Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., whose central operations are in the Marcellus Shale, said Monday it plans to use natural gas to power hydraulic fracturing (fracking) equipment in northeastern Pennsylvania.

The Houston-based operator, the second largest Marcellus producer after Chesapeake Energy Corp., has about 200,000 net acres in the Marcellus and averaged more than 1.05 Bcf/d gross in the play from January through March (see Shale Daily, April 26).

The dual-fuel technology, which displaces 70% of the diesel normally used to power stimulation equipment, would be a first in the Marcellus specifically for fracking, according to the operator.

“Cabot is continually searching for ways to utilize cutting-edge, environmentally friendly technology during our operations,” said CEO Dan O. Dinges. “We are already converting our vehicle fleet and currently have a drilling rig using natural gas as well, so the next step is to utilize the technology on a hydraulic fracturing site.”

Cabot is partnering in the endeavor with well completion specialist FTS International and Caterpillar Global Petroleum, the oil and gas division of Caterpiller Inc.

To operate using gas, FTS’s mobile pressure pumping unit was retrofitted with a dynamic gas blending kit from Caterpillar, which is compatible with field gas, compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

“This is a terrific example of the oil and gas industry working together to develop and implement innovative technologies that are both environmentally conscious and operationally efficient,” said FTS CEO Greg Lanham. FTS “has been evaluating dual-fuel conversion technologies for the last year to identify the best solution for our well completion fleets.”

America’s Natural Gas Alliance CEO Marty Durbin said, “Cabot’s commitment to using natural gas to power its own operations is another in a long list of cost-effective and smart decisions…members all over this country are making to use their own natural gas resources to save money, contribute to air quality improvements and put an American fuel to work.”

Onshore operators have been using natural gas for several years to power drilling rigs and other infrastructure. Encana Corp. was one of the first to power some of its drilling rigs using natural gas (see Shale Daily, Nov. 8, 2011). It has CNG/LNG stations for fleets and other types of power for its Haynesville Shale acreage, as well as in Wyoming, Colorado and in Western Canada (see Shale Daily, April 6, 2011). Apache Corp. was working to have 80% of its North American fleet powered by CNG/LNG (see Shale Daily, April 4, 2011).

Chesapeake Energy Corp. in 2011 set up the $1 billion fund Chesapeake NG Ventures Corp. to invest in technologies that would enable gasoline and diesel to be replaced with natural gas and gas-to-liquids (see Shale Daily, July 12, 2011). At that time it also said it would convert “at least” 100 of its drilling rigs and all of its fracking equipment to run on LNG (see Shale Daily, July 12, 2011). Inc. said it wants to launch services in September to help producers use natural gas for their drilling systems (see Shale Daily, May 20). Last month it arranged funding to build three LNG processing plants in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, each with producing capacity of 7,500-40,000 diesel gallon equivalent/day.

“We see a need for LNG and CNG as another important supply fuel to the oil and gas industry and service providers,” said AmericaCNG CEO Joseph Farley. “Producers and suppliers…are looking for ways to cut their fuel cost, and by switching to natural gas for their rigs, frack units and fleets they can save millions of dollars each year.”