Tourmaline named Energy Excellence Awards Champion for its diesel displacement initiative

The second annual Energy Excellence Awards (EEAs) program, presented by the Daily Oil Bulletin, uniquely recognizes energy excellence and focuses on the advancement of collaboration within Canada’s energy industry.

For 2020, the DOB received close to 90 nominations in four broad awards categories — Project Execution Excellence; Innovation & Technology Excellence; Environmental Excellence; and Exporting Excellence — recognizing work completed last year. The nominees were further broken down into 12 subcategories across the four groupings, before being judged by a committee of industry leaders.

In the following days we will present the champions in each subcategory. Today, we feature the champion in Innovation & Technology Excellence in the subcategory of Drilling through Completions.

The Champions stories are compiled here, and access all the Finalists stories here.


Champion Announcement Podcast: Listen to our podcast announcing the champion of this category and a panel discussion on what makes organizations and technologies within this category stand out as it relates to productivity, savings in time, financial management, safety, and changes to environmental performance.

Leading the discussion is Wendy Ell, director of strategic partnerships and industry development for Glacier Resource Innovation Group, which publishes the DOB. Joining her is Mark Guirguis, Account Manager with Spartan Controls, which is the Silver Sponsor of the Energy Excellence Awards, as well as Douglas Freel, Managing Director of Oilfield Service for ARC Financial Corporation.

Click here to listen.


Diesel fuel consumption is a significant contributor to many oil and gas producers’ operational costs and emissions — aspects particularly undesirable in a prolonged downturn in an increasingly climate aware world.

Borne out of an original objective to apply new technology to reduce fuel costs on a few drilling rigs, Tourmaline Oil Corp. grew its diesel displacement initiative to a company-wide environmental campaign that has materially cut both costs and emissions, drastically exceeding its own original expectations.

“Diesel fuel is a significant contributor to operational cost and emissions — our integration of technologies is effectively tackling this issue,” said the company, winner of the Drilling through Completions category of the Energy Excellence Awards.

“With this initiative, we are now saving tens of millions of dollars per year, improving safety risks by removing trucks from the road (500-plus loads per year) and achieving huge environmental benefits through GHG emissions reductions.”

According to Tourmaline, “The growth of this initiative has facilitated a significant future opportunity: we are now funding cleantech innovation such as natural gas hybrid drilling rigs, compressed natural gas mobile power generation, natural gas light/heavy haul transportation solutions and completions electrification.”

Tourmaline estimates fuel switching from diesel to natural gas has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 28 per cent. The Calgary-based company is currently calculating a cost savings of over $11 million per year and expects that to grow as it introduces the next phase of technology innovation this year.

“The system has had a significant environmental benefit through switching to lower carbon fuel and by removing a significant amount of fuel trucks off the roads.” As vehicle incidents are one of the leading safety issues in the industry, Tourmaline believes decreasing diesel truck deliveries is significantly reducing safety and environmental risk.

Flexible technology

Tourmaline has taken a systemic approach to displacing diesel fuel with its own natural gas from the spud of a well through to the end of completions. Throughout the initiative, many novel technologies have facilitated an evolution that brought Tourmaline to where it is today.

Tourmaline’s entire fleet of 11 drilling rigs now run bi-fuel natural gas, all its boilers run on natural gas and all its frac fleets are bi-fuel natural gas. It has two completions natural gas turbines, two natural gas portable generators, one highline powered drilling rig, and it is building a highline completions transformer skid.

Running pipelines to location prior to drilling and reversing the direction of flow to bring gas to location has allowed the company to bring large volumes of quality natural gas to every location for drilling and completions — without the need for trucking. After the wells are completed, the pipeline licence is revised and the gas is taken away from the lease to the nearest facility.

Fuel treatment units are used to remove impurities from the gas, allowing it to be run as a fuel through engines and heaters without causing damage and keeping maintenance to a minimum. With 15 Tourmaline-owned fuel scrubbing/gas conditioning skids, the company can displace over 9.8 million litres of diesel fuel annually.

A variety of bi-fuel engines are responsible for most of the natural gas displacement. Tourmaline operates different technologies mostly based on fumigated gas technology, and is working with providers on new, tier-4 cylinder gas metering technology.

The company is relatively early in the implementation of mobile gas turbine technology. It has two advanced gas turbines providing peripheral power to its completions operations in B.C. “We have done independent emissions testing on this technology with excellent results.”

It has also used mobile natural gas reciprocating engine generators to replace diesel light towers and mobile diesel generators. Running a larger, single natural gas generator has allowed it to replace multiple diesel engines; it has completely eliminated several diesel engines from some locations.

The on-site generation of lower-emissions electricity has allowed Tourmaline to use transformer technology and electric plug-in equipment. It has converted a variety of equipment to electric that would previously have been diesel, including light towers, derrick lighting, pumps, heaters and site shacks.

In the Spirit River area Tourmaline runs highline electricity to wellsites for pumpjacks and other production equipment. It partnered with ATCO Ltd. to build a large transformer and run highline power to location before drilling. A Precision Drilling Corporation rig operated in the area now runs on highline power, eliminating virtually all diesel consumption on location — only the loader and track hoe run on diesel.

Collaborative exercise

Implementing the initiative has taken a huge amount of collaboration. The company united through a common goal to become more environmentally conscious, with every group working together to achieve this goal, Tourmaline said. Internal collaboration has been crucial. For example, “pre-planning pads to license gas pipelines to location prior to the drilling and completions phase has taken significant collaboration to deliver.”

Externally, Tourmaline collaborated with numerous drilling and completions service companies as well as with local communities.

“The broad collaborative approach has been key to the success of this initiative. In all areas Tourmaline operates in, we are committed to working with Indigenous communities and other stakeholders,” said the company.


The Champion Series is brought to you by Fluor Canada, our Gold Sponsor, and Spartan Controls, our Silver Sponsor.

Fluor Canada: Since 1949, Fluor Canada has been involved in the engineering, procurement and construction of a wide range of energy related projects that are spread across the Canadian landscape. Fluor provides local, regional and international clients with full-service capabilities, which include economic evaluations, conceptual engineering, feasibility studies, program management, detailed engineering, procurement, transportation and logistics, modularization, fabrication, direct-hire construction, construction management, commissioning, start-up, operations and maintenance.

Spartan Controls: Spartan Controls was founded in 1963 and is an employee-owned company with people and infrastructure in 14 towns and cities across Western Canada. Spartan Controls provides a very broad range of industrial automation products & solutions to all the process industries.