E-Fleets—Electric-Powered Fleets Herald a New Future, But It Won’t Happen Overnight
Electric-powered fracturing fleets looked impressively resilient in 2020 amid what was otherwise a significant collapse for the hydraulic fracturing sector. Today, the situation is more complicated.
This year has been rife with announcements of new electric-powered fracturing fleet (e-fleet) operations in North American shale plays.
- 4 August—Halliburton announced the successful deployment of an advanced, e-fleet spread on a pad of horizontal wells for Chesapeake comprising more than 140 stages in the Marcellus shale. This followed an announcement in January that Halliburton had successfully completed 340 stages for Cimarex in the Permian across multiple horizontal wells, using electric grid power.
- 29 July—US Well Services (USWS) announced it would deploy an e-fleet to support Pioneer Natural Resources’ Midland Basin completion operations for the fourth quarter of this year using locally supplied natural gas, including field gas sourced directly from the wellhead.
- 27 July—Seneca Resources and USWS announced their collaboration on an upcoming six‑well field trial in the Appalachian Basin for Seneca’s first completions using all-electric fracturing technology.
- March—NexTier Oilfield Solutions and NOV announced completion of the first phase of field testing of NOV’s electric fracturing pump, comprising 172 stages at pumping rates of up to 22 bpm and an average pumping time of more than 18 hours per day.
Were these the latest barrage in a swift takeover of the North American hydraulic fracturing market by e-fleets? No, but they are evidence of the growing interest among operators, fracturing companies, and service and technology companies in developing and implementing solutions to sustainable shale development that satisfy the “three e’s”—economics, environment, and efficiency.
The rise of e-fleets is being driven by the US shale sector’s growing concerns over greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions, noise levels, fuel and maintenance costs, and carbon footprints, all of which impact environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) compliance scores and thus, funding for the major operators who now dominate North American shale development. E-fleets are increasingly seen as an environmentally and socially responsible fracturing option that minimizes sound, fire risk, fueling costs, and GHG emissions, offers clean and simple rigup, and significantly increases power density vs. conventional diesel-powered fleets while maintaining the redundancy that efficient frac operations require.
Traditional hydraulic fracturing operations use pumps powered by Tier 2 or lower-emitting Tier 4 diesel engines.