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.

“We want to push the envelope in terms of doing things quicker, faster and better,” Bill Moloney, EVP of development & production in North America, told reporters at the 2015 IHS CERAWeek conference earlier this year in Houston.

The Last Mile fueling solution, which is CNG in a Box, is already used commercially, and offers a great solution for natural gas flaring in places such as North Dakota, which lacks the infrastructure to deal with gas produced with oil.

The use of liquid CO2 stimulation in fracking operations is not new, but GE and Statoil have sought technology to enhance production, Moloney said.

The collaboration between GE and Statoil had started even before the recent oil price downturn, and the companies would still have pursued the technology joint venture in spite of the oil price decline, GE O&G CEO Lorenzo Simonelli told reporters at IHS CERAWeek.

With its Last Mile program, GE and Statoil have captured in North Dakota’s Bakken field 1.5 million standard cubic feet per day of flared natural gas on a 24/7 basis. GE and Statoil plan to bring two more systems online capture gas, which is put into truck engines and engines on rigs.

Lorenzo said the companies, which have both been through oil price downturns before, are not reducing their spending on new technology and the programs in which they are currently investing.

“We have to keep progressing and advancing” in spite of oil prices, Simonelli said.

Using technology innovation to boost hydrocarbon recovery at a reasonable cost creates a “no-lose” situation for industry, said Moloney.

“We see the downturn as an opportunity to aggressive go on the offensive and work with customers on new technology solutions to ensure a better outcome,” said Simonelli.



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