Statoil, GE Unveil Winners of First Open Innovation Challenge

Reducing the amount of water and proppant being trucked to shale exploration and production areas by seeking new uses and compositions of proppants was the goal behind GE and Statoil ASA’s first Open Innovation Challenge.

The companies announced the five winners of this challenge Tuesday, the first of GE and Statoil’s efforts to find solutions for reducing the environmental impact of unconventional exploration and production.

Finding lighter, more compact replacements for the proppants currently used by industry – as well as fluid and fluid additives that better suspend proppant and are more efficient – is critical as proppant and water are the most trucked materials in hydraulic fracturing.

Sand – which is mixed with water and injecting into a formation to stimulate, or prop open, the tiny fractures, allowing oil and natural gas to flow – is one of the most widely used proppants in shale development, and plays a critical role in the hydraulic fracturing process. Well stimulation requires hundreds of truck trips to transport materials, which increases road wear and traffic as well as noise, dust and emissions.

“The end game is to develop a diverse portfolio of technologies that help reduce the environmental impact, while enhancing operational efficiencies,” said Lars Høier, senior vice president of research, development & innovation at Statoil, in a statement.

GE and Statoil used crowdsourcing to gather ideas, and received over 100 submissions from applications in more than 30 countries. Technical experts and management from both Statoil and GE served as judges in the competition.

“It is exciting and gratifying to note the quality and quantity of responses, and that many were from industries not related to energy,” said Eric Gebhardt, chief technology officer for GE Oil & Gas, in a July 21 press statement.

“The positive response and excellence of the winning submissions underscore the value of open innovation and the significant of industry collaboration to bring great ideas not only to the table, but to reality,” Gebhardt noted.

Inspirations for some the innovative technologies entered into the challenge include marble encased in Jell-O, a floating maple leaf and artificial cartilage. The winners are:

  • Bioastra Tech of Montreal, Quebec
  • Biopolynet, Fredericton, Nova Scotia
  • Hoowaki, Pendleton, South Carolina
  • Semplastics, Oviedo, Florida
  • University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center, Grand Forks, N.D.

The winners will each be awarded an initial cash prize of $25,000, and will be eligible to receive additional funding from an available discretionary prize pool of $375,000 for potential development or commercialization upon meeting certain additional conditions.

GE and Statoil just announced its second Open Innovation Challenge, which will focus on finding innovative ways to reduce water usage in unconventional oil and gas development and reusing water from development while maintaining or boosting productivity. The crowdsourcing challenge will remain open for submissions until Sept. 24.

The first Open Innovation Challenge launched in late January and closed April 28.

Earlier this year, the companies established a joint technology-focused program to speed up development of environmentally and economically sustainable energy solutions to address the biggest challenges facing global oil and gas development. Through this collaboration, the companies are focusing on solutions to address issues such as natural gas flaring, carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane emissions and water usage.

Given that both companies are technology companies, the Powering Collaboration joint venture is a natural fit between Statoil and GE.


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Karen Boman has more than 10 years of experience covering the upstream oil and gas sector. Email Karen at


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