Weir acquires valves & pumps, seismic sensors next?

Thursday 26th January 2012
One drill-string seismic sensor package used to acquire seismic data while drilling. This module is positioned in the bottom-hole assembly near the drill bit. Illustration, data courtesy of Schlumberger Courtesy:

The engineering group Weir has made its second acquisition in the US shale oil and gas sector with the acquisition of Dallas-based US valve maker Novatech for $176m (£113m). Perhaps it should also consider the seismic sensor market too.

Weir which supplies pumps and valves to the resources industry acquired Houston, Texas based Seaboard Holdings for £431m in November. Seaboard manufactures engineered wellhead and pressure control equipment and provides field and support services, including equipment rental into the onshore oil and gas drilling, completion and production markets. 

The purchase of Texas-based Novatech will be funded from existing bank facilities and will immediately add to company earnings.

CEO Keith Cochrane (right) said of Weir's latest acquisition, "Novatech is a respected brand in the US upstream oil and gas markets, with strong market share in the  frac consumables market.

"This deal enables Weir to broaden our aftermarket expendable product portfolio in this fast-growing sector, where increasing operating intensities require equipment and components to be more regularly replaced and serviced. "

President, chair and CEO of Novatech, Starr L. Pitzer Jr, said: "We have worked with Weir's upstream business as a supplier for a number of years and have come to know the company well and admire the way they operate."

The acquisitions come at a time when well shutdowns by fracking induced seismicity may now require some changes in approach and technology rethinks as reports  find geophysicists increasingly certain that the expanding production of shale gas is responsible for  minor earthquakes, upsetting communities and prompting authorities in Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, and the UK to shut down some natural-gas operations.

The key questions are whether fracking operational sizes should be scaled down? How can fracking be monitored more closely?  And, as yet unknown, do they have the potential to trigger truly destructive earthquakes?

It is accepted that shale gas operations do generate micro-seismicity through hydraulic fracturing the underground with blasts of water, sand and chemicals to release the natural gas trapped in shale depositions.

That process used by Cuadrilla caused a 2.3 Richter scale quake last April in the Blackpool region, according to the Bowland Shale seismicity report.  Authored by senior researchers at German geophysical consultancy Q-con and Dutch consultancy StrataGen Delft, recommendations were that Cuadrilla use less fluid in its fracking operations than it employed at Blackpool and  called for underground seismometers to identify problems early, which Cuadrilla says it will implement. 

In Oklahoma, quakes were between 1 and 2.8magnitude. Deep injection disposal wells for wastewater and brine that surfaces with the hydrocarbons are also believed to have caused the Arkansas quakes and the more recent Ohio tremors which reached 4.0 magnitude.  

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