Renewable energy systems with battery power backup are becoming more commonplace in remote areas to provide electricity to a variety of industrial markets worldwide. But for the oil and gas industry, reliable off-grid power systems are fundamental to the operation of an enormous network of wells found in some of North America’s harshest environments.
The oil and gas industry is focused on achieving the highest efficiency of operations to maximize the output of crude oil and natural gas at its numerous field locations. As part of the upstream sector of the industry, which covers exploration, extraction and production of these natural resources, several different types of equipment are used to ensure the consistent flow of wells and pipelines. This equipment ranges from chemical injection pumps, and remote SCADA monitoring, to onsite lighting and security systems, which all require electricity to operate.
Off grid in harsh environments
Upstream operations are generally located in areas without existing infrastructure and often function off grid. With many of these well sites located in extremely remote areas that are exposed to harsh environmental conditions, oil production companies are faced with the daunting task of ensuring these installations operate reliably and independently, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The adoption of alternative power solutions with battery backup is growing among oil producers. These new power sources are displacing previous methods used to generate power to operate these well sites, which often include diesel generators, pneumatic pumps, and using the onsite natural resource by extracting the natural gas from the well. However, this method has both economic and environmental repercussions, which has prompted oil companies to research the use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind with battery backup to operate these remote sites.
In an industry where unexpected downtime can be costly, a dependable power source is extremely important for 24/7 operations of remote oil and gas well pumps,” said Ken Kotalik, director of global sales/operations at Primus Wind Power. “Wind and hybrid wind/solar turbine equipment used in remote oil/gas well pump applications have become the most effective power source for remote oil well locations.”
The operating environment for off-grid power systems
The location of the well site often poses the greatest challenge for supplying electrical power. Wells and pipelines are typically quite far from the next power grid, and a connection by cable is too expensive or simply not possible due to the large distance, e.g. in Arctic wilderness of Alberta, Canada. In fact, some sites are so remote that they can only be accessed by helicopter and a three-hour hike for a maintenance visit, e.g. to check on pipelines going through the Rocky Mountains. On the other hand, there are some sites that are near power grids, but regulations prevent connection, such as gas wells located at the Dallas airport.
To successfully operate a remote well site, oil and gas producers require various technologies such as wireless data communication applications to function safely. These include the need for data acquisition for monitoring pipelines, regulating equipment, and responding to emergency situations. In addition to providing solar-powered SCADA and RTU (remote terminal units), systems integrators and installers often design solar or wind power packages that address following critical well-site operational requirements:
- Well Site Monitoring & Control
- Multi-well Pad Sites
- Emergency Shutdown Valves
- Wireless Monitor Systems
- Natural Gas Processing
- Chemical Injection Packages
Powering critical oil/gas upstream operations
As these off-grid well-site operations continue to grow, there will continue to be a need for reliable power to maintain the critical infrastructure of oil and gas distribution. Key to the success of these power generations systems are the components used to develop these solutions.
These systems use a hybrid solar panel and wind turbine generator to create electricity which is then stored in batteries.
Combining solar and wind power is an alternate approach to produce clean, non-polluting energy from two of the most abundant renewable energy sources. These systems use a hybrid solar panel and wind turbine generator to create electricity which is then stored in batteries.Some locations have an abundance of sun while others have an abundance of wind. Having a combination system allows you to take the most advantage of the prevailing weather conditions to maximize energy production.
The combination of these two types of power generation systems offers distinct advantages. When one source is not available (overcast skies or calm air), the system will still be able to provide energy from the alternate energy source. The clean, emission-free power acts as a reliable backup or supplemental power source. When both sun and wind are present, the batteries will charge even faster.
Deep-cycle AGM batteries are the best type of battery for use in these systems to meet the demands of oil and gas applications because they are non-spillable and maintenance-free. Because they feature a non-spillable construction, AGM batteries are an efficient power source that can be installed in any type of configuration, including on their sides.
AGM batteries also can withstand the harsh intermittent conditions experienced at some of these remote well sites, however, it is important that site managers ensure the batteries deployed can handle these wide range of extreme temperature fluctuations. For example, Trojan batteries have been tested by third-party labs and have been confirmed to perform at peak levels ranging from -40°F to 160°F, and when operating at temps below 32°F the state of charge must be maintained at 60% or higher.
In addition, when sites are properly sized, AGM batteries deliver the required power to meet autonomy needs of a well site to ensure no interruption in operations.
AGM batteries are ideal for these remote sites because they require little to no maintenance. The absorbed glass mat construction utilizes a fiberglass mat for the separators, which absorbs and contains the electrolyte making them “self-contained” and do not require watering.
Running leaner and more efficiently with alternative power solutions
With the help of solar, wind, and battery power, oil and gas companies can now run leaner, more efficiently, more sustainably, and ensure safer operations of its remote well sites. The growing need for reliable power to maintain the critical infrastructure for oil and gas distribution provides tremendous opportunities for integrators and product manufacturers to work together to bring viable alternative power solutions to the oil and gas market space.
Written by Gustavo A. Beuses, Sales Manager, Oil & Gas for Trojan Battery Co.