|Herald photo by Ian Martens
Workers walk around equipment as guests take in a demonstration of new hybrid powered fracking technology held by Evolution Well Services and GE Tuesday in the Stewart Siding industrial park southeast of the city.
A new hybrid-powered machine, being dubbed the "first of its kind" and a "milestone project," could soon have a big impact on unconventional gas drilling southeast of Lethbridge.
Calgary-based Evolution Well Services (EWS) and GE have introduced the TM2500+, a trailer-mounted aeroderivative gas turbine called the "power plant on wheels," which can provide 25 megawatts of energy using field natural gas as the fuel source at well sites.
It reduces the environmental impact of shale gas fracking, as emissions are estimated to be two-thirds less than active drilling methods. It also needs 75 per cent less manpower to operate and only produces 88 decibels of sound.
"Any benchmark that you're measuring fracking by, we're at the top," said Eldon Schelske, EWS president, during a launch event for media and industry representative at a site just off Highway 4 and Range Road 211 Tuesday morning.
"We're hoping to shake up the industry with this. Going forward there will be two huge concerns in the industry; not having enough qualified people running this equipment for us, and doing damage to the environment. We hope we've addressed both of those."
"We think it's got the potential to be a game-changer," said Lance Hall, general manager - Fast Power for GE Power & Water based in Houston, Texas.
"There's going to be $40 billion to $50 billion worth of investment over the next several years in North America. Unconventional drilling is huge. Between emissions, operating costs, footprint, safety - we think it's the way to go. "
EWS, an oilfield technology company, has been working towards this for three years.
They have been focused on eliminating a number of safety concerns, especially the way diesel fuel is normally delivered on well sites, Schelske said.
"Conventional assets in a shale gas environment are not designed to sit there and pump for hours and hours. They don't have sufficient cooling, they don't have sufficient fuel capacity," he said.
"You have someone walking through with a diesel hose while they're running wide open to refuel them. It's a huge safety concern. By doing it this way, we get rid of that completely. We have no hot fueling at all. We're much safer."
EWS is now actively seeking opportunities southeast of Lethbridge.
"We're talking with majors (oil companies) and everybody's interested, but we need to prove that we're commercial," Schelske said.
"It's tough for me to say how and when we could use it until we actually run it, evaluate it and see how it works because, of course, this is all brand new equipment and a brand new design," said Warren Macphail, superintendent of drilling and completions for Calgary-based Devon Canada.
"But I'm really impressed that something as innovative as this has come out of a local (Albertan) company. It could have a real positive impact on our efficiencies Hopefully we'll get to try it out in the next couple of months. I'm down here kind of investigating this stuff and learn about it."