It looks like the US will become energy self sufficient if not an exporter of Oil & Gas. There is plenty of data to support this expectation. Use of advanced horizontal and fracking technology has allowed the recovery of Oil & Gas in tight formations such as the Bakken in South Dakota, Marcellus in the east and other formations in Texas.
So what does this mean for those of us in the Industrial Process and Industrial Products World. Well several things. According to an article, I saw in an ISA e-mail, we have a potential resurgence of manufacturing here in the good old USA. Why? Natural Gas is the key, it is the big driver.
Natural gas is used to produce very efficient clean energy mostly electricity. By using super efficient gas turbines, efficiencies of over 50% can be reached. It gets better if there is a nearby industry that can use the waste heat off the back end of the turbine efficiencies can approach 60%-70% of the energy consumed. So now we can have low cost electricity, with a much lower carbon foot print than coal. Electricity drives many manufacturing processes but it gets even better.
Natural Gas not Oil is the main feedstock for producing plastics. Cheap natural gas means the USA has the potential to be the low cost producer of plastics. Molding plastics depends on electricity so this is a double win. Not only will the USA have an advantage in Energy we could be the low cost producer of plastics.
How does all this benefit the Industrial Process and Industrial Products World? Producing Oil & Gas from tight formation using newer technologies is not simple or easy. The process of fracking involves using special fluids under high pressure to fracture the tight formation. Once the rock formation fractured they inject materials such as sand called a propant to keep the fractures open. When the pressure is let off all the water and other fluids injected come out and need to be captured and dealt with. The fluids often contain Brine, Drilling Mud, chemicals, and other minerals. Processing these fluids so the can be recycled and/or released will be a major industry that will only grow. This looks to be a major market segment that deserves targeting. Environmental restrictions will only get tighter.
Even for ordinary Oil & Gas fields things are changing. The easy oil is gone, that is the primary production of Oil under it’s own pressure. Next comes Secondary production, which requires pumping, after that it is tertiary production which requires advanced technologies to get the oil out such as Steam Injection, Carbon Dioxide Injection Etc. Many US oil fields are in tertiary production, with a need for advanced instrumentation to monitor these cutting edge processes.
When in Tertiary Production one byproduct is lots of wastewater. For example, 30 years ago producing one barrel of oil produced 2 barrels of wastewater, now its about7 barrels of wastewater, in about 20 years it is predicted to be 20 barrels of waste water per barrel of oil produced. It is not hard to guess that this water isn’t clean and it will need our process instruments to help clean it up. One other side benefit our suppliers will provide us with lower cost plastic parts.