Casper, WY-based Moser Energy Systems, a privately held, 40-year-old family-run enterprise, has found a steadily growing market for its natural gas-fueled industrial-grade engines in the hottest of the shale plays: the Bakken in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in Texas.

Moser helps exploration and production (E&P) companies of all sizes bring cleaner electric power sources to their drilling rig and production operations by using a portion of the associated gas that would otherwise be flared to provide electricity ranging from a few kilowatts (kW) to more than a megawatt (MW). The proportion of flared gas used varies greatly among installations, the company said.

The E&P clients range from majors with tens if not hundreds of leased natural gas generator engines to a small independent with one month-to-month lease, said Jakob Norman, Moser executive vice president, speaking to NGI’s Shale Daily from his Casper office.

More operators are turning away from diesel generation and switching to gas engines, Norman said. “They’re paying a whole heck of lot for diesel, and our solution runs off the wellhead gas, so we eliminate their reliance on diesel.”

Moser doesn’t claim its clients, which are spread over the major U.S. shale plays and into parts of Canada and Ecuador, can eliminate the need to flare gas, but they can reduce the flared amounts significantly. Norman said Moser gas engines have logged more than 3 million hours on natural gas from the wellhead, and there are hundreds of the units operating.

Moser engines provide power to well pads that in the past have used gasoline or diesel, with greater air emissions impacts, to generate power until they can get grid connected.

The increasing pressures to cut flaring, along with environmental and economic drivers, have expanded the market for Moser as shale plays have produced ever increasing drilling growth. E&P companies mostly lease the units, but some of the bigger operators also buy units, Norman said.

Norman said that for production purposes, most operators can get by with units that are 125 kW or smaller, but when power drilling rigs are involved, they need to get units of at least 1 MW or more in size. “The average is 125 to 175 kW,” he said.

While engines that run on natural gas are nothing new, Norman said there have been some major engineering advances. “These are industrial prime power engines, so they can last a lot longer and the engineering is definitely getting better,” Norman said. “They can run a lot better than old automotive engines that could operate on associated gas or propane.”

Most of the advances have been in the control and monitoring of the units. Moser can monitor in real time the operations of every unit it has in the field. “We can get a million different data points on any unit from an iPhone or an iPad or the Internet,” Norman said. “Wherever we may be we can peer into these units at any time.”