Technical Articles


MTE Offers Solutions to Ensure Power Quality in the Permian Basin

Local Utility Companies are Demanding that Oil Producers Control Their Harmonic Distortion

The Permian Basin, which is located in West Texas and New Mexico, has recently become the global hot bed of oil production. This is great for the local and national economy; however, it is causing some serious headaches for local utilities. As the fastest-growing oil region in the US, electricity demand in the Permian has grown 79% in the past year according to In order to maintain reliability, utility companies are starting to demand power quality improvements from producers.

Utilities Demand Better Power Quality
According to a recent Bloomberg article, the Permian Basin produces almost 4 million barrels of oil a day and has expanded so quickly that suppliers of the electricity are struggling to keep up. With the advance of fracking, not only have the number of wells dramatically increased, but the technology used consumes more power. Whereas the pump jacks of old used 30-40 horsepower motors, today’s sophisticated submersible and progressive cavity pumps use motors of 75-100 HP or larger. It’s not only the increase in power consumed that is causing issues, but the quality of the power being put back onto the grid that decreases reliability all around.

The motors for the pumps and other technology used in oil production are controlled by Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs), which allow variable runtimes and motor loading. While VFDs add efficiency, introducing them into the system creates distortions in the current and voltage waveforms, called harmonics. Harmonic distortion negatively affects power quality, which can lead to electrical equipment interruption, and ultimately failure.

Unmitigated harmonic distortion is reflected back to the power grid and causes power quality problems to the broader population. When a site or facility reflects an unacceptable level of harmonics, utilities can take action by fining them or even cutting off their power supply.

Oil Producers Are Trying To Catch Up
Power Quality is becoming a bigger issue for oil producers in the Permian Basin. Many are hiring consultants or working quickly to learn how power quality issues can impact both their production and their access to electricity. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), one of the leading standards-making organizations in the world, has provided some guidance in this area. Through the IEEE-519 standard, it recommends acceptable levels of Total Harmonic Voltage Distortion (THVD) and Total Demand Distortion (TDD). It is essentially a guideline for setting limits on harmonic distortion that will provide a clean source of electrical energy to the population so that consumer and industry can prosper side by side. Many utilities require compliance to IEEE-519, especially in areas where there are reliability concerns like in the Permian Basin.

MTE’s Solutions That Help Oil Producers Control Harmonics
MTE’s Matrix® AP Harmonic Filter delivers exceptional Total Harmonic Distortion (THID) performance and allows companies to meet IEEE-519 requirements. Its patented design utilizes a revolutionary core that allows it to adapt to changing loads. This means that it not only enables compliance at 100% load, but throughout the range of loads that are commonly seen in VFD applications. The Matrix AP’s unique design generates less heat and is easy to install and maintain. Plus, it is generator compatible, which can help in remote oil fields. With Matrix AP Harmonic Filters, power quality, energy efficiency and reduced downtime are easy to achieve.

Not only does MTE have experience helping companies meet general IEEE-519 requirements, but we have experience with power quality in oil production. MTE has worked with several companies involved in oil production, including a large energy company in the Bakken Oil Fields in Montana. In this instance, MTE helped them overcome harmonic distortion issues that were affecting the energy grid in that region. Read the full case study here.