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Problem-Driven Innovation

Problem-Driven Innovation

Developing Alternative Technology to Imp...

Valve Repair Takes Center Stage in Houston

Valve Repair Takes Center Stage in Houston

Attendees gathered June 2-3 in Houston t...

What Internal Best Practices Can Do for Valve Selection

What Internal Best Practices Can Do for Valve Selection

As time goes by, technology moves forwar...

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Problem-Driven Innovation

Problem-Driven Innovation

Monday, 20 June 2016  |  Mark A. Lobo, P.E.

Developing Alternative Technology to Improve Product Performance

Industrial product engineering teaches us to understand the difference between problem...

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Industry Headlines

Curtiss-Wright Awarded Contracts for U.S. Naval Defense Platforms

3 DAYS AGO

Curtiss-Wright announced that it has been awarded contracts valued in excess of $80 million to provide valves for the U.S. Navy’s Virginia-class submarines and Ford-class aircraft carriers. The awards were received from Bechtel Plant Machinery, Inc. and General Dynamics Electric Boat Division ...

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DeZURIK Adds Dedicated Clean Room to Sartell Plant

4 DAYS AGO

In order to ensure proper cleaning procedures are performed on valves intended for oxygen, ozone, chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, isocyanate and other applications, DeZURIK has constructed a new dedicated clean room within its Sartell, MN manufacturing plant.

Operated by trained cleaning technicians, DeZU...

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Global Upstream Spending Slashed by $1 Trillion

2 DAYS AGO

Global upstream development spending from 2015 to 2020 has been cut by 22% or $740 billion since the oil price started to drop two years ago, according Wood Mackenzie's research . When you include cuts to conventional exploration investment, the figure increases to just over $1 trillion. Expect to see...

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EPA Bans Fracking Wastewater Disposal at Public Treatment Plants

5 DAYS AGO

The EPA has finalized a rule establishing pretreatment standards for discharges of wastewater from onshore unconventional oil and gas (UOG) extraction facilities to municipal sewage treatment plants (also known as publicly owned treatment works, or POTWs). The rule is designed to prevent the discharge...

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U..S. Durable Goods Orders Down 2.2% in May

2 DAYS AGO

New orders for manufactured durable goods in May decreased $5.3 billion or 2.2% to $230.7 billion, the Commerce Department announced today. This decrease , down following two consecutive monthly increases, followed a 3.3% April increase. Excluding transportation, new orders decreased 0.3%. Excluding d...

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Federal Judge Halts New BLM Fracking Rules

3 DAYS AGO

“The Obama administration will fight a federal judge’s ruling overturning its effort to regulate hydraulic fracturing on public lands,” Bloomberg reports . The White House says they will take the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

“The ruling, issued late Tuesday by Wyoming-based...

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The Quest for Unconventional Gas Sources

vmspr12_gas_shaleThe Barnett Shale petroleum drilling site located in North Central Texas.The increasing focus on finding ways to depend less on foreign energy sources, coupled with the huge shale plays now available to U.S. and Canadian energy producers, is good news for the valve industry. However, with gas prices at near-record lows and lingering questions about the environmental impact of fracturing, challenges lie ahead.

The recent increase in shale gas production in the U.S. and ­Canada, made possible largely by technological advances, has meant access to reserves nearly impossible to tap a mere five years ago. For energy producers, as well as valve, actuator and control manufacturers and distributors, this access creates potential for profitable exploration. For consumers, it means a relatively inexpensive source of clean energy not subject to the whims and vagaries of politically unstable countries.

Still, while low natural gas prices are a boon to consumers and utilities, those lower prices have created a real challenge to producers over the past year. As of mid-February 2012, prices were hovering around $2.50 per thousand cubic feet, necessitating cutbacks in the Marcellus shale area and making it less viable to drill in more remote locations like Haynesville and Barnett. Several companies have recently announced intentions to either reduce the number of new wells drilled or reduce production at operating wells.

However, prices that go down will eventually come up, and with them, production rates will rise. In the meantime, unconventional natural gas producers and those who supply the industry continue to develop more efficient exploration and production methods, engineer more robust materials and implement special practices that balance economic viability with environmental responsibility.


THE CHALLENGES

So what challenges does this lucrative industry face?


Economics and Water Use

Mike Romano, global market manager, Unconventional Oil and Gas, Tyco Flow Control, says that the recent drop in gas prices is one of the most significant challenges to unconventional gas production today.

He points to the decoupling of gas from oil prices.

“Spot prices have dropped from around $12 per million British Thermal Units (BTU) in 2008. Now they’re at $2.50. Oil went down from $130 to $70 per barrel, but came back up to $100. Before, when gas or oil prices went up, the other followed, but when shale gas came into play, the prices started going in different directions.”

Why did this happen? Romano says because of lower demand caused by the financial crisis compounded by dramatic growth of gas production through new technologies.

Another challenge to the industry today is water management. Hydraulic fracturing for a typical horizontal shale gas well takes about 4.5 million gallons of water. Detractors of fracturing have accused producers of depleting the drinking water table even though companies such as Chesapeake and Encana have made it a practice to steer away from potable water use. In addition to using untreated water from rivers, creeks, lakes and groundwater, they use discharge water from industrial or city wastewater treatment plants. The fracturing industry also has adopted the practice of reusing frac water to lower consumption of new sources.

While the overall mix of water sources depends on the region, the costs associated with transporting water in and out of a site can be as much as $1 per barrel, a sizeable incentive to reduce water use and recycle whenever possible.

In addition to the water source controversy, the fluid used in the fracing process, which is comprised of water, sand and some chemicals, must be extracted from the well and either recycled or disposed of through proper channels. Surface water discharges of this flowback are regulated by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which requires flowback to be treated before discharge into surface water or underground injection be treated before its discharge. Underground injection of flowback is regulated by either EPA’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) program or a state with primary UIC enforcement authority.

The problem was compounded recently when increased underground injection of frac wastewater was blamed for causing earthquakes near Youngstown, OH. Environmentalists used what happened to call for broader federal regulation and drilling mora­toriums. What effect this will have on continued development is yet to be seen.


Public perception

vmspr12_gas_butterfly_valvesButterfly valves in the field

In a recent interview on ValveMagazine.com, Chris Tucker, team lead, Energy in Depth (EID), pointed out that public perception is a major challenge facing the shale gas industry. [EID is a research, education and public outreach campaign launched by the Independent Petroleum Association of America in 2009. Tucker was interviewed for an article posted Feb. 9, 2012].

While valve manufacturers, producers and pipeline operators seek ways to reduce emissions, improve safety and reduce the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing and natural gas transport, opponents have gone to great lengths to malign these efforts. EID addresses this issue through media education and public outreach programs, but negative publicity remains a constant battle.

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