Coal, O&M, Policy & Regulations

Temporary Power Solutions for Water Management in Unconventional Oil & Gas Exploration

Issue 11 and Volume 118.

As unconventional oil and gas operations that require sophisticated temporary power solutions for water management continue to grow, the need for highly credible power providers will become more crucial Aggreko
As unconventional oil and gas operations that require sophisticated temporary power solutions for water management continue to grow, the need for highly credible power providers will become more crucial. Photo courtesy: Aggreko

By Forrest Marsh, Aggreko

Unconventional oil and gas field exploration and production in the United States is anything but typical. New shale field discoveries are promising record amounts of production, leading to an exponential increase in the number of stages of hydraulic fracturing to access previously inaccessible resources. With this increase of shale activity comes a critical component that oil and gas operators need to consider – strategic water management in shale gas plays and how temporary power solutions aid the process. Water is the key component and managing its use, complex.

A significant increase in the need for water to support hydraulic fracturing is growing, resulting in higher than expected volumes of produced and flowback water, thereby creating a demand for better water management practices. Water management decisions within shale gas production fall into two primary categories: water use for hydraulic fracturing and the disposal process from drilling and production. According to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, it is estimated a Bakken well requires 1 million to 5 million gallons of water for hydraulic fracturing and 20 million to 30 million gallons of water a day…equating to 7.3 billion to 11 billion gallons of water needed over the next few decades. Because of this demand, growing volumes of flowback and produced water from shale gas plays are creating a compelling market opportunity for water technology and service providers that can aid in the water management process.

As a result of market opportunity, many operators are leveraging temporary power generation solutions to support various components of onsite water management needs including: managing power for water handling and related processes, including: disposal and/or treatment of produced water; energizing low and high pressure pumps allowing for the delivery of fresh water from holding tanks to assist fracking operations; and,

powering the filtration process needed to sweeten or clean the gas supply of hydrogen sulfide.

Consider the Power Source

Before implementing a temporary power solution to meet a project’s unique water management needs, operators must weigh and measure potential power challenges and constraints. If these issues are not properly addressed early, the operator can expect to face increased downtime of their process and unnecessary additional costs.

First, a qualified temporary power provider should be knowledgeable of the required water volume needed for operations as well as its effect on power requirements and associated power generation load sizing. Every project requires a different power solution to achieve production efficiencies. The power management company should be able to determine requirements and help identify engineered solutions that match the operation’s power needs through the full lifecycle of a water management support project.

They must be proficient in determining what power systems or configurations are most optimal for a site’s water management needs. If the volume of water (pumped, disposed or processed) is expected to fluctuate over the course of the operation, a scalable solution may be required. In remote locations lacking power, temporary power generation equipment ranging from 150 kW to 10 MW can be deployed quickly and set in parallel to operate as one system. This will also serve well during periods of service or maintenance, when redundant or back-up power has been built in to keep operations running and production at optimal uptime levels.

Second, a reputable provider should identify cost efficiencies while also meeting base load delivery in fracturing operations when water volumes are the greatest. Per the scalability needs of the temporary power package, determine what makes the most logical sense for the load characteristics of the project. Can it be reconfigured on an on-going basis to meet project objectives? A static power solution versus a scalable option implemented for purposes of water management can affect reliability and delay or stop operations, resulting in increased operating expenses or unnecessary capital expenditure commitments.

Third, temporary power providers must have a thorough understanding of all relevant operational and environmental regulations for power generation pertaining to onsite water management that supports drilling activity. It is important the provider understand the unique environmental landscape in which an operator is working and that it meets all emissions requirements. Regulations vary from basin to basin and state to state, and the power solutions must meet local, state and federal environmental regulations specific to onsite water management.

Fourth, an operator should consider a temporary power provider’s engineering capabilities, experience, and ethics during the selection process. Partnering with an established provider who has a proven track record will provide operators with added assurance that they will offer consulting and assistance through the full lifecycle of the project. Temporary power providers with a “been there, done that” record are valuable partners to add to any team. Beware of companies promoting new power solutions and lower costs without a verifiable track record, comparable project examples or in-house engineering support.

Finally, select a temporary power provider with an established safety program. With oil and gas operations in North America continuing to ramp up production, producers and service providers are running 24/7 to ensure the highest levels of productivity. However, in an urgency to meet production and revenue goals, jobsite safety can often times be deprioritized or sometimes completely overlooked. A strong safety culture or Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) program must be evident with a strict adherence policy by the temporary power provider and their employees during on- and off-site operations. This is essential to not only guarantee a successful outcome, but also to ensure the overall well-being of all participants operating onsite.

Many operators in unconventional oil and gas production are also leveraging temporary power generation solutions to match their onsite water management requirements Aggrekoa
Many operators in unconventional oil and gas production are also leveraging temporary power generation solutions to match their onsite water management requirements. Photo courtesy: Aggrekoa

Proven Field Results

A recently purchased and remote oil and gas development site in North America needed enough power for water flooding, which involved injecting a combination of water and CO2 into an older, existing reservoir. However, the present power grid was not designed for the anticipated load and required an update to the substation and additional power lines to begin operations. With insufficient access to full-capacity grid power, the operator faced the critical questions of whether to wait for the upgrade or find a scalable, temporary option that would also fall within environmental requirements set by the state.

To address the customer’s concerns, temporary power provider, Aggreko, assembled a project team to help the customer improve their processes and operations, enhance bottom-line performance and address environmental concerns. The team assessed utility demands, which included one 1018 horse power electric submersible pump. At 1283 amperage, this was a considerable amount that the grid would not be able to supply for at least 10 months. The provider’s objective was to design an equipment package comparable to the grid while meeting the Best Available Control Technology (BACT) requirement for emissions as regulated by the State. The final design needed to incorporate a scalable option to quickly ramp up or down with changing power requirements while allowing for 100 percent uptime.

The engineered system included seven low-emission Tier 4 power generators set up in parallel, with six units planned for full operation and one of the units dedicated to serve as a redundant back-up solution during maintenance. The configuration was also set up to allow the customer to achieve maximum operational and cost-saving efficiencies. For example, if only five generators were required to maintain load, the sixth unit would be shut down to conserve costs.

Using an engineered temporary power management system allowed the customer to begin the flooding process 10 months sooner than anticipated while providing the versatility to scale back without losing time between equipment setup configurations. Further, the paralleling option allowed the pump to function at full capacity while operating within low emission requirements.


As unconventional oil and gas operations that require sophisticated temporary power solutions for water management continue to grow, the need for highly credible power providers will become more crucial. Partnering with the right provider helps to ensure that projects of any size and complexity are designed, installed and operated safely and cost-effective-from start up to shut down – to meet short – and long-term needs of water management.


Forrest March is Business Development Manager for Oil & Gas at Aggreko North America.

More Power Engineering Issue Articles
Power Engineerng Issue Archives
View Power Generation Articles on