Cabot Oil & Gas (NYSE: COG ) , a leading independent natural gas producer with significant operations in the Marcellus, recently announced that it is using natural gas from the Marcellus to fracture wells via an innovative dual-fuel technology.
The use of this exciting technology, which uses engines that operate on a mixture of both natural gas and diesel, may help reduce the use of diesel -- the traditional fuel of choice to operate hydraulic fracturing equipment -- by as much as 70%.
Cabot's efforts mark the first time "field" gas has been used in northeastern Pennsylvania for this purpose. In developing and implementing the dual-fuel technology, the Houston-based company partnered with FTS International, a leading provider of well completion services for the oil and gas industry, and Caterpillar Global Petroleum, the oil and gas division of manufacturing giant Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) .
How the technology works and its benefits
In powering its hydraulic fracturing operations with natural gas, Cabot used a mobile pressure pumping unit provided by FTSI, which was then retrofitted with a dynamic gas blending kit from Caterpillar. This system allows diesel to be substituted with natural gas during high-pressure pumping operations and is compatible with field gas, compressed natural gas, and liquefied natural gas.
"Cabot is continually searching for ways to utilize cutting-edge, environmentally friendly technology during our operations," said Cabot President and CEO Dan O. Dinges. "We are already converting our vehicle fleet and currently have a drilling rig using natural gas as well, so the next step is to utilize the technology on a hydraulic fracturing site."
According to a statement released by the company, dual-fuel technology offers several benefits, including "(1) Reduced air emissions for a cleaner environment, due to a reduction in diesel usage, (2) reduced truck traffic when field gas at or near the well site is used due to a reduction in the transportation of diesel fuel to site, and (3) reduced costs, as natural gas can be a less expensive fuel option than diesel, providing potential cost savings for the industry and for energy consumers."
With its foray into dual-fuel technology, Cabot joins the likes of Apache (NYSE: APA ) , which in January became the first energy exploration and production company to power a full hydraulic fracturing operation using natural gas-burning engines at its Granite Wash operations in Oklahoma. By switching to natural gas, Apache said it expects to reduce fuel costs by roughly 60%, while also lowering emissions.
Apache and Cabot's successful efforts in using cleaner-burning natural gas are a promising development for the oil and gas industry, which is constantly under fire for its alleged neglect of the environment. Not only is using natural gas a cost-effective solution for hydraulic fracturing operations, but it is an innovative way to utilize the nation's abundant supply of the fuel, while also minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.
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