Crypto-energy: Mining in Vaca Muerta
In some of its wells in the Neuquén Basin, Tecpetrol is digitally mitigating venting. That's news! The other piece of news is that the development was carried out in record time.
The second and largest digital venting mitigation project carried out in Argentina is already underway in Los Toldos II Este, in the heart of the Neuquén Basin. We spoke to Emiliano Katcoff, Facilities Engineer, and Franco Ciucci, Well Services Expert: Franco acted as the transverse Project Leader while Emiliano had the role of the Project Leader for this task. The topics of the talk? Energy efficiency and the speed needed to make it happen.
Franco sets the scene: “The project is being developed in an oil field which is at the appraisal stage, meaning that it’s in the early phases of exploitation, and thus has basic levels of infrastructure and limitations on production evacuation.” There were three options available to take it further: the first was to restrict the wells until they reached a greater capacity for evacuation. The second was to set up a liquefaction plant, and the third, and most innovative, was to create a digital venting mitigation system.
The team took the plunge and went for the third option. “We’re using the gas that we can neither evacuate nor burn to fuel the generators powering computers for cryptocurrency mining,” explains Emiliano. Los Toldos II Este, located north of Vaca Muerta, is very much still in the early phases of development but it was the ideal setting for this innovation. The results? An increase in gas output, a reduction in CO2-equivalent emissions and a more efficient use of energy were the outcomes of giving value to a product initially considered waste because of the context.
The facility consists of a primary separation system, a gas regulation and conditioning skid, eight motor-generators, twelve computer centers—and over 3,000 computers. Because it provides an appealing option for new areas and requires less infrastructure, the venture, carried out in conjunction with climate technology specialists Unblock, opens the door for further unconventional oil developments.
“This project sets a precedent,” states Franco proudly. "At the appraisal stage, there aren’t many options to produce hydrocarbons, so this turned into a workable alternative that also benefits the environment."
It was, as can be expected, a major challenge, requiring input from over ten different areas in Tecpetrol, as well as Unblock and five other contractors, in addition to extensive amounts of planning and monitoring. Obtaining the materials and equipment was also a tough challenge as these had to be imported in a complex situation.
“As this was very much a groundbreaking development, we had some new companies in the mix, adding an extra layer of challenges in terms of quality and safety. But we managed to get everything done right on schedule,” adds Emiliano. “We completed the project without any economic and financial problems, and to top it off, we got it done with zero health, safety or environmental (HSE) incidents.”
Franco adds that, “We often think that speed undermines quality, but that wasn’t the case this time, thanks to the high degree of commitment from everyone involved.” They both understand that in a project like this, created almost from scratch, extra energy is crucial as making progress in uncharted territory requires a pioneering spirit: “We were pushing each other constantly, always seeking to create synergies so that the project could happen. And here we are! Mission accomplished!"
The project in numbers
> 5 wells, 2 interconnected Pads.
. 1 three-phase separator.
> 1 fuel gas skid.
> 8 motor-generators of 1.4 MW each.
> 12 MDCs (Modular Computing Centers).
> 3,000+ computers.