Fracturing/pressure pumping

Catalyst Debuts 50,000-HHP Direct-Drive Turbine Fleet in Permian

The new pressure-pumping company says that its new natural-gas-powered fleet is the most powerful of its kind in the US market and reduces the footprint on well pads by 70% vs. the average diesel fleet.

A new direct-drive turbine pumping unit and tractor trailer.
Source: Catalyst Energy Services.

There is a new option for the hydraulic fracturing of wells in the Permian Basin. This week, upstart pressure-pumping company Catalyst Energy Services debuted what it says is a “first of its kind” 50,000-HHP fracturing fleet that uses direct-drive turbine technology.

Founded in 2018, the Midland-based service company highlights that its market-leading horsepower enables it to complete horizontal wells using about 70% less pad space than normal. This translates to 20 traditional diesel-powered-pumps vs. just eight of Catalyst’s turbine pumping units.

The firm also claims to be able to set up its fleet in about 2 days, or half the time typically achieved with standard fracturing fleets. Called Vortex Prime, the direct-drive turbines also have a 40% lower emissions intensity than that of Tier 4 diesel fleets, according to the company.

“I have spent more than 4 decades studying and innovating pressure pumping, and developing Vortex Prime, which will dramatically and literally change the fracing landscape, is my proudest professional achievement,” Bobby Chapman, president and CEO of Catalyst, said in a statement.

Catalyst adds that it is using automated software to improve on-site safety and developed its own “kill-switch” technology that pressure pumpers have adopted in recent years to rapidly shut off/on units to reduce downtime. The service company says this translates to 3 or 5 minutes to get a unit running again vs. hours required for traditional fleets.

As the name of the technology suggests, direct-drive refers to the use of a natural-gas-burning turbine to mechanically run the pumping equipment. This is distinct from so-called electric fracturing fleets that use gas turbines to power an on-site generator that is used to run electrically driven pumps.

Direct drive was introduced to the US onshore market more than a decade ago, but the offering failed to compete with an oversupplied market of diesel units. The technology may have also been ahead of its time in regard to the new emphasis the US onshore industry has placed on lowering emissions by utilizing more clean-burning gas for operations.

In 2021, the idea was reintroduced by Houston area company BJ Energy Solutions with the debut of its first 40,000-HHP direct-drive fleets. In November of last year, BJ said it had secured five multiyear contracts for the pumping technology in the US and Canada.