Technology Trends: Best Practices in Carbon Management

Catalyst COO, Seth Moore speaks with Len Vermillion at Hart Energy’s 2022 DUG Midcontinent Conference about Catalyst Energy Service’s newest technology, VortexPrime™. They discuss the benefits including cost, emissions and waste reductions, as well as Catalyst’s experience launching the industry-changing technology.

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Seth Moore

Len Vermillion

Hart Energy Conferences


Seth Moore: 

I wanted to talk a little bit about Catalyst. We’re a relatively young frac company with a lot of experience. My co-founders, Bobby Chapman and, Mike Morgan and I started the company back in 2018 in the Permian with a, with a Permian focus, with an idea to change the way frac is being done. I was on another project and Bobby called me. We had worked together at a big red company for a long time and had gone our separate ways. And he called and said let’s do something different. At that time in late ‘17, as you guys know, frac had kind of evolved. It was very equipment intensive, energy intensive, and we just looked at how do we change the formula a bit. So, it was a good opportunity to sit down with a blank sheet of canvas and kind of do something a little different, you know.  Fast forward almost four years and now we’re unveiling this technology. And of course there’s been a lot of bumps along the road. And, you know, nobody saw the pandemic train steaming down the tracks coming toward us. So we’ve been a little bit behind where we wanted to be, but in the meantime, we have made some headway. I’m proud to talk to you about that today. 

You know, today really the challenges over the last few years have been…it’s kind of a CAPEX OPEX struggle with frac technology, some of the technologies that are there, you know, how do you justify spending the types of money that some of those technologies cost and getting a return back to investors, but return on capital as well. So it’s sustainable. 

How do you do that? And so really that was part of the design criteria – how do we do something that will pass the test of both of those? I would love to tell you that in 2017, we were thinking about ESG, but I’m not sure that that term had been coined at that time. We knew that, what we were on though, would have some pretty big benefits to emissions and doing all these things. The beauty of it was that we didn’t have to sacrifice returns. We didn’t have to ask for our premium, on capital spend. And as I said, the ESG component, really, we started to learn more about it as it grew. And we grew, so today the technology I’m talking about is called VortexPrime™. I know it’s a cool name. We get that all lot. It’s kind of a transformer – the name – but it’s taking military-grade aero derivative turbine, and directly powering a frac pump with it. It’s been tried before. There’s others that have done some with it. We feel we’ve perfected it and we’re in the field operating today with it. And it’s got a lot of benefits that I’m glad to talk to you about. 

One of the things is just an overall cost reduction. The lady that was talking about natural gas earlier, and the slide being dated I can appreciate that we were looking at some of the fuel saving numbers several weeks ago and comparing it to traditional diesel fleet running in the Delaware basin. I say the Northern Delaware basin, we’re talking fuel savings in the realm of $2 million a month, just straight off the top. So that’s a big systems savings, and that’s when we burn CNG [Compressed Natural Gas] and we get to the kind of the holy grail where we’re robbing it right before it goes to the flare stack or something. There’s even a much bigger savings there, and again, that’s comparing diesel in that basin. It’s certainly dependent upon pressures and rates.  But some of the other benefits are, you know, fewer workers. We’re talking eight units as opposed to 20, kind of a normal comparison for us, lower maintenance cycles. These engines have long life to them, these turbines, and they don’t require…they actually don’t have a lot of the components that a traditional diesel or DGB engine does. They’re just a very simple engine. The fuel savings as we talked about…The other thing, and this was, well, I gave a talk and there was a person that was on a road committee, and we got to talking about less trips through school zones, less trips through sensitive areas. I think today we’re, you know, we burn somewhere around 30 to 35,000 gallons of diesel a day on a full day of fracing. It’s a lot of trips in with fuel. 

That’s a lot of truck movement. So again, you know, a big benefit. One of the things that one of our workers put together was a comparison on waste.  About 25,000 gallons less waste fluids oils in a year compared to a diesel fleet, just because of the long service intervals, the lower number of units, the longer cycles between fluid changes. And I think it’s over 16,000 pounds of waste reduction. So less going into landfills. Those are all the kind of secondary, tertiary benefits that we really didn’t start off thinking about, but it became evident pretty quickly that those were true benefits that we could be proud of. 

55% footprint reduction, Delaware basin, not a big deal in some of the edge of the, you know some basins where we were almost nestled up, someone’s backyard. It’s pretty you know, important, some of the areas where you’re on the side of a hill and you really have to go through a lot to prepare a location.  That can be beneficial as well. 

Let’s back up. One thing about this is, it’s a self-contained unit, so we show up and we have fuel. We have fluids from our blender. We tie into the manifold, we’re good to go. It’s a hundred percent self-contained, there’s no auxiliary power needed from anything else just to make sure. And I should have said this early on, this is a direct drive turbine. We’re not generating electricity to turn an electric motor to power a pump. This is going straight through a drivetrain straight into the pump. So, that self-contained part is important for us. We carry everything we need with us other than fuel, and fluids in fluids out. This is a bit of a size comparison between a traditional frac layout and a VortexPrime™ layout. I’m not sure that the image truly represents the reduction, but it’s significant. Talked about emissions and waste up to 40% lower emissions. We’ve ran two emission studies. We’re in the process now of writing a paper. I look forward to speaking with my counterpart up here on the stage at some point, there’s a lot going on with the emission studies right now, and there’s numbers all over the map. But we’re looking at reducing somewhere between 28 and 32,000 gallons of diesel burn today with, through the burning of natural gas. I’m not an emission scientist, but I know that’s got to have a benefit. 

I mean, safety and production, you know, we can set up in hours. We’ve got it timed now where we think we can do moves if they’re well planned and they’re not geographically spread too far in probably eight hours.  Again, you’re rigging up eight of something, versus 20. What you’re rigging into the missiles are smaller, more compact, uh, easier to, to get around. We have a shut down capability from full horsepower to complete shut down to fire up through cooldown, ignition back to full horsepower in under five minutes. I think we’ve done it in three minutes and 43 seconds. If we’re chasing a leak or having top side issues, we can kill the engine. So there’s no idling. You’ll hear people talk of methane slip and some of the issues, the fuel consumption on idling on some of the larger engines that require a longer shutdown period. We don’t have that as an issue. It’s just a simpler setup again, and simplicity, we believe impacts safety and production directly. 

This is another…the slide’s a bit dated. I apologize. We’re probably approaching 9,500 stages now as a company. When we started, we bought two of the latest tier four fleets at the time, two of the fleets that were available.  My partners and I have over a hundred years of experience. But they didn’t know who Catalyst was. So we had to kind of, you know, make a name for ourselves as a company. We’ve been out doing that. We’ve worked in some of the harshest conditions in the basins where we’ve worked and been able to do that with an amazing safety record and achieve some good statistics. I think that’s it for me. 

About Catalyst Energy Services

Catalyst Energy Services started with the idea that technology is the key to the future. We take the stewardship of preserving our world’s resources seriously and are dedicated to constantly innovating our sector of the energy industry to achieve cleaner, safer, and optimized production. Built by an accomplished executive team with over 100 years of hands-on experience in the field, engineering, and business management, we are an emerging stimulation service company specializing in hydraulic fracturing treatment.



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