Heckmann Water Resources makes major commitment to LNG-fueled trucks in the oilfield
Nov 1, 2011 12:00 PM, By Charles E Wilson
BY SPRING 2012, Heckmann Water Resources Inc will be running more liquefied natural gas-fueled tractors than any other tank truck fleet in North America. Just as significantly, it will be using those tractors in one of the most demanding operating environments: The oilfield.
The 200 LNG-fueled Peterbilt Model 367 and Model 388 tractors that will be delivered to Heckmann in coming months will be used to haul water for oil and gas drilling operations in the Haynesville shale region that covers a large area of northwestern Louisiana and East Texas. This is going to be a real test for the Westport GX engine, which is built on the Cummins ISX 15-liter platform and uses Westport's high-pressure direct-injection technology that runs on a mixture of 95% natural gas and 5% diesel.
“We are dedicated to using equipment that helps develop the market for our customers' product, lowers our carbon footprint, and provides significant cost savings and optimal performance,” says Richard J Heckmann, chairman and chief executive officer of Heckmann Corp. “We are proud to be the first oil and natural gas services provider to offer LNG trucks to our clients and to operate the largest fleet of LNG trucks in North America. We encourage other companies to participate in these affordable, environmentally friendly opportunities as well.”
The oilfield service company's commitment to natural gas as a heavy-duty truck fuel was recognized with the 2011 NGV Achievement Award from the Clean Vehicle Education Foundation and Natural Gas Vehicles for America (NGVAmerica). The award was presented during the 19th Annual Natural Gas Vehicle Summit held October 20-22 in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Heckmann has emerged as a true leader for the natural gas industry,” says Richard Kolodziej, president of NGVAmerica. “Earlier this year, the company placed the single largest order of LNG-powered vehicles in the United States, and we are delighted to recognize such a strong advocate for the natural gas industry.”
The first three production trucks in the order were delivered in October, and were put to work immediately. The oilfield hauler will have 59 LNG-fueled trucks in service by the end of this year, and deliveries will be complete by the end of May 2012.
The new tractors will replace most of Heckmann's fleet of approximately 200 diesel-fueled tractors that are currently running in the Haynesville shale region. Also part of the fleet are roughly 200 vacuum trailers.
“We believe these new LNG-fueled tractors will be ideal for the oilfield,” says Brett Quigley, Heckmann Water Resources fleet director. “We're confident that LNG is the fuel of the future for trucking. As more companies embrace the conversion to LNG, the infrastructure for that fuel will grow. Ultimately, that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create more domestic jobs.
“We derive the bulk of our revenues from the producers of natural gas in this country. It just makes sense that we would do everything possible to: (a) use the product they produce; (b) be able to pass along to them the very significant environmental advantages of burning a much cleaner fuel while performing the functions needed to help them produce that fuel; (c) be able to pass along to them the significant reduction in fuel costs, thereby reducing the costs to the ultimate customer of their product; and (d) by converting our large fleet to LNG, we are setting a competitive standard that should drive other fleet conversions, creating even more demand for natural gas. This is definitely a customer-driven effort.”
In addition to the Haynesville shale formation, Heckmann Water Resources supports oil and natural gas drilling operations in the Eagle Ford shale and Barnett shale areas (both in Texas) and in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations that underlie a large part of the US northeast.
Parent company Heckmann Corp focuses on total water solutions for shale or “unconventional” oil and gas exploration and production operations. Heckmann Water Resources provides a range of services that include fresh water supply; water transport, treatment, and disposal; well testing; pipeline transport facilities; and water infrastructure.
The company has two water pipelines in the Haynesville shale region. One is a 50-mile produced water pipeline that has been expanded to provide a capacity of approximately 100,000 barrels of water a day. The second is a 40-mile fresh water pipeline extending from the Sabine River. Currently under construction, the fresh water pipeline will have a 60,000-barrel-per-day capacity and should be placed into initial operation by the end of this year. The company also owns disposal wells with a permitted capacity of approximately 368,000 barrels a day.
Water is the key ingredient in the hydraulic fracturing operations used to release oil and gas from the shale formations. A single well can take as much as five million gallons of fresh water for drilling and hydrogracturing.
“We'll haul in every gallon of fresh water needed to drill and frack a well,” says Mark Smith, Heckmann Water Resources operations manager for the Haynesville shale region. “Fracking alone can take as much as 750 loads of water (hauled in 130-barrel vacuum trailers).
“Once the well is in production, we begin pulling that water out and hauling it for recycle or to one of our disposal facilities. About 20% comes out right away as flowback, and the rest occurs over 10 to 20 years. On average, a producing well can generate around 14 loads of process water a week.
“The process water typically contains brine. We rarely see any indication of oil in it, and it can be hauled as a non-hazardous liquid.”
In addition to water used in the drilling process, Heckmann Water Resources transports waste water generated during drilling rig cleanings. The company also transports oil-based drilling mud.
All of this keeps the Heckmann Water Resources fleet very busy. Tractors and trailers run virtually around the clock 24/7/365. Tractors average 100,000 miles annually.
Operating conditions are harsh to say the least. Access roads to the well sites are graveled at best. Dusty and rough, the roads can beat a truck to pieces. Rain, snow, and ice make the operating environment even tougher.
Oilfield hauling also is a competitive business, which means Heckmann Water Resources fleet managers want to make sure they are running the most cost-effective vehicles that the company can afford.
“We've had great success with Peterbilt tractors in our operation,” Quigley says. “They build tough equipment that meets the demands of the oilfield. We believe Peterbilt offers Heckmann Water Resources an edge on reliability, durability, residual values, and — especially — driver recruitment.
“When our company began exploring the viability of switching to LNG-fueled tractors, there was no question that we were going to stick with Peterbilt. We worked closely with Peterbilt and Westport to develop the right specifications for these tractors. We chose the Westport engine and LNG fuel because that arrangement provides the higher horsepower we need in the oilfield.
“It's important to note that federal and state incentives played no role in our initial decision to buy these trucks. We took this step because we believe LNG is the fuel of the future for trucking. That said, we would welcome incentives in the future to help offset the higher acquisition costs related to the LNG technology.”
The company ordered a mix of Model 367 and 388 daycabs and 30 Model 388s with 36-inch sleepers. The basic powertrain specification is the same for all of the tractors: 15-liter Westport GX LNG-fueled engine rated at 475 horsepower and 10-speed Eaton Fuller manual transmission.
The Westport GX engine uses natural gas as the primary fuel, along with a small amount of diesel as a pilot ignition source or “liquid spark plug.” At the heart of the system is a patented injector with a dual-concentric needle design. It allows small amounts of diesel and large amounts of natural gas to be delivered at high pressure to the combustion chamber.
Under the pressures found in the combustion chamber of a typical diesel engine, natural gas requires a higher ignition temperature than diesel. With the Westport GX process, the diesel is injected into the cylinder first, rapidly igniting the hot combustion products, including the natural gas. Because diesel fuel is part of the process, the engine has a selective catalytic reduction emission control system and diesel particulate filter.
Each Heckmann Water Resources tractor has two saddle-mounted LNG fuel tanks with a total capacity equivalent to 190 gallons of diesel. In addition, each tractor has a 90-gallon diesel tank and 15-gallon diesel exhaust fluid tank.
Cab interiors are comfortable, but definitely are outfitted with the oilfield work environment in mind — rubber floor mats, for instance. Heckmann Water Resources specifies its tractors with a full gauge package on the dash — exceptions being a methane fume detector and a digital readout for the LNG fuel tanks.
Safety equipment includes the Bendix ESP roll stability system with active cruise control and braking. For water handling, tractors are specified with PTO-driven National Vacuum Equipment vacuum pumps.
On the trailer side, Heckmann Water Resources runs primarily Dragon non-code carbon steel vacuum trailers with a 130-barrel capacity. Dual four-inch outlets at the rear are standard, and the trailers carry petroleum grade hoses with Dixon fittings. Trailer specifications include Watson-Chalin air-ride suspensions.
Although just a few of the LNG-fueled tractors in the 200-truck had been delivered at the time this report was published in Bulk Transporter, the company has been giving as many of its drivers as possible an opportunity to drive the new trucks.
“We're getting a great response,” Quigley says. “They are telling us that the trucks with the LNG engines perform well and are quieter than diesel-fueled tractors. Prior to getting behind the wheel of one of these trucks, drivers go through an hour long training session that explains the LNG gauges on the dash and the actual fueling process associated with LNG.”
Quigley adds that the new LNG-fueled tractors play a role in helping make Heckmann Water Resources a preferred employer, a critical factor in the very competitive oilfield sector. Finding good drivers can be especially difficult.
“Equipment can be a big factor in attracting the best drivers,” Quigley says. “That is one reason we run premium Peterbilt tractors, and the trucks with the LNG engines are getting plenty of attention out in the field.
“We look for drivers who want to be part of a growing company that wants to be an industry leader in the oilfield. In addition to excellent equipment, we offer drivers very good compensation and incentive packages.”
The company looks for truck drivers who are at least 23 years old and have a minimum of three years truck-driving experience. In addition to a valid commercial driver license with a tank endorsement, the company seeks applicants with a hazardous materials endorsement.
Training for new hires includes the Smith System safe driving program. In addition, drivers must complete an eight-hour in-house course on the SafeLandUSA program for oilfield operations. An exploration-and-production-sector-driven program, the instruction covers confined spaces, rigging, hydrogen sulfide, lockout/tagout, fall protection, hazmat, hazard communication, personal protective equipment, hearing conservation, emergency response, Hazwoper, fire protection, respiratory protection, Terrorism Response Awareness Program (TARP), and back safety.
During training, drivers work days but most are moved to nights when the training concludes. “Opportunities to move back to days come along as drivers move up in seniority,” Smith says. “This is a 24-hour-a-day operation, and we run three 12-hour shifts. Drivers work four days on and two days off.”
This sort of high-activity operation should be just right for the new LNG-fueled tractors. “We should be able to achieve a good return on investment in addition to the environmental benefits,” Quigley says. “We're going to show that LNG truly is a viable truck fuel for today and the future.”
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