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The Green Revolution
October 26, 2012
EDMONTON, AB, Oct. 26,2012/ Troy Media/ – The slow sway of the oilfield pumpjack, or nodding donkey as some call it, is one of the most familiar sights in Alberta. Drive around long enough and they become just another part of the landscape. But a small, innovative company based in Edmonton, Alberta, named Canadian Control Works (CCW), is reimagining pumpjacks as green micro-generators.
A pumpjack is like an iceberg. Underneath what we see are two to three kilometers of rod string which can weigh between five and 10 tons. Moving that weight requires a lot of electricity.
CCW’s device, the Enersaver, generates electricity from the otherwise wasted kinetic energy created by the downswing of a pumpjack.
‘If you took all of those pumpjacks, just in Alberta, you’re looking at 300,000 tonnes of steel that’s going up and down. That’s twice the amount of weight of water falling over Niagara Falls every minute,’ says David Gray the past-president of Canadian Control Works. ‘It’s a huge amount of energy that’s out there. Obviously we can’t capture the same amount of energy that you would out of Niagara Falls, but even capturing 10 or 15 per cent of that would be huge.’
Funny enough it was the world of renewable energy that inspired the Enersaver regenerative pumpjack controller in the first place.
‘It was an innovation that started here with a couple of farm boys who thumbed through the catalogues of solar and wind power inverters and found the right thing to make this work,’ says Gray.
By using off-the-shelf parts manufactured for other uses, those farm boys were able to keep costs low and see if the idea would actually work before scaling up.
It might not be of a concern to you or I, but not all electricity is created equal – some electricity has a poor power factor and some has excessive harmonic distortion.
When you’re using electricity that isn’t clean it means you use more energy to do the same amount of work. This is frequently a problem in oilfields as they are typically in remote locations at the end of the grid. They’re the last to get the electricity and, as a result, they don’t get the best stuff.
The electricity the Enersaver produces is ‘hospital grade power’ and stabilizes the grid around it.
‘It actively cleans the grid. It makes everything run better around it. It reduces harmonic distortions on the grid and it improves the timing of the grid so everything runs as smooth as possible,’ says Gray.
Currently there are only 30 or so Enersavers in the world. But Canadian Control Works has got big plans.
An average 100-horsepower pumpjack uses around 9,960 kilowatt hours a month; at eight cents a kilowatt hour that’s almost $800 a month for a single pumpjack. With an Enersaver that same pumpjack would only use $672 worth of electricity a month (all numbers come from CCW trials).
With electricity being the single largest expense for a mature oilfield, saving 15 per cent on your electricity costs is like manna from heaven. It doesn’t matter whether the electricity is green or not, for oil field operators it’s the other kind of green that matters.
Alberta installs 8,000 new pumpjacks each year and there are already 150,000 pumpjacks operating in Alberta. There are more than 600,000 pumpjacks installed in the U.S.
While CCW’s device costs more than a regular pumpjack controller, the unit pays for itself in one year.
‘The biggest market right now is California. They have the most pumpjacks,’ says Gray. Texas has three or four times more pumpjacks than Alberta but CCW is also eyeing markets in Alberta, North Dakota and New Mexico.
‘These things make the most sense when you’re putting in new wells because you can take credit for the opportunity cost of the stuff you don’t put in. It’s less expensive incrementally to put these in on a new installation than it is on a retrofit,’ says Gray.
Things are looking up for the eight-person company. They’re in talks with large Italian inverter manufacturer Santerno Inc.to help mass-manufacture and market the Enersaver. They have a distribution agreement with supplier Tarpon Energy Services and major oil companies are kicking tires.
As electricity prices rise, technologies like this become more and more important.
Troy Media columnist David Dodge is the host and producer of Green Energy Futures, a multi-media series presented at www.greenenergyfutures.ca. The series is supported by TD, Suncor Energy and the Pembina Institute.
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