As seen in Energy Executive Fall 2015 issue:
On-Site With Robert Magyar, managing director of Navitus Strategies
The oil and gas industry may be battling the renewable energy sector for market share in what remains an uneven fight, but that doesn’t mean traditional energy can’t use alternative fuel sources for its power needs. In fact, as Robert Magyar tells it, oil and gas operators throughout the United States are harnessing the power of the sun and wind to keep costs in check and decrease their environment footprint. Magyar, managing director of Navitus Strategies, took time to speak with Energy Executive magazine about renewable energy’s role in the oil and gas business.
1) How is the oil and gas industry utilizing renewable energy?
With the arrival of hydraulic fracking operations in the remote areas of Pennsylvania, Texas, and North Dakota, the level of infrastructure has resulted in a greater use of solar panels and DC-to-AC inverters for running and maintaining ongoing field operations. A handful of renewable energy solutions providers, such as Ameresco, pre-design, ship and install solar-powered onsite systems to run supervisory control and data acquisition equipment, remote telemetry, seismic equipment, remote measurement, cathodic protection, valve control, injection pumps, and many other applications.
Solar-powered oil and gas field service solutions are typically in the 100-to-1,100 watt power ranges with 800-watt, free standing systems complete with battery backup being one of the most common. Monitoring of compressor stations is another application where solar modules and battery storage play a key role.
2) What are the benefits of using renewable energy in the oil and gas energy?
Given the locations of most hydraulic fracking operations, it’s not very likely local electric utilities can provide end-of-grid line service at a price which makes sense for oil and gas development companies or through their oil field services supply processes. On-site solar, with and without battery backup, can easily and quickly set up on site, then be configured to the specific wattage requirements at the site.
They do not generally require a separate permitting process, and the modules can be reused at other future drilling, storage, or compression sites due to the 25-year warranty of the majority of Underwriters Laboratories-certified solar modules on the market today.
3) What geographic regions can benefit most from renewable energy in the oil and gas industry?
Strong sun states such as Texas and California come to mind for most, however, solar modules have proven to be a valuable source of free on-site energy in virtually all of North and South America. With solar modules now in 330-watt range, several modules together can handle the majority of remote low wattage applications per site. As for high-load profile applications, on-site diesel generators will continue to play a strong role in the oil and gas fields combined with solar modules and batteries. This will become increasingly clear as pipeline infrastructure expands, such as what is occurring today in the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale formation in the northeast and southeast regions of Pennsylvania. The use of a new generation of micro inverters, as in one small inverter per solar module, improves operating efficiency and electricity production in such areas of the United States as the greater Northeast and Midwest oil and gas regions.
4) What can be done about the lack of information regarding the use of solar modules and batteries in the oil and gas business?
Unfortunately, there remains a fairly significant divide between the oil and gas industry and the renewable energy industries. The mistaken belief we can run the U.S. economy on solar and wind power is both unrealistic and misleading. The oil and gas industries’ historical view of alternative energy sources as somehow threatening the economic viability of the industry is equally unhealthy as well.
The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle. Many people would be surprised to learn, for example, that Texas is the leading producer of wind energy power in the United States while it remains, for many, the center of the oil and gas industry. It’s really incumbent upon the alternative energy industry as the newer entrants to engage the oil and gas industry and demonstrate the durable value proposition as to what they can offer. Executives of many oil and gas firms know and accept economic value when they see it while many a rig hand sees value in having rigs up and running sooner rather than later. When the economic argument becomes clearer over time in regard to solar and batteries, the oil and gas industry will continue to expand the use of these technologies.
5) What is on the horizon for renewable energy use in the oil and gas industry?
Look for higher wattage solar modules to come on the market over the next five years combined with fully integrated battery storage systems using either valve regulated lead acid sealed batteries and lithium ion battery chemistry.
Ship-to-site fully integrated battery storage systems which are vandal proof, plug-and-play requiring less installation time combined are rapidly coming into market