GE pushes gas power for drill rigs, Caterpillar's diesel turf

Tue Nov 12, 2013 1:19pm EST
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* Caterpillar has dominant position in market for rig engines

* Tighter emissions rules may accelerate switch

* GE says gas far cheaper for drillers than diesel

By Terry Wade

HOUSTON, Nov 12 (Reuters) - General Electric Co is trying to deploy more of its natural gas engines on rigs drilling for hydrocarbons in the North American energy boom - where Caterpillar Inc diesel engines have long been the industry standard.

The sales push comes as GE forecasts global natural gas consumption will rise by a third through 2025 and as it makes strategic investments in the gas sector - like its 2010 purchase of U.S. engine maker Waukesha.

Rigs, mammoth machines that bore holes in the earth before the extraction of crude oil and natural gas, normally rely on three engines that burn expensive diesel and operate around the clock.

Engineers at energy and drilling companies consulted by Reuters - from Ensign Energy Services Inc to Patterson-UTI Energy Inc and Devon Energy Corp - say that natural gas engines are far cheaper to run than diesel, which is often trucked in to remote drilling sites from far away.

GE says potential savings are significant and that running cleaner-burning natural gas would help curb greenhouse gas emissions from rigs and reduce tanker truck traffic on overburdened local roads near drill sites.   Continued...