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Reducing the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing through design optimisation of positive displacement pumps

Josifovic, Aleksandar and Roberts, Jennifer J. and Corney, Jonathan and Davies, Bruce and Shipton, Zoe K. (2016) Reducing the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing through design optimisation of positive displacement pumps. Energy, 115 (1). pp. 1216-1233. ISSN 1873-6785

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Abstract

The current approach to hydraulic fracturing requires large amounts of industrial hardware to be transported, installed and operated in temporary locations. A significant proportion of this equipment is comprised of the fleet of pumps required to provide the high pressures and flows necessary for well stimulation. Studies have shown that over 90% of the emissions of CO2 and other pollutants that occur during a hydraulic fracturing operation are associated with these pumps. Pollution and transport concerns are of paramount importance for the emerging hydraulic fracturing industry in Europe, and so it is timely to consider these factors when assessing the design of high pressure pumps for the European resources. This paper gives an overview of the industrial plant required to carry out a hydraulic fracturing operation. This is followed by an analysis of the design space of the pump design that could result in improved pump efficiency. We find that reducing the plunge diameter and running the pump at higher speeds can increase the pump efficiency by up to 4.6%. Such changes to the pump’s parameters would results in several environmental benefits beyond the obvious economic gains of lower fuel consumption. The paper concludes with a case study that quantifies these benefits.