Fracturing/pressure pumping

US Oil Drillers Are Going Electric—If They Can Get the Electricity

Fracturing companies can’t connect to the electric grid fast enough as they seek to reduce emissions, save costs.

Electricians work at Diamondback Energy’s VoltaGrid power plant in Texas.
Source: The Wall Street Journal

In the country’s busiest oil field, hydraulic fracturing is devouring nearly as much electricity as four Seattles every day—and they are clamoring for more.

Diamondback Energy, a major producer in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico, has increasingly relied on the electric grid to power its crude harvesting. But as the driller’s oil production has grown nearly 50 times in the past 10 years, the grid has struggled to handle this new demand, prompting Diamondback to set up its own power network to cut its use of natural-gas-fired generators.

“The grid has to catch up with the industrials and what’s going on here,” said Hunter Landers, the company’s vice president of completions.

As drillers have faced investor and public pressure to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, they have ditched polluting diesel-power generators and plugged into the grid at breakneck speed. Sourcing electricity increasingly generated by wind and solar power allows the companies to cut their carbon footprint. On top of making companies greener, utility-scale power means savings on fuel costs and more efficient operations, oil and gas executives say.

But the trend is sending electricity sales soaring in Texas, New Mexico, and North Dakota. Like other kinds of businesses trying to electrify, drillers have hit a bottleneck, finding there is only so much capacity on the grid. Many operators who can’t wait for infrastructure to catch up have built it themselves.

Consumers haven’t felt much of an impact yet, though investments in grid infrastructure or new generation will be needed across much of the US as more industries electrify. The cost of the investments is huge, and consumers will eventually bear some of that.

Much is at stake: The International Energy Agency said in a May report that using electricity to power equipment instead of diesel or natural gas could halve the 700 million metric tons of carbon emissions from global oil and gas production by 2030.

“From one perspective, we’re early innings,” Ryder Booth, vice president of Chevron’s midcontinent business unit, said of the Permian’s increasing electrification efforts.

Read the full story here.