One of the biggest costs associated with shale gas development and utilization comes from the use of diesel fuel. Diesel engines power everything associated with well development from the trucks that move equipment to a well site, to the drilling rig itself, to the compressors used for the hydraulic stimulation of wells. Many companies are examining the possibility of converting these engines to a mix of diesel and natural gas – or dual fuel – in an effort to reduce operating costs while utilizing a domestic source of fuel.

Since methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, however, this conversion may come at a cost to the environment. But just how much is being emitted is unknown. A team of researchers at West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions will look to quantify the amount of fugitive methane emissions associated with implementing dual fuel and dedicated natural gas technologies, thanks to a $2 million grant from the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

The CAFEE team, led by Andrew Nix, principal investigator and assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, will collect data from in-use equipment operating in the Marcellus shale region. “This collection will help us identify and quantify in-use fugitive methane emissions,” Nix said. “Our next step will be to develop test cycles to conduct additional laboratory testing at CAFEE’s Engines and Emissions Research Laboratory to mitigate fugitive methane.”

The testing will include examinations of the benefits of dual fuel and dedicated natural gas engines as well as the effects of natural gas composition on exhaust emissions. The team will also look at catalyst formulations for reducing methane from engine exhaust and other technologies to reduce fugitive methane emissions. CAFEE will collaborate with researchers from Fyda Energy Solutions, Hypercat ACP, and other industry partners. According to Nix, the results of the research will benefit the industry by producing data, technologies and practices that allow for the responsible increase in shale gas utilization.

This type of research is second nature to CAFEE team, which has a long history of conducting alternative fuels research. Joining Nix on the project team are Derek Johnson, Arvind Thiruvengadam, Daniel Carder, Greg Thomspon, Nigel Clark, Hailin Li and Scott Wayne.



CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources

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