As US diesel fuel prices hit all-time highs, drillers are looking to fuel reduction technologies that could potentially help ease future pain at the pump while lowering their emissions.

Oilfield services giant Schlumberger has been responding to these concerns by working on engine efficiency technologies for drilling rigs that can reduce diesel consumption, along with its associated emissions and costs, by up to 25%.

Alternative fuels, such as hydrogen, and engine efficiency upgrades have the opportunity to reduce costs and emissions for oil and gas companies looking to remain material in the energy transition.

The use of energy storage technologies such as batteries also can optimise fuel use.

On a typical 1500 horsepower land rig, their application reduces fuel consumption by about 500 gallons on a typical day, Schlumberger low carbon tech marketing manager Simon Edmundson told Upstream.

Diesel prices on Monday surpassed March’s record high prices, hitting $5.62 per gallon for on-highway fuel, according to the Energy Information Administration.

“With the price of diesel at the moment, there’s considerable operating cost reductions,” Paul Sims, vice president of marketing at Schlumberger, said at Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.

The US energy services company’s Intelligent Power Management (IPM) technology uses a battery and automation software to optimise engine performance.

Traditional diesel generator sets use more energy than needed during the cycling drilling process. Schlumberger’s technology automates the process so the battery draws in and puts out power at optimal times.

This can reduce fuel use and its association emissions by up to 25%, the company said, up from its estimated reduction of 12% in a case study with Oklahoma-based Cactus Drilling.

The company declined to share which operator experienced the 25% reduction in the case study, but said 10 rigs currently have the IPM software and are seeing "a material benefit".

Using batteries for storage allows Schlumberger to explore potentially cleaner sources of fuel for the drilling rigs.

“The more you electrify components, the more you have a choice of what kind of energy, what kind of power you can get," Edmundson said.

Schlumberger is working to develop a system whereby a drilling rig can be completely powered by hydrogen fuel cells, eliminating the need for traditional rig generators and their emissions.

The hydrogen fuel cell technology is being piloted this year and is expected to replace diesel on a rig in early 2023, the company told Upstream.

“We believe this presents an opportunity for us to drill a zero-emissions well within the next 12 months,” Sims said.

Scope 3 emissions focus

Reducing customers' emissions from using its technology is part of Schlumberger's path to reducing its Scope 3 emissions. The company's net zero commitment is inclusive of its Scope 3 emissions, a rare sight when most oil and gas companies focus on Scope 1 and 2 emissions.

Sims said the rapidly rising global population creates a growing need for energy, including fossil fuels, but companies need to understand their role in the future with the energy transition.

“Scope 1 and 2 are fairly low-hanging fruit,” Sims said. “It’s really the Scope 3 emissions that will be more challenging.

Scope 3 emissions are outside of a company’s operations and are very difficult to measure.

For example, ExxonMobil advised shareholders to vote against a proposal to reduce its Scope 3 emissions due to the "questionable" reporting methodologies currently in place.

Shell, meanwhile, said government-led policies need to be enacted to address the wider issue of consumer demand for carbon-based fuels when a shareholder activist group threatened legal action against Shell’s board for not acting on climate change by reducing Scope 3 emissions.

Edmundson said Schlumberger had to go through the difficult process of measuring its Scope 3 emissions before it could include it in its net zero commitment.

“To make that commitment, we had to benchmark and understand what our emissions were,” Edmundson said. “Doing a full Scope 3 emissions inventory is inherently complex. And relatively few of the large oil and gas services companies have actually completed this.”

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