EQT to convert machinery from diesel to natural gas

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A pilot program recently launched by EQT Corp. saw a piece of equipment at one of its gas-drilling rigs converted from diesel power to liquid natural gas.

That's just the starting point -- the Downtown-based gas driller has its eye on eventually displacing about half of the diesel used in the emissions-intensive extraction business.

EQT already has converted the stationary engines that power a drilling rig at a producing well in northern West Virginia.

Plans to convert the other equipment that powers the company's rigs across West Virginia and Pennsylvania will depend on how operations at the test site go, the company said Thursday.

LNG, which is natural gas in liquid form, is transported in a tanker to the well site, and is said to emit between 20 percent and 30 percent less carbon dioxide than diesel.

As the industry touts natural gas as a cleaner-burning energy alternative, EQT's announcement Thursday of the pilot program is the latest move by drillers trying to reduce the emissions -- and cost -- generated by drilling for that gas.

Wells operating across the Marcellus Shale formation underneath Pennsylvania use diesel in numerous ways, from generators that power spotlights to trucks that transport equipment along rural roads to the sites.

The effort to convert to liquified natural gas may run into some roadblocks in trying to curb diesel use in the hundreds of truck trips that transport equipment and water to a well site.

That's because many of the trucks are driven by subcontractors hired by drillers like EQT to handle different parts of the operation, and few of those companies have converted their fleets to run on natural gas.

The company sees a financial incentive in conversion. Rampant drilling across the country has led to an oversupply of natural gas, causing its price to fall below oil-based forms of energy.

The LNG used at the pilot site was extracted and produced in the Marcellus Shale, and EQT said LNG fuel costs are about 40 percent lower than diesel.

businessnews - environment

Erich Schwartzel: eschwartzel@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1455.


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