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Fight your fuel costs

Innovative ideas designed to save your gas dollars.


July 5, 2012
By Julie Fitz-Gerald

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Big rig operators have taken a huge hit in recent years thanks to dramatic increases in diesel and gasoline prices: a hit that can drain revenue almost as quickly as it comes in.

Big rig operators have taken a huge hit in recent years thanks to dramatic increases in diesel and gasoline prices: a hit that can drain revenue almost as quickly as it comes in.

Fuel efficiency has become paramount for drillers who want to maintain a profitable business. This hot topic is spurring suppliers in the industry to provide solutions, resulting in the emergence of innovative technologies and programs to help rig operators reclaim lost income.

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One program generating buzz within the industry is the first-of-its-kind Carbon Offset Aggregation Cooperative (COAC) in British Columbia. Launched in January 2011, COAC helps its members reduce the amount of fossil fuel used in their fleets by adding technology, modifying equipment and increasing awareness of rig operators, leading to reduced fuel consumption. Through fuel reduction, members earn carbon offsets, which the COAC aggregates and then sells, transfers or trades, with the proceeds being returned to the member as a dividend.

There is a $100 fee per company to become a member of the COAC. The cooperative also retains a percentage of a member’s carbon offset sales for administration purposes, and charges a service fee on members’ fuel savings. In return, COAC provides manufacture-trained installers who ensure all equipment meets or exceeds industry standards. An install of COAC equipment takes approximately five hours for non-hydraulic rigs and approximately 10 hours for hydraulic rigs and can be scheduled between shifts or during regular downtime to minimize impact on daily operations. Once installed, COAC will train the owner and any additional staff in the operations. The cost for COAC equipment varies depending on the rig and financing is available if needed. With the opportunity to reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions, COAC members can bring about positive change in their businesses while also improving their bottom line.

On the technology side, Schramm, a century-old manufacturer and global supplier to the hydraulic drill industry, focuses on developing groundbreaking products that provide greater efficiency. The West Chester, Pa.-based company launched its innovative air-Control System for new and used Schramm rigs two years ago, providing operators with fuel savings of more than 10 per cent.

Gregory Hillier, product manager at Schramm, explains that traditional air compressors typically produce a greater volume of air than is required down the hole, leaving the balance of air to be vented into the atmosphere. This air loss is a prime culprit of inefficiency on the rig.

“Basically our system monitors the compressor demand by the tools that are down the hole and it matches the compressor output to the required consumption, while also matching the cooling fan speed to the demand of the compressor. That’s really where the fuel savings come in,” Hillier says.

Schramm’s electronic air-Control System can be included as part of a package when purchasing a new Schramm rig or it can be purchased as a retrofit for the company’s older model rigs.

“To gain the full benefit of the features of the system, you need to have a machine that has an electronically controlled engine, which has been common on rigs in the last eight to 10 years,” Hillier explains.

While there are many variables that can impact the overall cost for a retrofit kit, Hillier notes that operators can expect to recover the total cost in as little as one year.

In its spring 2012 newsletter, Schramm announced that it is in the midst of developing another exciting innovation centred on fuel efficiency: dual fuel systems. Currently, the technology is being developed for the oil and gas industry, where rigs run around the clock and natural gas is more accessible. Hillier says that until the transmission and portability of natural gas is further developed, it will be difficult to expand the technology into the water well drilling industry; however, it remains a very real possibility for the future.

“Certainly the concept is good. When that technology is available, to have ample supplies of compressed natural gas available, then it is really an efficient system and there are some potentially incredible savings.”

While fuel prices will continue to pack a punch, big rig operators can take a collective sigh of relief knowing that new innovations and programs are emerging every day to help lower fuel consumption and increase fuel efficiency. It is a winning combination that puts greater control back into the hands of Canada’s drillers.