Open Innovation Challenge to Reduce Water Use in Oil Production

Published Feb-22-16

Four novel solutions to reduce the use of water in onshore oil and gas operations win global open innovation competition.

GE and Statoil, Norway

The Story:

Open Innovation Challenge to Reduce Water Use in Oil Production Concerned that water management is one of the greatest challenges facing the onshore oil and gas industry, GE and Norwegian multinational Statoil launched an open innovation challenge contest for solutions.

The aim was to find novel ways for reducing fresh water usage and treating and reusing water from development activities. At the same time, solutions had to improve operational productivity.
Innovative solutions not only have the potential to benefit the industry - for example, reducing the amount of water can lead to lower transport and energy costs - but the environment and local communities can be winners too.

Global Invitation

Businesses, institutions and members of the public were invited to take part the challenge. Up for grabs was a total prize pool of $500,000, made up of initial cash prizes and development funds.

More than 100 entries were received from participants in 23 countries, and from these four winners were selected based on such criteria as innovation, technical feasibility and commercial viability. Each winner received an initial cash award of $25,000.

The four winning ideas of the open innovation competition, judged by technical experts from both GE and Statoil were:

• Karen Sorber, Micronic Technologies, USA - for a low-pressure, low temperature mechanical
evaporation technology that purifies wastewater from any source.

• Chunlei Guo, University of Rochester, USA - for a technology involving high powered lasers that
alter the inner walls of downhole production pipes making them water repellent.

• Ahilan Raman (also a successful problem solver with IdeaConnection), Clean Energy and Water
Technologies, Australia - for a technology that removes organic compounds then separates
remaining compounds by creating ice crystals through Eutectic freeze crystallization (EFC). This
process is an energy-efficient way of producing clean water and pure salt from aqueous process

• Anthony Duong, Battelle Memorial Institute, USA – for a nano-sponge, a gel made from
nanoscale particles that is injected into hydraulically fractured walls. The gel soaks up halite
ions, the main actors in forming salt deposits. This means that salt cannot crystallize, thereby
protecting equipment from damage done by salt deposits.

Future Development and Cost Savings

Development will continue on the ideas, with $375,000 earmarked for these activities. When asked by Shale Gas News how much the technologies are expected to cut water management costs, a contest spokesman said hard figures were not available because the winning solutions are at various stages of development.

However, Karen Sorber's mechanical evaporation technology "...removes solids, dissolved solids, metals and bacteria at over 95 percent removal rates and 95 percent throughput and is estimated to cost one-tenth that of distillation."

You Can’t Go It Alone

Developing sustainable solutions will involve many players, those within and without the industry, with some novel solutions coming via open innovation.

"We need to continue to invent new, commercial technologies and models to increase margins, and at the same time reduce our carbon footprint,” said Elisabeth Birkeland Kvalheim, Chief Technology Officer at Statoil.

“We know that we cannot do this alone – that is why our partnership with GE is also about triggering broader collaboration within and beyond our industry."

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