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Publication Title | Lampe, SPE, and T.M. VealeThe Three R’s of Oil Production for the 21st Century S.W. Capstone Turbine Corporation

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Text | Lampe, SPE, and T.M. VealeThe Three R’s of Oil Production for the 21st Century S.W. Capstone Turbine Corporation | 001

SPE 68858

The Three R’s of Oil Production for the 21st Century S.W. Lampe, SPE, and T.M. Veale, Capstone Turbine Corporation

Copyright 2001, Society of Petroleum Engineers Inc.

This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE Western Regional Meeting held in Bakersfield, California, 26–30 March 2001.

This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, as presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Papers presented at SPE meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper for commercial purposes without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper was presented. Write Librarian, SPE, P.O. Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836, U.S.A., fax 01-972-952-9435.


For an industry steeped in tradition and energized by innovation, this might be both the best of times and the worst of times to be an oil producer. At the same moment that California is engaged in a high profile energy crisis, the dawning of the 21st century marks a transformational period for oil production.

Producers are undergoing the ultimate challenge — finding technology solutions that will carry forward the promise of what we call the three R’s of oil production: reducing O&M costs, demonstrating higher operating reliability compared to existing technologies; and effectively revolutionizing the approach to prime power production.

With less control of operational costs than ever before, how will producers control energy costs, gain free fuel and clean power while ensuring long-term business viability and profit?

In a word: microturbines.

For producers of oil production, microturbines represent a technology breakthrough and “green” opportunity for the producers’ bottom line.

The commercial introduction of microturbines by Capstone Turbine Corporation late in 1998 sparked a new generation of enabling innovation. Two companies are now vying for global market share: Capstone and Honeywell Power Systems.

Capstone emerged as the technology leader in development and commercialization of ultra-low-emission microturbine power systems that are particularly well suited for oilfield needs.

Combining miniaturized jet engine technology with digital power electronics, the simple design of a microturbine belies the fact it solves a variety of onsite power generation needs

while simultaneously improving energy economics. Capstone’s air-cooled design and patented air bearing technology eliminates the need for any liquid subsystems while mitigating the high maintenance costs and downtime associated with reciprocating engine generator sets.


California’s escalating power problems demonstrate how quickly a change in the status quo can erode sunny economic and infrastructure forecasts. For the oil industry, the producers’ challenge to long-term survivability must be to find reliable energy solutions that add value to the bottom line while managing costs.

Oil Production Then & Now

For the oil & gas industry, methods of exploring, drilling and processing Earth’s fossil fuels are undergoing a transformation, driven by rapidly evolving technology in the entire process.

Significant oil deposits usually include the presence of small amounts of gas. Traditionally, gas that is not economical to conserve is flared.

Furthermore, to power remote sites, producers have had to choose whether to incur the time and costs of connecting to an often times distant electric grid, or utilize gas-fueled reciprocating (recip) engine gensets that need frequent onsite maintenance and external propane or diesel fuel if the wellhead gas is sour.

Alternatively, large gas turbine engines have also been deployed to provide electricity at remote oilfield operations. Because power output often exceeds local site requirements, an electric transmission and distribution system is still needed.

Anatomy of a Microturbine

Until the commercial introduction of the Capstone MicroTurbine in 1998, there was no small-scale solution that could single-handedly reduce operational costs, reduce flare gas, and reduce production emissions.

A microturbine is essentially a miniature, self-contained power plant generating heat and electricity in the power range of 30 kW to 1.2 MW multipacks. Most have a single moving part, no gearboxes, pumps or other subsystems, and use no oil, lubricants or coolants.

Currently in use worldwide for applications ranging from remote oil and gas fields to onboard generation for hybrid

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