Pumping fracturing jobs is an equipment killer. To begin with, the job requires running enormous quantities of water and sand through a pump, which is an abrasive mix that damages pumps in ways that cannot be fixed. Adding to the pressure is the trend toward clustering wells on pad sites to allow larger, non-stop, multi-well jobs that extend run time.
To search for new ways to ensure more reliable performance, two large British companies have created a venture on the theory that they can integrate pumps, diesel engines and transmissions to create systems that outperform what is on the market today.
Pump maker Weir Oil and Gas, and diesel engine maker MTU, a Rolls Royce power systems brand, announced the venture to create systems for the hydraulic fracturing market at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston in May. “The mechanisms will be integrated to work as one system with smart controls to optimize performance,” said David Paradis, vice president of sales and marketing for pressure pumping at Weir. He said field testing was expected to begin later this year on equipment resulting from the collaboration.
Engineers from the two companies have been working together for a while and hope to deliver their first system in mid-2015, according to new releases. One area of interest is limiting issues caused by differences in how diesel engines and pumps vibrate, with a goal of mechanically managing these differences in natural frequencies.
Another interest is condition monitoring, which can be used to schedule maintenance before a part fails, or to predict the life of a system, reducing the risk of a pumping unit dying in the middle of a job. To guard against time lost due to breakdowns, operators often pay to have an extra unit around as insurance, Paradis said.
Stephen Rassenfoss is the Emerging Technology Senior Editor for the Journal of Petroleum Technology.