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What is an automated power unit?

Automated power units (APU) are considered a prime mover engine for pump jack applications in the oil and gas field. They are much more cost effective on the front end than electric driven motors or generator power, they can be completely automated with custom controller options and they run off a self-produced fuel source.

CK Power APU - automated power unit

Cost effectiveness

APUs are less expensive on the initial investment for the end user or operator. When comparing prime mover engines of equal power and performance capabilities, APUs cost less than electric and generator options.

Additionally, APUs run off the wellhead gas produced as a byproduct of pumping oil. Instead of paying a monthly electric bill to run a motor or purchasing and storing diesel to run a generator, APUs utilize the free wellhead gas that’s readily available.

In some cases, there are time periods in which there isn’t enough wellhead gas to power the unit – production levels dip, cold weather, etc. APUs are designed to run off dual fuel sources, using emergency liquid propane when necessary. When the engine’s fuel systems sense a drop in wellhead gas, it will automatically switch over to the emergency propane and keep the pump jack operating at normal levels.

There is preventative maintenance associated with automated power units. Just like generators, APUs require more routine maintenance compared to an electric motor. As far as total cost of ownership for preventative maintenance, APUs are comparable to a generator.

Custom controller options

APUs are completely automated, as their name implies. Operators can set multiple inputs and parameters for starting and stopping the unit. Typically, an employee must go out to the site and manually start or stop the engine powering a pump jack. APUs can be set to start or stop according to a timer from input readings associated with the well, the battery or the use of remote telemetry – starting and stopping the unit remotely from a laptop or cell phone.

This level of automation creates additional savings opportunities by reducing the man hours required to run the unit in addition to a reduction in transportation costs associated with traveling to and from the well site.


There is no drop-off in performance by using an APU compared to a generator or electric motor. All automated power units are sized according to the application.

The installation is a little more complicated than installing other power options. There is an evaluation on the front end to determine if there needs to be any additional modification, but for the most part, APUs are a plug and play solution and typically take about a half day to install. Oil field service companies commonly do the installation. Once placed on a well, the unit stays with the well. Compared to a generator, automated power units are not mobile and commonly spend their lifespan on the well on which they were originally installed.

With an array of cost savings combined with equal performance standards, automated power units are an ideal prime mover engine source for pump jacks. They are not as mobile as generators, nor are they as maintenance-free as electric motors, but they offer lower initial cost while performing the same work.

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