As South Africa seeks to replace its dwindling offshore gas reserves, plans to kick off shale gas exploration in the Karoo basin are at an advanced stage. Ahead of such a possible mammoth project, PMPS, a packaged metering and pumping solution provider in South Africa, is well positioned to partner an industry where optimal reagent usage is of utmost significance.
The South African government may reportedly award its first licences for shale gas exploration in the Karoo region in the near future. As South Africa seeks to stake a claim in the global shale gas market, exploration will ascertain the size of the reserves, already believed to be among the top five largest globally. As mammoth as it sounds, and despite the possibility of the project creating up to 700 000 new jobs, environmental objections and the requirements for ecological responsibility are still issues to contend with before fracking in the Karoo can become a reality.
Having been in the reagent dosing field for more than six years, where it has established itself as a provider of durable equipment, complemented by solid and reliable backup service across some of the most demanding applications, including mining, petrochemical and agriculture, Packaged Metering & Pumping Solutions (PMPS), is more than ready to partner the gas industry. “Our strategy is to be the leader and reliable partner to the gas industry to ensure that reagents used in the fracking process are optimally dosed, installations are secure and spill-free, and above all to provide reliable installations with minimal downtime,” says David O’Neill, Technical Director at PMPS.
Minimising environmental burden and downtime
During the fracking process, water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure to allow the gas to flow out to the head of the wall. This is where some of the concerns around fracking emanate, with opponents of hydraulic fracturing arguing that environmental impacts include risks of ground and surface water contamination. Under its ‘Optimum Chemical Usage, these are some of the concerns PMPS will be able to address to help the shale gas industry minimise its environmental burden.
“When we say ‘Optimum Chemical Usage’ we mean industry minimum,” explains O’Neill. “This is done by ensuring accurate dosing and continual remote monitoring. Not only does this reduce the environmental impacts, but is also a critical component in the life-cost analysis of chemical injection.”
O’Neill argues that it is also a misconception that underutilisation of chemicals in the fracking process is desirable, as it will have less negative impact. “Not so,” he says. “For example, a simple chemical, such as anti-scalents, if under-applied or interrupted due to excessive equipment downtime, the pipes would start to scale up, resulting in reduced bore, and the requirement for higher pressures to move the product,” explains O’Neill, adding that ultimately, this means lower efficiencies and higher energy requirements. Once the pipes are scaled to certain levels the requirement for acid washing or similar processes to de-scale the pipes are required, ultimately increasing the chemical effect on the environment.
Another cause of downtime is interrupted power supply, especially to the remote regions where this type of equipment is commonly installed. To counter any possible downtime, PMPS offers fully-packaged solar-powered dosing systems, which provide the company with a unique advantage in this industry.
To achieve its stated ‘Optimum Reagent Usage’ strategy, PMPS has entered into some strategic partnerships with some of the leading players in the industry. “We have signed an exclusive agency agreement with Solar Injection Australia (SiA), a leading manufacturer of high pressure dosing pumps specific to the industry,” says O’Neill.
SiA’s range of products is a great complement to PMPS’s existing, industry-known brands, namely: OBL Metering pumps (API675), Novarotors Progressive cavity pumps and Greenpumps’ magnetically coupled centrifugal pumps.
Meanwhile, PMPS’s partnership with SiA enables the company to apply its strategy moving forward, according to O’Neill. The SiA injection pumps provide:
Low downtime due to correct selection and minimal maintenance:
Maintenance intervals are especially important during production when faced with many wells spread over large gas fields, as is often the case with unconventional production. In many instances, well-heads are located on third-party private land and therefore site visits become a key negotiating point. There are a number of ways to influence maintenance intervals, including selecting the correct gear-motors for the application; the use of life-time lubrication in the gearboxes; selecting the correct seal material for the chemical being injected; using 316 stainless steel in all wetted areas leak detection devices; and the ability to communicate remotely with equipment in the field. Choosing a chemical injection pump that can deliver on these makes good economic sense.
Flow meters provide a closed-loop control, ensuring injection exactly matches the amount of chemical set and therefore are the most accurate way to control dosing. Ensuring the chemical injection pump can cycle at relatively slow speeds of around 60 cycles per minute.
SiA Pumps combine quality manufacture with unique design features such as Dual-Seal technology, which reduces leaks and prolongs seal life to maximise reliability in the field and push out service intervals. The use of a reciprocating single acting positive displacement chemical liquid ends with 1” of stroke provides more accurate dosing control, as does the in-built stroke adjustor, exclusive to SiA pumps, which allows turn down of between 0-100% of displacement. Remote monitoring and control is also available, with standard systems able to be upgraded easily over time as more sophisticated control is required. “The whole requirement regarding quality is sometimes more demanding than the actual installation of a dosing pump,” notes O’Neill.
Apart from just offering equipment, PMPS is currently in the process of setting up a satellite office to provide customer support and ongoing maintenance, specifically in the Karoo region. Meanwhile, O’Neill notes that supplying equipment to the petrochemicals market is particularly demanding, as all equipment and installations for this market need to adhere to the specific taxing documentation requirements. “This includes material certification for components, pressure test certificates, as well as witness testing, among others. PMPS currently employs 13 people – six of whom are dedicated to manufacturing, installation and service – and provide ongoing maintenance on a national scale,” concludes O’Neill.