jump in entirely, so we’re happy to use the expertise and experience we’ve gained in this area to consult on projects,” Kapp said. “We can even support smaller projects like a power study, or taking a look at older systems and evaluating whether an updated or new system entirely would be best for the client.”

For example, Atwell has done previous overhead power line projects with oil and gas companies. For one project, Atwell delivered electricity to an existing well pad so a new well could be drilled and the completion of a two-week frac project could be reached, otherwise known as an E-Drill and E-Frac. Using electricity, the runtime is higher so there is less maintenance and the are no emissions from equipment.

Atwell worked with the client from beginning of the design phase for the overhead power system project so the E-Drill and the E-Frac equipment could be removed after the work was complete. The new well pad then had power for basic operations without having to shut down the power line.

Because of the breadth of services offered by Atwell, clients can rely on us to take them from title work and surveying through the final stages of a project.

The expected growth and demand for electrification in the industry

In just a few years, Kapp has seen the number of clients interested in electrification grow, along with his ability to act as a translator across skillsets.

“This opportunity grabbed my attention and sparked my interest because it is a presently underdeveloped niche,” said Kapp. “I’ve always been interested in how electricity gets delivered and many oil and gas companies are working in the middle of nowhere, where the electrical infrastructure just isn’t in place. I’ve been able to assess what’s needed from that electrical standpoint and speak to the client about what is needed from a time and cost perspective. I get particularly excited when I’m presented with a problem and the solution is within our capabilities. Electrification is one of those solutions.”

Atwell’s team of passionate and knowledgeable subject matter experts is the reason why we are able to provide innovative solutions like electrification. As the world becomes more conscious of the way we consume and emit energy, Atwell is excited and proud to be developing an electrification campaign that will not only help our clients, but our global environment as well.