22 Jul 2020

When Will Battery Storage Power O&G Applications?


From carbon capture to addressing flaring to making their operations as efficient as possible, O&G companies around the world are striving to find innovative ways to reduce their emissions where they can. 

And it’s vital that they do so. The industry produces nearly a tenth of all man-made greenhouse gases through its operations before you even begin to factor in the environmental impact of the fuel they extract. International pressure is intensifying - and at a time when a global pandemic has throttled demand and brought prices crashing down, oil and gas companies cannot afford not to lose market share. To stay competitive, they need to act now. 

Battery storage power for O&G applications offers an excellent opportunity for these companies to improve their image while lowering their costs. Here’s why.

What is battery storage power?

Battery storage is exactly that: power stored in batteries that you can draw on when you need it for your operations. If your main power supply goes down or there’s a temporary interruption, you can simply switch over seamlessly to this backup supply from batteries. The idea is to ensure that you have a consistent, reliable, electric power supply no matter what type of fuel or power generation method you lean on primarily.

How does battery storage work?

Typically, battery cells are incorporated into a microgrid system that is powered by some form of renewable energy, like solar or wind. That said, they can also provide a valuable backup for remote, self-contained, gas power stations. 

Renewables have clear environmental benefits and are often competitively priced - once you have solar panels in place, for example, the continually-replenished source of power is essentially free. However, the major complaint against them is that sun, wind, and other renewable energy sources can be fickle. On a cloudy day, or when the sun goes down, so does your power supply.

This is where battery storage comes in. During electricity surge periods (i.e.. a day of intense sunshine in the case of solar, or high winds for wind power), the excess, unused electricity is offloaded to the batteries, and the power is stored there. Then, when the power dips, the grid switches over to using the battery power, ensuring uninterrupted supply - and no disruption to your operations.  

The benefits of battery storage for oil & gas

For the O&G industry, microgrids with battery storage can often present the perfect solution to a number of headaches at once. 

Drilling sites are often situated in remote, off-grid locations, meaning that the only real alternative is generator power or a temporary substation, which generally needs to run on natural gas or diesel fuel. 

Aside from the emissions this creates, the fuel costs add up over the course of months or years. Unless you are able to use some of your own natural gas for this (as we’ve made possible for some customers in the past), managing fuel deliveries can prove tricky, too. 

Setting up a self-contained microgrid, on the other hand, means you have a continual supply of locally produced power. Build this so that it runs on incorporates renewable energy, like solar or small-scale wind turbines, and you reduce your environmental impact, your costs, and your refueling headaches, all at once. Introduce battery storage into the mix, and that’s the final piece of the puzzle covered. 

How does that work in practice?

One of our customers, a gold mine in Australia, was grappling with the exact same set of problems as those working in remote oil fields. First, they were situated in the middle of nowhere, cut off from the grid, where electricity access was impossible and fuel deliveries a logistical headache. Second, they were keen to reduce the carbon footprint of their operations - in an industry that usually struggles to keep a lid on its high emissions. Third, they wanted reliable, low-cost power, all year round. 

In this case, we built a hybrid solution that combined a 22MW natural gas power station with 7.3MW of solar and thermal energy. This was backed up by 1-2MW of battery storage power to cover any dips in availability.

This microgrids-as-a-service setup was not a small operation: it was designed to cover all the power needs of the main mine (over 24MW), as well as a second underground mine, the processing plant, all on-site facilities and the staff accommodation camp. As a result, the team were able to reduce their costs and carbon footprint and clear up the logistical hassles while making their power supply more, not less, dependable. 

Final thoughts

For companies in the oil & gas industry keen to show their commitment to environmental responsibility, finding ways to demonstrate real impact without harming their core business interests is a constant challenge. This is why focusing on cutting emissions from your operations is such a win-win situation. 

Cleaning up your operations using microgrids and battery storage can vastly reduce your carbon footprint and make a massive difference to global emissions and air quality. At the same time, you can actually save money and improve energy securing on your sites.

So to return to the first question, when will battery storage power O&G applications?
The answer is: the movement has already begun. The technology is ready for you to start using now - and reaping the benefits. Just make sure that, when you come to build and plan your microgrid and battery storage project, you work with a partner who really understands the industry and who has delivered similar projects successfully at the scale you need.