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Operate your Diesel Engine on Natural Gas and Save
Case Study
Williston Herald - A Flare for Power
Williston Herald - A Flare for Power

A new use for natural gas flares is making an entrance in the Williston Basin. Diesel engines are being converted to use a diesel and natural gas mixture instead of straight diesel fuel. Eco Alternative Fuel Systems, Inc (ECO AFS). has installed the bi-fuel system on five Statoil rigs in North Dakota, according to Jeff Anderson, Eco AFS regional manager.

“By doing the bi-fuel system on the diesel engines and also converting their boiler to operate on natural gas, one rig in one year will save approximately $1 million in diesel costs. Not only that it creates better emissions. It’s a cleaner fuel, and we triple the run time of the diesel they have,” Anderson said.

Anderson said 50-60 percent of the fuel mixture, after conversion, is natural gas. The gas can be piped to the rig from a nearby gas flare or pipeline. It can also be trucked in if no flare is nearby, which will cut down on some of the truck traffic, he said.

“Right now this gas is just the raw gas coming right out of the Bakken formation,” Anderson said.

GTI-Altronic Inc. developed the bi-fuel technology about 14 years ago, Anderson said. It’s just now appearing in North Dakota as a result of the oil boom, but he said it is in use around the world. High fuel prices have helped, he said.

“It is new to North Dakota, but it’s not new technology. It’s been around a long time, but it’s really taking off in the oil industry,” Anderson said.

Statoil is the only company so far to use the technology on rigs in North Dakota, but other companies are looking on and are going to follow suit, Anderson said. The bi-fuel system has been running on Statoil rigs for seven months and is going very well, he said.

In addition to diesel motors, ECO AFS has completed conversions on boilers, which saves about 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel per day. The boilers can operate on straight natural gas. Anderson said natural gas costs about 40 cents per gallon equivalent, as compared to diesel fuel’s $4 per gallon price tag.

Anderson said about 150 bi-fuel conversions in North Dakota have also been done on generators used to power producing wells that don’t have electricity available to them yet.

A diesel engine can’t be switched completely to natural gas.

“You need to have a portion diesel to keep the engine safe. You need at least 30 percent diesel for lubricity in the engine, and diesel is still the firing mechanism,” Anderson said.

Anderson said ECO AFS is operating in seven states around the country, and they will soon be bi-fueling a rig in Pruhdoe Bay, Alaska.

The technology is well-established elsewhere but new to North Dakota. He said a lot of companies have are watching to see how it works with the Statoil rigs.

“It was a little skeptical getting us in here, but once we got in and they see the results, a lot of people are very interested,” Anderson said.

By Daniel Woods Williston Herald

© 2012 Williston Herald. All rights reserved.

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