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Going greener with intelligent fluid-management system
With the spotlight glaring on the oil and gas industry’s environmental performance as much as it ever has, all sectors of the industry are focusing on greening their operations. At the same time, keeping operations efficient and cost effective is also vital.
In the service sector, Calgary-based BOE Energy Systems has been doing its part to combine these ingredients; the company is an innovator and leader in dewatering and wellsite fluid-management systems.
Its recently introduced SmartSite fluid-management system is an evolution of a couple of concepts Don Smith, president and chief executive officer, developed at his prior company, BOS Rentals Ltd.
In the oil and gas industry, there are two types of drilling fluids used to drill wells: water- and oil-based fluids. Smith notes that in western Canada through the 1980s and 1990s there was a shift away from sump technology and a move into closed-loop or above-ground, pit-type drilling applications. “The technology really wasn’t that efficient,” he says. “We went through several different methods for disposal of the fluids.”
During this same period, drilling rigs went through an evolution, but nobody was examining the fluids management side, so the manner in which companies managed their drilling fluids remained static, which led to inefficiencies, he says.
“Drilling methods continued to evolve with more horizontal drilling replacing conventional vertical wells, and we began to migrate into more invert-based drilling applications in the latter part of the last decade,” Smith notes. “There was a need for more efficient methods of capturing drilling fluids.”
With a majority of horizontal wells being drilled using invert-based drilling fluid, improved fluid-management practices with increased environmental consciousness is a necessity.
“There’s a need for an improved system, something that had the ability to manage the water-based phase, flip over to the oil-based phase and being able to go back to [the] water-based phase,” he adds.
At the heart of BOE’s business is its proprietary and patented SmartSite system, which the company says is the most sophisticated fluid-management system of its kind in the world. It includes a state-of-the-art control room and variable frequency drive recirculation system. “Managed on site in a safe, climate-controlled environment, the system allows significant operational, efficiency and safety benefits,” Smith says.
The technology allows for more accurate control of the fluid density during drilling, allowing the operator to drill faster. This not only saves considerable time and drilling costs, but also means the wellsite will operate faster.
BUILDING ON EXPERIENCE
Smith began his career 30 years ago, working as a roughneck. He moved to a field supervisor position for a small independent oil and gas company before launching his career as an independent drilling and completions consultant.
In 2001, he formed his first service company, BOS. Smith developed the company’s entire product line and was successful in registering four individual patents on various product-line ideas. BOS was sold in 2010 for $110 million.
Having already designed an integrated fluid-management system for water-based applications, he was seeking to adapt it to the new, evolving world of drilling.
Environmental benefits of the SmartSite system include a reduction in water usage of up to 70 per cent, the elimination of reserve pits, more oil recovered and less waste is transferred to landfills, the company says.
The system includes centrifuges, floc tanks, invert tanks and shale bins; it is a complete wellsite fluid-management system designed to allow operators to drill greener, faster, cleaner and safer by integrating advanced and extremely efficient fluid-management technologies into a complete end-to-end system.
The throughput capacity of the SmartSite system means it can handle the high demands of modern drilling techniques. “The fastest sustained drilling rates that I’ve ever witnessed in my career were about 45 metres an hour,” Smith says. “We designed for three times that. The limiting factor of our process capacity is the centrifuge that is processing the slurry mixture that we feed into it.
“At 45 metres an hour, if I design [my system] for 150 metres an hour, I’ve got more than enough surplus capacity to handle it,” he notes. “We’re going to look at what’s happening and we’re going to continue to make sure we’re at the front edge.”
Smith says the company has been working with a major oil and gas producer in the Brazeau area of central Alberta using the SmartSite system. The operator recaptured about 43 cubic metres of oil over the course of the well. This resulted in a “cost recapture” of about $52,000 in oil that the SmartSite system saved from going to the landfill. When compared to a conventional dual centrifuge system without oil recapture, the net saving to the operator was in excess of $38,000 all-in.