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The upstream oil & gas lifecycle presents numerous fueling requirements that must be satisfied and challenges that must be overcome in order to ensure that operations are as efficient and profitable as possible.

Favorable market economics, combined with continuous advances in unconventional shale development, are allowing upstream operators to focus on generating maximum value from their assets. Today, improvements in operational efficiency and the strategic application of powerful new technologies have increased the rate of penetration, reduced spud time to total depth, and minimized the overall risk of failure.

From preliminary well planning, to detailed well design and drilling operations, multidisciplinary asset teams are working together to effectively reduce cost, risk and delay in all aspects of the workflow—from the beginning of exploration projects through to sales. But drilling projects can present significant challenges to the bottom line if not orchestrated and executed successfully: even the most minor delays can potentially cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Consequently, oil & gas executives need to be aware of how every piece of the drilling puzzle fits together.

One critical piece of that puzzle is fueling, specifically on-site fueling logistics. All rig site equipment—including drills, generators, trucks and more—requires fuel, and when dozens of pieces of essential equipment need to be fueled safely and efficiently (often all within a very small window of time), the potential for an operational bottleneck increases. There are several factors oil and gas executives need to consider as they plan for their company’s fueling needs on each well site, including fuel and equipment logistics; fuel efficiency; and reliability, capability and personnel composition. For oil & gas decision-makers, understanding these issues is essential in order to minimize the delay and extra expense of avoidable fueling downtime.

Fuel and equipment logistics
A well site has no shortage of equipment—and that equipment is thirsty. Dozens of trucks, generators, compressors and more are needed to get the job done well, and virtually all of that mechanical infrastructure requires fuel every 3 to 4 hours. Oil & gas companies must not only figure out how to keep this equipment supplied with fuel, but also figure out how to do so quickly and safely, minimizing nonproductive downtime in the process. Because equipment cannot be fueled when running, deft planning and coordination with regard to fueling windows is critically important.

Avoiding the cost and delay of an on-site fuel shortage means analyzing intake and usage to properly plan for an adequate supply. And because even a short-term shortage can bring operations to a grinding halt and cost thousands—or even hundreds of thousands—of dollars, this is an area where even modest improvements can yield big savings. Some forward-thinking companies are turning to sophisticated fueling logistics programs and analyses in order to make those improvements, employing proprietary systems and truck-to-office technology that allows for real-time asset measurement. This real-time data can help decision-makers troubleshoot in real time as problems occur and, more importantly, plan ahead more accurately by identifying trends and purchasing accordingly. More accurate and meaningful measurement and planning for fuel needs will only get easier as the industry continues to evolve from the “old school” paper-centric business model to a more streamlined and efficient technology-based operation.

Fuel efficiency
While use of natural gas is rising around the country, diesel is still king: the majority of drilling sites in the U.S. are powered by diesel. Diesel fuel is optimal for many because it is powerful, efficient and has a relatively long shelf life. To ensure you are maximizing the operability and efficiency of your fuel, there are two important chemical solutions to be aware of that are being used more frequently in conjunction with diesel fuel to preserve and strengthen it: cold weather additive and diesel exhaust fluid (DEF). Most fuel providers offer these additives, but, for oil & gas executives planning their company’s fueling needs, it is helpful to know what they are, what they do and what questions need to be asked to utilize them effectively.

Diesel Exhaust Fluid
In January 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced strict new emissions standards requiring medium- and heavy-duty vehicles to significantly reduce engine emissions. As part of those new emissions standards, all 2010 and newer on-road diesel vehicles have to be equipped with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology—which requires the use of Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF). The on-road vehicle mandate was quickly followed by the phase-in of off-road vehicles two years later, and other engine categories continue to be gradually phased in. Because virtually all new diesel vehicles manufactured today utilize this SCR technology and have a DEF tank that needs to be filled periodically, many fuel providers are beginning to include DEF fueling solutions as part of their service. Oil & gas executives would be wise to familiarize themselves with DEF basics, including quality control specifics, acquisition protocols, proper storage standards and recommended dosage amounts.

By familiarizing themselves with these fueling basics, and by keeping close tabs on the evolving regulatory and technological frontiers that are having such a profound impact on the industry, oil & gas decision-makers can help ensure that their fueling needs are met, and that their on-site fueling programs are operating as efficiently and effectively as possible.