Pump OEMs Address Oil and Gas Trends
Michelle Segrest | April 13, 2017
Pump suppliers discuss trends and challenges in the oil and gas industry involving smart technology, competitive delivery, and optimized equipment efficiency.
Speed, portability, and reliability are key factors in optimizing production times and the bottom line in the oil and gas industry, according to experts from major pumping technology companies.
Glenn Webb, senior product specialist for Blackmer, Grand Rapids, MI, a leading brand from PSG, (Oakbrook Terrace, IL) said that the most obvious positive manifestation of the ongoing oil and natural gas production boom in the United States can be seen on street corners across the nation. At the end of January 2014, the average price at the pump nationwide for a gallon of gasoline was $3.28. One year later, the price for a gallon of gas had plummeted to $2.04.
Increased production in such prominent shale fields as the Bakken in North Dakota, Eagle Ford in Texas, Niobrara in Colorado, and Marcellus and Utica in New York, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, has increased the demand for gathering, transport, and terminal systems that can store raw crude oil and natural gas until it can be shipped by truck, train, or pipeline for refinement and consumption With these increased challenges come innovative solutions.
Some companies offer valve and pump products with smart instrumentation to monitor factors such as motor vibration, pump vibration, inlet pressure, outlet or discharge pressure, pipeline temperature, gear-box oil temperature, voltage, amp draw, supply pressure to valve controllers, actuator blow by, and smart-wear monitoring of internal wear components, according to Todd Loudin, president of North American Operations and VP Global Sales for Flowrox Inc., Linthicum, MD.
Loudin said Flowrox has experienced three major challenges for the oil and gas industry:
The price of crude. Many oil producers, especially within shale regions, require a minimum of $30/barrel. But only about 50% of the wells in the Bakken or Permian Basin break even at $30/barrel. The other 50% break even at around $60/barrel. There are some wells that have difficulty breaking even at as high as $100.
Capital investment has been slashed by the industry. Of course, investments will occur that are imperative to continued production, but budgets have been constrained, Loudin said.
A significant reduction in work force. One solution that the oil industry has embraced, according to Loudin, is intelligent instrumentation and monitoring for the production and refining process. “Some of these systems are not ideal and useable to the people doing maintenance or rebuild work,” Loudin stated. “The main variables are typically displayed on a distributed-control system (DCS) with an operator who can provide information on pressure, temperature, flow, and other variables. However, the person in the field does not have easy access to this information. One way we are helping companies in all industries is through our Malibu Smartware. This system creates a 3D visual of the process and process equipment. Key operational information on a given asset can be viewed by an operator or maintenance person on their smart phone, tablet, or PC, wherever they are. They can be standing right in front of the asset and see operating parameters, maintenance videos, drawings, past work history on the asset and even can get confirmation about spare parts in stock for repair.”
This software captures data regardless of where it is stored in the facility or offshore rig and provides it at the device level with only one username and password. To further expand on the use of smart software, it can allow condition monitoring of all kinds of assets, Loudin added. Through predictive analytics, the system learns what a normal condition looks like. When anomalies occur, warnings are sent to maintenance personnel.
These solutions can be cloud based or housed on the owner’s servers or their own secure cloud. The system uses the same encryption as the Internet banking industry.
Mark Weidmann, vice president sales-Midstream/Downstream O&G at PumpWorks610, a DXPE Company (Houston) said that customers ask him everyday, “Do our pumps, products, and services address cost, quality, efficiency, and reliability issues?” He said the simple answer is “yes,” however, this doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
Weidmann explained that his company is experiencing seven key trends:
Speed of delivery. “The longer you wait for your pump supplier to get back to you with what you requested, the more money you lose,
“Investment in manufacturing efficiencies and getting pump selection information into the hands of customers is vital. The issue that we now face is that demand has outstripped supply. This is especially true in the case of centrifugal pumps engineered for specific applications and specifications.”
Mergers and acquisitions. “We all see the acquisitions happening in the industry now,” he said. “The big companies get bigger and the lead times for projects are getting smaller and tighter. DXP Rotating Equipment Divisions’ ability to remain nimble and supremely focused on the engineering, manufacturing, testing, and delivery of these highly specialized centrifugal pumps remains key to our core values.”
Price. Material selection has become critical, Weidmann stated. “For example, carbon steel can save money over ductile iron,” he said. “But it’s not just about the quality of the metallurgy, it’s also about intangibles.” Companies who offer in-house engineering and testing, and extended warranties, are getting a competitive edge.
Supply and demand imbalances seem to be tightening. Most outlooks call for supply and demand equilibrium by early 2017.
Moderate demand. Global and U.S. oil demand continues to show moderate but steady growth.
LNG export. More U.S. LNG export capacity is expected to hit the market.
Cost control. Oil companies have learned how to operate in a lower-price environment, returning to a healthier focus on capital and operating cost discipline.
Weidmann said his company tackles these challenges with vertical integration of its manufacturing processes.
The increase in oilfield activity has also meant a corresponding increase in the amount of vapors that are created and emitted during production, transportation, and storage, according to Webb. To prevent the escape and loss of these vapors—which are saleable assets in addition to being potentially dangerous to the environment—many operators installing vapor-recovery units (VRUs) at their oilfield storage sites.
“The growth in the amount of vapors that are a by-product of oilfield production activities is not going away,” Webb said. “Neither is the attention that regulatory agencies will be paying to the levels of vapors that are emitted into the atmosphere and whether or not they can be harmful. That’s because many oilfield vapors have been classified as hazardous air pollutants or volatile organic compounds by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
Basically defined, a VRU is a system composed of a scrubber, compressor, driver, and controls designed to recover vapors that are formed inside completely sealed crude-oil or condensate storage tanks. During the VRU’s operation, the controls detect pressure variations inside the tank and turn the compressor on and off as the interior pressure exceeds or falls below pre-determined settings. When the compressor is running, it passes the vapors through the scrubber, where any liquid is trapped and returned to the tank, while the vapor is recovered and compressed into natural-gas lines.
As the oil and gas industry faces changing demand, low per-barrel prices, large supplies with varying extraction costs, and competition from renewable resources, producers are turning to manufacturers of pumps and related control equipment for increased reliability, efficient performance, and solutions for product handling and storage. Pump manufacturers are delivering, resulting in higher efficiency throughout the oil-and-gas handling process.