- 4 August—Halliburton announced the successful deployment of an advanced, e-fleet spread on a pad of horizontal wells for Chesapeake comprising more than 140 stages in the Marcellus shale. This followed an announcement in January that Halliburton had successfully completed 340 stages for Cimarex in the Permian across multiple horizontal wells, using electric grid power.

- 29 July—US Well Services (USWS) announced it would deploy an e-fleet to support Pioneer Natural Resources’ Midland Basin completion operations for the fourth quarter of this year using locally supplied natural gas, including field gas sourced directly from the wellhead.

- 27 July—Seneca Resources and USWS announced their collaboration on an upcoming six-well field trial in the Appalachian Basin for Seneca’s first completions using all-electric fracturing technology.

- March—NexTier Oilfield Solutions and NOV announced completion of the first phase of field testing of NOV’s electric fracturing pump, comprising 172 stages at pumping rates of up to 22 bpm and an average pumping time of more than 18 hours per day.

Were these the latest barrage in a swift takeover of the North American hydraulic fracturing market by e-fleets? No, but they are evidence of the growing interest among operators, fracturing companies, and service and technology companies in developing and implementing solutions to sustainable shale development that satisfy the “three e’s”—economics, environment, and efficiency.

ESG-Driven Change

The rise of e-fleets is being driven by the US shale sector’s growing concerns over greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions, noise levels, fuel and maintenance costs, and carbon footprints, all of which impact environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) compliance scores and thus, funding for the major operators who now dominate North American shale development. E-fleets are increasingly seen as an environmentally and socially responsible fracturing option that minimizes sound, fire risk, fueling costs, and GHG emissions, offers clean and simple rigup, and significantly increases power density vs. conventional diesel-powered fleets while maintaining the redundancy that efficient frac operations require.

Traditional hydraulic fracturing operations use pumps powered by Tier 2 or lower-emitting Tier 4 diesel engines. The diesel is trucked to the wellsite, then distributed to each pump. While fuel use depends on the specific pressure and flow requirements of each job, it has not been uncommon for high-pressure, high-flow-rate jobs in Texas to consume 4,000 gallons of fuel per stage, requiring 12 or more truckloads per day.

Pump units purchased between 2007 and 2015 generally use higher-emitting Tier 2 diesel engine technology. Cleaner Tier 4 engines became available in 2011 but only became the norm after the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations made lower-emission Tier 4 standards mandatory for frac pumps in 2018.

In July 2014, the first fully electric, fully mobile hydraulic fracturing fleet completely fueled by natural gas was deployed in West Virginia for the Marcellus Shale. “Electric-powered hydraulic fracturing is an important step towards conducting well stimulation in a more environmentally responsible manner,” wrote J.M. Oehring of USWS in paper SPE 177308 in 2015.

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