Increasing Efficiency and Reducing Costs with an Automated Unloading System

There is nothing worse than arriving at a well pad, only to see a line of trucks waiting to offload before you. The current truck unloading process is labor intensive and lacks efficiency, especially when unloading times range from 20 minutes to 2 hours. Current well pad processes consist of manual systems, no automation, slow unloading times, and poorly integrated technologies. Typically trucks unload manually through candy canes attached to the AST or a combined manifold system. The combined manifold system causes trucks to fight one another during the unloading process thereby lengthening the unloading times.

We define cycle time as the cumulative time from when the truck enters the pad until the truck leaves the pad. So, why does cycle time matter? Imagine a world where traffic flow & inbound logistics are managed, regulatory reporting is accurate, and overall costs are reduced. With fluid being hauled from multiple locations across the basin, by different truck drivers, it is important to know the origin and quantity of the fluid, all in real time. The Hydro-Vac system actively works to minimize the time spent by creating a streamlined offloading process that positively impacts all components of the offload cycle.

The two greatest factors that affect cycle time are paperwork exchange and truck unloading time. Cycle time on the pad can be significantly reduced by digitally exchanging paperwork, but how? The Hydro-Vac system takes manual information exchange to the next level by using RFID technology. With a swipe of an individual fob, the driver can start the system and begin the unloading process. Automatically, the truck ID, truck company, driver information and time stamp will be logged into the system. With help from our Hydro-Gauge tank level measuring system, the volume of the truck is now known to the gallon, and the vac system will know exactly how much was offloaded, and when the tank is empty. That data is wirelessly transmitted to the vac system through a Bluetooth device, and you can now know how much water is delivered for the entire pad every day.

The next component that affects cycle time is how quickly the driver can unload the truck and exit the pad. Typical offload times today take 15-25 minutes, assuming nothing goes wrong. When issues arise, offload times can increase up to two hours of time spent on the pad. What if you could cut that offloading time in half and start increasing efficiency due to automation? With the Hydro-Vac system, now you can.

The HydroVac intermediary tank & other system components; all mounted and housed on a mobile trailer.

The Hydro-Vac is an automated unloading system designed to expedite fluid hauling cycle times by offloading trucks on average, in 7 minutes or less. The system was built for drive through operation, but it can be deployed in any configuration to fit the well pad layout. It is easy to navigate by the touch of a button, minimizing driver interaction & mismanagement. After the driver pulls in, performs safety procedures, and connects the hose to the truck, one press of a button will start the unloading process. It comes equipped with offload stands at each bay and associated piping, and all system components are mounted & housed on a mobile trailer. Designed into the offload stand is a screen interface to educate and alert the driver with visual & audible prompts, and the main PLC is on site to control all system operations. When the truck is finished unloading, the system prompts the driver to complete the unloading process, and the hose is drained back into the system to prevent any spills. The driver confirms the end point of unloading by pushing the end cycle button. The system is repeatable and reliable with the same touch points as drivers currently have, except now this system can do their job for them with the push of two buttons. We have recently made adaptations to the Hydro-Vac to eliminate or minimize debris in the hose coming from the water in the trucks. The entire system can be deployed in just hours and operated by a single attendant.

The HydroVac comes equipped with offloading stands at each bay. The stands provide a screen interface to educate and alert the driver, with an easy touch of a button to navigate the unloading process.

To further optimize the offload process, the system can be built to include condensate detection technology that will prevent condensate contamination of inbound water storage. The HC-DETX condensate detection system works by inserting a detection probe in the process line on the offload stand, where it provides continuous monitoring of the fluid stream with an accuracy down to a single PPM. Ultimately, The HC-DETX system’s ability to detect the presence of condensate in situ creates a platform for prevention and rejection to eliminate condensate migration. The redirection of flow can allow for the capture and separation of condensate in separate process vessels to eliminate safety hazards while allowing for the resale of the captured hydrocarbons.

The HydroVac system was deployed on site in Southwestern, PA with a total of 6 offloading stands.

The first Hydro-Vac system was deployed in early November 2020 and is already showing success with average unloading times significantly better than the operator’s previous unloading times. This particular well-pad is set up with 6 offloading stands, a condensate detection probe on stand #1, and back-in configuration due to the current space constraints.  We have attendants on site to make sure the system runs smoothly and to train the drivers, but after the learning period is over there is the option to reduce costs with eliminating labor down to your own comfortability. In a short period of time trucking companies have learned the system, and we have learned from them. We have sent out team-members from Comtech to be on site solely to talk to the drivers to understand and educate ourselves on how we can perfect the system. Within the first few weeks we have already made modifications to our system that will elevate the unloading process and make it better for our customers.

As an innovative solutions-based company, we strive to be the best and because of that we are always looking at alternative options to enhance our products for our customers. Looking ahead we are already planning for additional functionality, and an all-electric system powered by natural gas. The Hydro-Vac system is completely customizable to fit your wants and needs. With that being said, increasing efficiency and automation for the Exploration and Production companies while also reducing costs is our number one goal, and with this integrated system the possibilities are endless.

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