CASPER, Wyo. — A Casper company is selling a product that it believes could address one of Wyoming’s burning energy issues — and business is booming.
Moser Energy Systems, a 40-year-old company in west Casper, has since 2010 built and sold a special brand of engine to oil field operators.
The engine changes the way operators deal with unwanted natural gas from oil wells, a resource normally burned off in a process called flaring. Instead of burning that gas solely to prevent emissions, oil operators can use a natural gas-powered Moser engine to generate electricity for their well pad — a job usually done by engines powered by dirtier gasoline and diesel.
“Gas that would normally be flared or wasted — our engines run off that,” said Jakob Norman, company executive vice president. “Rather than letting it go, we found a use for it.”
The business is doing well.
Moser hasn’t always sold natural gas-powered engines. The business was founded in 1973 as an oil field electricity generation specialist.
The company rented light towers, heaters and other products to companies that needed to keep pump jacks running.
In 2010, the company began building and selling a new product — a natural gas engine.
Natural gas engines are far from novel. Many oil producers use the engines to power drilling rigs.
The engines are also increasingly used in the automotive industry, largely because the fuel is affordable and emits relatively low amounts of pollutants.
But Moser’s engines are different than most on the market. They could help cut down on an oil production practice that has drawn some negative attention.
Oil operators constantly encounter natural gas while drilling for their targeted resource. They often don’t have a way to collect, process and sell the gas.
So most burn the gas by sending it into devices called flaring tubes. The process is better than freely releasing the gas into the atmosphere, they say.
But flaring is far from acceptable in the eyes of some. Several landowner groups in Wyoming have asked the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to limit the practice.
Gov. Matt Mead included a review of flaring rules in his state energy strategy, which he released earlier this month. The commission is drafting flaring rules now.
Norman said his company’s product could be one way for operators to cut flare length and volume. The gas is still burned, but in an engine instead of an open flame far above ground.
In this system, the gas is routed through a scrubbing tank for drying and then burned, generating usable electricity — anywhere from 25 kilowatts to multiple megawatts, depending on need.
If a company opts to use a Moser engine, Norman said it can also save on the cost to buy and transport the fuel to run their previous generator. Many such generators are diesel-fueled.
“This application is best for everyone,” Norman said. “We can save what gas would be wasted and save diesel fuel.”
The company does business worldwide. Moser engines — mostly leased — are operating in Canada and Ecuador, as well as in the Eagle Ford shale play in Texas and the Bakken play in North Dakota.
Norman said business in Wyoming is “starting to pick up,” and he expects more interest from Wyoming producers in the future. He said his company is more experienced with the type of engine than anyone else.
“We’re putting more of this unit out than anybody in the U.S.,” he said. “I think that’s pretty neat.”
Bruce Hinchey is the president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, a trade group that actively represents operators around the state. Hinchey said he hasn’t heard of engines like Moser’s catching on in Wyoming, but said good products usually find their way to the market.
“I’m sure if they’re good, they’ll sell,” he said. “If they work and they do what they say, a company will use them.”
Moser is also expanding its footprint in the Casper metro area.
Company executives recently announced plans to expand to a new 37,500 square-foot manufacturing facility in Evansville. The new space will allow the company — which employs 50 — to produce more and hire more people.
“We’re going to quadruple production,” Norman said. “In the next couple of years, it wouldn’t surprise me if we get to 100” employees.
Moser staff can build an entire gas-burning engine in a day, from engine modification to mounting on a metal frame to loading onto a trailer and adding a metal cover for final send-off.
Norman hopes to soon adorn each unit with a decal sticker of Steamboat, Wyoming’s legendary bucking horse. The company is in talks for rights to the image.
“We’re proud of the fact that these are made in Wyoming and going everywhere,” Norman said. “We don’t have plans to change the fact that they’re made in Wyoming.”