EQT Converts Marcellus Drilling Rigs to Run on LNG

Drilling rigs take a lot of horsepower to run, and the engines that run them are big and use a lot of fuel. That fuel is typically diesel, and the emissions may (or may not) cumulatively contribute to air pollution if there are enough drilling rigs in a particular region. At least that’s the contention of the federal EPA.

EQT, in a public relations coup, is the first to start converting its Marcellus Shale drilling rigs from running on diesel to running on liquefied natural gas (LNG). LNG has a couple of advantages: it costs about 40% less than diesel, and it pollutes less when burned. EQT’s first conversion is a rig operating in northern West Virginia.

From the EQT press release:

EQT Corporation today announced the launch of a pilot program to begin converting drilling rigs to liquefied natural gas (LNG), displacing the diesel used to power equipment at the well site. This program marks the first LNG rig conversion in the Marcellus Shale and will provide a cleaner burning alternative fuel for the region’s drilling operations.

“We want to be a leader in reducing the environmental impacts related to drilling and we are proud to be the first operator in the Marcellus to launch such a program,” states Steve Schlotterbeck, President Exploration and Production for EQT. “Along with safety, protection of the environment is top-of-mind for our employees, contractors, and of course communities. We continually look for opportunities to improve our operations and displacing diesel, by introducing the use of alternatives such as LNG and field gas, is one way of doing so,” Schlotterbeck continued.

LNG is natural gas in its liquid form and from a physical property standpoint is as safe as, or safer than, using traditional fuels, such as propane or diesel. LNG, if exposed, evaporates quickly and leaves no residue on water or soil. Compared to diesel, natural gas emits between 20% and 30% less carbon dioxide and has a fraction of the emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and particulates.

There are other LNG benefits, such as a reduction in fuel costs – with LNG being about 40% less expensive than diesel. The use of LNG also provides another means of reducing our dependence on foreign oil imports – with sourcing coming from various U.S. shale plays. The LNG being used for EQT’s pilot program is produced locally from Marcellus natural gas reserves.

EQT’s initial rig conversion is now operating in Northern West Virginia; and pending evaluation of the pilot program, the Company hopes to convert additional rigs in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.*

Conspicuously missing from EQT’s press release is how much it costs to convert the engines from diesel to LNG, and what they believe the payback period will be.

*EQT Corporation (Jul 5, 2012) – EQT Launches Pilot Program to Convert Marcellus Drilling Rigs to LNG