The Start of a Flaring Trend

By Staff Report | March 28, 2013

Unused associated gas, natural gas produced with crude oil extraction, in the Bakken may be at the beginning of a declining trend. The Energy & Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota has completed a project to test the validity of a bifuel system that incorporates associated gas into a diesel engine to reduce the amount of gas flared on a well site, and the amount of diesel used for power generation. The system is simple and the results are impressive.

The system routes a gas stream through a pressure regulator to drop the pressure to 1 psi to 2 psi, and then through the air intake manifolds on the generator. “By doing that you meet some of the Btu requirements that the engine requires,” according to Chad Wocken, senior research manager, who compiled the data on the project. With the right mix of associated gas and diesel fuel, the engine will reduce its fuel usage without losing efficiency through engine knock.

On a two-well test over a period of 47 days, the bifuel system reduced diesel usage by 18,000 gallons for a cost savings of $60,000. Wocken says this technology is not new, but it is typically used with a clean stream of natural gas made up of methane. Associated gas contains only 60 percent methane, along with other higher-chain hydrocarbons.

Wocken believes the new technology is already catching on in the Bakken. “Several operators in the Bakken are making it a priority to install these on their rigs,” he says. The units attach directly to a drilling rig. “We have been in such a big hurry to get lease holding wells in place that it has been hard to do anything outside of what is absolutely necessary,” Wocken says.