Crestwood Equity Partners is no stranger to Cat® power for gas compression, getting about 60% of its 700,000 horsepower in the field from Cat reciprocating gas engines. But as sustainability demands rise and budgets get tighter, that’s changing. The company isn’t switching from Caterpillar to another engine manufacturer but, where it makes sense, transitioning from Cat gas engines to Cat electric motors.
“Anytime we’re able to use an electric motor instead of something that burns gas, that’s a no-brainer for us,” says Hugo Guerrero, senior vice president of technical services for the Houston-based company. “Electric motors can a provide a lot of savings from a fuel consumption standpoint, from a maintenance standpoint and most importantly from an emissions standpoint.”
Uninterrupted power across multiple jobs
Currently, Crestwood is running three Cat electric motors in the Permian and another 10 in the Bakken — five at a main compressor station and five at gas processing plant, where they’re used in residue service and overhead gas compression service. Guerrero believes the company is one of the first to deploy Cat electric motors in this specific manner.
“We have them installed not only in gas plants but also at a major compressor station on our pipeline, which isn’t something we’ve traditionally seen,” he says. “We’re trying to take advantage of the compatibility of use between the pipeline and plant. The motors are similar in size and horsepower so if one goes down, we can deploy another one as a spare. That saves us from maintaining multiple spares.”
So far, however, the need for spares has been non-existent.
“The reliability is great,” Guerrero says. “We’ve had zero issues with any of the motors. They’ve been running uninterrupted since start-up in July 2017 in West Texas and August 2019 in North Dakota.”
The company has experienced no downtime due to maintenance, either. Cat electric motors are designed to be virtually maintenance-free, requiring not much more than an annual oil change, and that was a key factor in Crestwood’s purchase decision.
“Eliminating the need for ongoing maintenance and taking that line item out of our budget was a big driver,” Guerrero says. “The motors have required very little to no maintenance since installation, even in West Texas where they’re sitting outdoors with no covers. They’ve survived a couple of dry, hot summers and harsh winters with no problems.”
A visible commitment to sustainability
As important as reliability and ease of maintenance may be, they take a backseat to the biggest benefit Crestwood sees in the switch to Cat electric motors — zero onsite emissions.
“Crestwood has made a commitment to sustainability and in 2019 was one of the first MLP midstream companies to publish a corporate sustainability report,” Guerrero says. “Whether you’re a publicly traded company or not, sustainability is important to stakeholders, and adding electric motors to your portfolio is a great way to reduce emissions.”
Crestwood doesn’t have plans to become a 100% electric company, but Guerrero does expect the company to expand its existing fleet of Cat electric motors and Solar turbines where it makes good business sense.
“We don’t believe there is a single solution for all applications. We look at each application and each opportunity independently,” he says. “Still, having access to another driver for compression is a good thing to have in our toolbox. That’s why we were excited to see that Caterpillar was serious about offering electric motors as an addition to its current product line. They’re a great alternative.”
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