PITTSBURGH—As shale operators move toward producing what could be more than 7.3 million barrels of oil and nearly 70 billion cubic feet of gas per day from seven major U.S. shale regions in July, thoughts remain on sustaining lower costs and reducing emissions.

Some companies have turned to natural gas, instead of diesel, to fuel electric fracturing fleets to do just that. The move comes with the added benefits of reduced site footprints and quieter operations among others, according to Chris Combs of Evolution Well Services, a Texas-based company that provides 100% natural gas-fueled pressure pumping equipment powered electrically.

Combs spoke recently during Hart Energy’s DUG East conference and exhibition about some of the benefits of using field gas to power equipment, specifically with Evolution’s patented technology that uses a mobile-gas turbine generator—a General Electric LM2500+G4 that produces 35 MW or 46k HHP.

Electric-powered fracturing equipment is used to power 7k horsepower (HHP) frack pump trailers, 240 bbl/m dual blenders, modular chemical additive skids among other equipment. “By having this much horsepower on each pump trailer and many engineering enhancements we’ve taken a 56,000 horsepower fleet down to 18 trailers,” he said.

The turbine used to power Evolution’s fleet are the same one used to power Boeing 747s and the Airbus 300 series, Combs said.

“The associated economics by being able to utilize a turbine that burns field gas are undeniable,” Combs said. He cited an example, using the company’s online fuel savings calculator, which showed how eliminating 100% of diesel on location could result in savings of between about $1 million and $1.2 million.

“The turbine will compensate based on the btu content of the gas,” he added. “If fairly rich gas is being supplied the turbine will consume reduced gas volume per hour due to the higher energy content in say 1400 btu gas compared to 1,000 btu gas. … The turbine is actually very forgiving of gas quality.”

Compared to conventional fleets, Combs claims Evolution’s technology also reduces fracturing equipment footprint by 55%; requires a smaller crew of 10 vs 20; has lower noise levels of 85 dB compared to 115 dB at a distance of 3 m from the turbine and provides fracturing fuel flexibility. Either field gas, CNG or LNG may be used.

Using natural gas to power equipment can deliver up to 95% in fuel cost savings compared to diesel fuel, Evolution has said. Combs added that there is little preparation needed on customers’ part as far as preparing natural gas infrastructure ahead of a frack job to supply field gas to the turbine, because supply lines already used in the completion process are utilized.

So far, Evolution’s first fleet has pumped more than 1 billion pounds of sand, clocked more than 4,500 operational pumping hours and saved 8.2 million gallons of diesel from being consumed, according to Combs. The company has six fleets under construction with commercialization set for third-quarter 2018.

CNX Resources Corp. (NYSE: CNX) is among the latest companies to sign up to use Evolution’s fleet, having inked in June a three-year agreement for a 56,000 HHP 100% electric fracturing fleet. CNX, which is chasing stacked pay potential in the Marcellus and Utica, said it is the first company in the Appalachian Basin to commit to such technology.

“This will be a game changer,” CNX COO Tim Dugan said, “and it’s really the next step change in the operational efficiency frontier and exactly the kind of disruption that we’re focused on.”

Velda Addison can be reached at vaddison@hartenergy.com.