Unconventional Gas, Innovative Power: GE Jenbacher Engines Powering LNG-Fueled Drilling Rigs 0

Matthew Van Dusen | Tue Nov 27 2012 |

The Marcellus formation is a massive deposit of marine sedimentary rock, largely in Pennsylvania, that may contain 141 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Tapping those deposits while limiting environmental impacts has become a priority for energy developers.

That’s one reason why Seneca Resources Corp. and Ensign Drilling have installed two of GE’s Jenbacher liquefied natural gas (LNG) engines to power drilling rigs operating in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania. The LNG-powered rigs are the first of their kind in the area, which hosts a massive supply of unconventional natural gas.

The change may reduce emissions from combustion by up to 25 percent.

Another incentive for the upgrade? The bottom line—the new engines are more efficient and can reduce fuel costs by 60 percent.

The LNG units, installed in October and November, replaced diesel engines on two rigs working on Seneca’s unconventional gas project. Each 1-megawatt Jenbacher J320 turbocharged natural gas engine is producing enough power to supply all operations on the rig.

GE’s Jenbacher type 3 gas engines, which are ecomagination qualified, produce power in the 500 to 1,100 kW range. The 320’s turbocharger keeps the machine operating at peak performance with low gas pressure. The J320 represents GE’s first U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certified technology for mobile and stationary drilling applications.

“Our fuel-flexible Jenbacher gas engine technology offers customers lower-emission onsite power-generating capabilities, making it ideally suited to support Seneca Resources and Ensign Drilling’s LNG initiative that will serve as a model for other operators in the Marcellus Shale region,” said Roger George, North America general manager —Gas Engines for GE Power & Water.

The two latest upgrades join Ensign’s fleet of 15 LNG-powered rigs operating in the United States; 11 of those are operating exclusively on GE’s Jenbachers.

Unconventional supplies like the Marcellus shale are quickly becoming the most abundant source of natural gas in the United States and now account for about a quarter of U.S. natural gas production. By 2035, half of U.S. natural gas will come from unconventional sources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

This latest project once again underscores the oil and gas industry’s increased deployment of more efficient and cleaner onsite power solutions.

Ensign President and CEO Robert Geddes said, ““We are excited to work with our partner, Seneca Resources, to implement this innovative project that is using LNG in GE’s proven Jenbacher gas engines to reduce the environmental impacts of energy production while giving communities in Pennsylvania the opportunity to share in the economic benefits of developing the Marcellus Shale gas reserves.”

Top image: The Jennbacher J320