Fracking and its Impact on Power Generation

By: Frank Caprio | On: November 15, 2016

The United States is home to what may be the largest known shale gas reserves in the world. Traditionally, natural gas was extracted by drilling vertical wells that could only cut through a small section of the natural gas deposit, making many reserves uneconomical to develop. Starting around 2003, two technologies – horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) – were improved and combined to allow recovery of natural gas much more efficiently than previously possible. Horizontal drilling allows producers to access much larger areas of a shale reserve from fewer surface wells, which are then hydraulically fractured to crack open the shale formations and allow the freed gas to flow to the well. During the fracking process, millions of gallons of fracking fluid – a mixture of water, sand and chemicals – are injected into the well to improve production yields. These fracking mixtures are under increasing scrutiny, as many are proprietary in nature and may contain hazardous chemicals or contaminants which could affect the health and safety of those exposed to them. Despite these concerns, hydraulic fracturing presently accounts for about two-thirds of the natural gas produced in the U.S. today.

Power plants are increasingly moving towards natural gas as a primary fuel instead of coal for several reasons. First, burning natural gas produces far less carbon dioxide than burning coal, and with no ash. This makes it easier for power producers to meet increasingly strict emissions regulations. Secondly, hydraulic fracturing has made natural gas much more cost competitive than other fuel sources, including coal, nuclear, and various renewable energy sources. In 2000, gas only generated around 16% of the electricity produced in the U.S., while coal generated 52%. In 2013, those numbers changed to 27% and 39% respectively; in 2015 there were several months where the amount of electricity generated by natural gas equaled that generated by coal. Virtually all new thermoelectric power plants being built in the U.S. will burn natural gas instead of coal.

This trend is important to the suppliers that manufacture and distribute piping components for these systems. When gas is produced by fracking, many flexible hoses and expansion joints are used to convey compressed air, steam, hydrocarbons, exhaust fumes and fracking fluids. Once the natural gas is extracted, it must be purified, compressed, and sometimes even liquefied cryogenically in order to be stored and transported more efficiently. These purification, compression, and liquefaction facilities use hose and expansion joints in many different applications. Once the gas is transported to the power plant, high-pressure lines supply the compressed gas to the combustion turbines, which incorporate many technically complex hose and expansion joint designs on the various sections of the turbine. Then, the exhaust heat from the turbine may be captured and used to power a steam generator in a Combined Cycle Power Plant (CCPP). Metal hose and expansion joints are found all over these facilities, and many require special approvals and certifications. Knowing which products require special designs, approvals, and/or certifications can be difficult to determine. Let Hose Master help by working with you and your customer to verify the piping system requirements so the correct component can be designed and specified. Does your customer need an expansion joint on a boiler system? We can provide products approved to ASME’s B&PV Code, Section VIII. Are you selling internationally? We have Canadian Registration Numbers (CRNs), and various other international approvals including DNV, PED, and ISO.

Are you involved with the shipbuilding or marine offshore industry? We have hose and expansion joints with ABS Product Type approval. We design and manufacture products ranging from generator set exhaust components up to complex pressure-balanced and externally pressurized expansion joints for high-pressure steam systems. Call us today at 800-221-2319 to discuss ways we can help you increase your business by providing improved value, safety, and performance.


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