July 2020 – EPD recently delivered a fully customized mobile substation that will be used for fracking. Our client wanted to explore true electrical fracking using local utilities in combination with switchgear for power, eliminating the need for generators, turbines, diesel, and natural gas. This power unit configuration is outfitted with a multiple winding step-down transformer and modular medium voltage switchgear. This configuration is the first of its kind and looks to be the future of fracking with its greater convenience, cost effectiveness, and environmental friendliness. Our client is pioneering the way in electrical fracking methods, and we are very proud to be a part of this exploration.

E-Fracking Advantages

E-fracking maximizes operational convenience through requiring less ongoing infrastructure and logistics planning. Once the utilities are established the operation is fully serviceable, as opposed to traditional power sources that require extensive and ongoing supply chain management. E-fracking provides a very reliable, stable, and practically infinite power source for operations. Furthermore, the power unit trailer makes the operation more mobile, compact, and convenient. Traditional fracking with a diesel engine or turbine results in a significantly heavier load that requires special permits for highway travel, making the operation more logistically complicated and inconvenient. These trailers often travel on rugged terrain to reach the operation site, so having a lighter load makes reaching their destination faster and easier.

E-fracking is more operationally cost effective because the transformer, switchgear, and VFD drives require virtually no maintenance or upkeep, whereas internal combustion engines are more susceptible to complications and downtime. As a result, personnel and crew can more easily and seamlessly operate without frequent troubleshooting. Although e-fracking is more operationally cost effective, the initial capital required for this method of fracking varies on the remoteness of the location —a more remote location would be more difficult, time consuming, and expensive to establish utilities in. As a result, the capital intensity fluctuates in being more or less expensive in comparison to conventional fracking methods.

Not only is e-fracking optimal from a cost and convenience standpoint, but also from a corporate social responsibility standpoint. E-fracking eliminates the exhaust of greenhouse gases, making it more environmentally friendly than its traditional counterpart. Additionally, it eliminates noise pollution and soot that are typical at a fracking operation, transforming the entire experience for personnel and making it safer for their long-term well-being.

Mobile Substation Design

The mobile substation is comprised of three primary parts – a trailer, transformer, and switchgear. All of these are highly customized and integrated with intelligent design and functionality. The trailer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 75,000 pounds comes in under the maximum GVWR of 80,000 pounds in Texas, eliminating the need for special permits for highway travel.

The trailer is divided into two main rooms, one room housing the transformer and the other housing the switchgear and controls. The separation of rooms enables safe and easy access to the switchgear, while avoiding the danger of the transformer’s live voltage. Our design also enables the crew to operate the unit without being inside the trailer with an accessible control console on the outside, making operations even more functional and convenient. The main transformer is designed to supply three-phase power to each of the three electronic pumping units. This phase shifting design allows for an evenly distributed load, which results in a lower harmonic current and less voltage distortion. The phase separation is necessary to prevent large voltage distortions from being experienced on the grid. The modular medium voltage switchgear provides exceptional safety and dependability with its insulation of live voltage to ensure longevity of use and minimal maintenance.

The main challenge of this project was the condensed timeline of 16 weeks from start to finish, which required an accelerated design phase and ordering process. The transformer and switchgear required detailed customization, and each of these initially had a lead time that was beyond our project timeline. However, with much negotiation, phone calls, and trips to these facilities, our resilient team and partners were able to expedite this process and overcome this challenge. Another challenge of this project was the novelty of it —a configuration like this had never been built before, requiring our engineers to design this unit from the ground up. Extensive strategy and technical expertise went into deciding on the placement of each component so that the unit would optimize safety, functionality, and convenience for our client. This required planning down to the details of wire routing, cable fastening, and custom flooring dimensions.

A mobile substation is the ideal power solution not only for fracking but also for many other applications, such as conventional drilling, emergency temporary power for natural disaster relief, temporary substation capacity increase, preventative maintenance, and increased power for seasonal loads. A mobile substation provides accessible and adaptable power so that wherever your operations take you, a world of power is at your fingertips!

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