The oil and gas industry has a long history in the United States dating back to the mid-19th century and is a cornerstone of the US economy, at its peak producing 9.48 million barrels of oil and 74.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day in 2014.
All this potential power is critical, as the US also consumed 19.88 million barrels of oil per day as recently as 2017.
Despite being a financially lucrative industry, it’s also one that is suspect to extreme variations in revenue as the price for a barrel of light sweet crude oil can quickly drop from over $100 to less than $50. Given that, the power systems necessary to extract, transport, and refine these natural resources must be dependable and cost-efficient.
The energy industry’s production chain is divided into three sectors – upstream, midstream, and downstream – each with its own power generation needs.
Generators for Oil and Gas Industry’s Upstream Processes
Upstream activities, also known as exploration and production (E&P), consist of finding and extracting natural resources like oil and gas. This could be oil fields in West Texas or the North Slope of Alaska or offshore drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.
Often a hundred miles or more from the grid, on-site power generation may be required for everything from a solitary pump jack with a 50 hp motor up to 100 MW for an offshore platform. Generators for oil and gas operations, however, will usually range from 500 to 2500 kW to produce either prime rated power (PRP) or continuous operating power (COP) as necessary.
Natural gas is often found during oil extraction and, in the past, was typically burned off or “flared” on site to dispose of it.
Today, however, natural gas makes up 23% of the world’s energy use. Powerful compressors extract gas from the ground and then use high pressure to send it through a pipeline to a central location for subsequent transport. In addition, this natural gas can be used for on-site oilfield power generation.
Midstream Transport Power Needs
Midstream activities connect distant upstream processes to final downstream purchases by consumers. Therefore, processing, storage and transportation via tanker, rail, boat, or pipeline take place in the midstream.
Pipelines have their own particular power concerns. To ensure a steady flow of oil or gas demands constant pressure levels, generally at 800 to 1,200 psi, which will drop over time and distance, requiring compressor/pump stations. Significant portions of a pipeline, however, may not have access to the grid, and once again on-site power production will be necessary.
One benefit of natural gas transport is that it can also be used to power the compressors moving it.
Powering Downstream Refining Processes
Petroleum conjures up images of filling the gas tank of a car, and natural gas is typically associated with the powering of gas appliances such as a stove or hot water heater.
There are, however, a variety of other products also produced from these natural resources in the downstream sector:
- Liquefied natural gas (LNG)
Each of these products utilizes specialized industrial processing and manufacturing plants ranging from oil refineries and petrochemical plants to natural gas distributors with power needs specific to that industry.
Oil refineries always have demanding power requirements, although this can be mitigated by using modern generators incorporating improved technology.
One recent case study discusses the power system conversion of a Midwest oil refinery with a daily processing capacity of 306 million barrels of oil. Its four existing 4,500 hp motors powering the plant’s catalytic cracking units (CCUs) were almost thirty years old and at the end of their designed lifespan.
The solution was the installation of two 4,500 hp (4,700 – 6,300 rpm), 4.5kV high-speed engines per CCU to provide uninterrupted power generation with reduced maintenance costs.
The oil and gas industry production chain with its upstream, midstream, and downstream sectors encompasses a wide range of unique power generation situations. It’s important to remember there are no one-size-fits-all answers.
Instead, each process unique to each sector demands its own carefully tailored and individual solution. Only then will you be able to achieve maximum results from the significant outlay of capital investment required.
Whether your generators for oil and gas operations are upstream, midstream, or downstream, you need load tested and guaranteed engines and gen sets. Choose Depco Power Systems to buy with confidence.