Statoil, GE Use Crowdsourcing for New Ideas in Reducing Sand Use

Karen Boman

GE Oil & Gas and Statoil ASA in June will announce the results of their crowdsourcing effort to gather new ideas for the more efficient use of sand in hydraulic fracturing.

The companies decided to seek ideas from the public and other industries as part of its first Open Innovation Challenge, which launched in late January and closed April 28.

GE and Statoil in January announced they would collaborate on developing technology that would address in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner the three major challenges in the oil and gas industry. These challenges include:

  • natural gas flaring
  • carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane emissions
  • water usage

As part of this effort, the companies launched the Open Innovation Challenge, which specifically aims to address sand use in unconventional operations.

“Focusing on sand – which requires thousands of truck trips to transport this proppant onto the site when drilling new wells – has the potential to reduce the environmental impacts on local communities, lessen emissions and make energy production more efficient,” according to a statement from Statoil and GE.

The crowdsourcing effort will seek to reduce the need for trucking by seeking innovative technologies that can replace or reduce the amount of sand needed during hydraulic fracturing.

The companies are looking to create a portfolio of solutions that can be commercialized in the next one to five years. Ideas submitted for the challenge need to demonstrate proof of concept with six to 24 months; however, GE and Statoil said they would consider technologies that might need more than 24 months to show proof of concept for. The companies will award up to five winners an initial cash prize of $25,000 each.

Nine Sigma is hosting the first challenge. The next phase of the challenge will focus on ways to reduce water usage in fracking operations.

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 IHS CERAWeek in April.

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 lack 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 Oil & Gas CEO Lorenzo Simonelli told reporters at IHS CERAWeek.

With its Last Mile program, GE and Statoil have captured 1.5 million standard cubic feet per day of flared natural gas on a 24/7 basis in North Dakota’s Bakken field. GE and Statoil plan to bring two more systems online to 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 aggressively go on the offense and work with customers on new technology solutions to ensure a better outcome,” said Simonelli.

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