In this low-price environment, the oil and gas industry is hard at work to shore up shareholder value. The focus is on continued efficiency, cost reduction and process improvement. Continuous innovation is needed in every sector of the industry and all along the value chain. Costs can be lowered and processes can be improved at every facet of the play.
This is exactly the space that the Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation & Commercialization Center (SGICC) works in every day. Our mission is to identify and support the effort to commercialize technical innovations to provide value to the shale energy industry in the commonwealth. We are the only group in the nation that focuses solely on this effort – and it’s happening right here in Pennsylvania.
The first step in our process is to identify those innovations that can provide value to the industry. This can be a daunting task. Five years ago, we created the Shale Gas Innovation Contest with cash prizes to the winners as a way to bring innovations to us. The cash prizes are generated by sponsor contributions, and the sponsors are also the judging panel. Our sponsors include major players and independent companies from every sector of the shale energy industry. We have received over 40 applications this year and narrowed the field to determine the most promising innovations. Attendees at the Final Event will see exhibits and hear presentations from over 20 innovative companies as they share details regarding their latest products and services that will positively impact the shale energy industry. At the end of the day, the judges will select the four finalists that each will win $20,000.
The 5th Annual Shale Gas Innovation Contest will take place at the Hilton Garden Inn just southwest of Pittsburgh from 1p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 18. This is a free event put on by the SGICC, a Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central & Northern PA (BFTP/CNP) supported center located in State College, Pennsylvania.
For the last five years, the SGICC has been hard at work supporting myriad entrepreneurs across the state hoping to launch a new product or service to help positively impact the process of shale energy extraction, resource utilization, or improving the safety and environmentally sound practices being used during the process. Bill Hall, SGICC director, spends his time focused on advancing the most promising ideas.
“Until you’ve been in the trenches, so to speak, it’s hard to explain how challenging it is to advance an idea all the way to being a commercially successful product or service,” said Hall. “My job is to sort through dozens of promising ideas and identify ones that SGICC can impact through shining a light on them, helping them vet their concept with potential end users and, in some cases, providing an infusion of outside investment funds through the Ben Franklin Technology Partners program.”
Regarding the SGICC team’s overall effort, Hall commented: “It’s important to understand that this is way more than a one-event contest; it’s the beginning of relationships formed with SGICC that can lead to introductions to potential customers and potential Ben Franklin funding. It is extremely difficult for these small companies to reach major industry players without the help of the SGICC. It’s equally difficult for major players to see past the noise of innovators clamoring for a spot on their vendor list. Many of these major players look to the SGICC vetting process to provide them connections and to perform the initial screening, uncovering quality technology improvements.”
The shale energy play also offers a new playing field for entrepreneurs and can be a new market for an existing product or service being used in other sectors. For example, KCF Technologies, located in State College and a BFTP/CNP-funded company, has commercialized a low-cost, low-power sensor that is used for wireless monitoring of rotating equipment known as condition-based maintenance. Industries like pulp and paper, as well as the building maintenance sector, embraced KCF’s technology years ago, but their concept was new to the shale energy players. Through hard work and persistence and with the support of SGICC, KCF is now rapidly deploying its capability across the industry. Its product improves safety during drilling and fracking while saving the E&P companies significant dollars by increasing productivity and significantly lowering maintenance costs.
Ben Lawrence, KCF’s vice president of sales, commented: “Where would our business be without Ben Franklin Technology Partners? For starters, we would likely be stuck in startup mode and trying to figure out how to commercialize our technology. When it comes to gaining traction within the shale energy sector, the Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation & Commercialization Center has been especially helpful. SGICC is an organization we truly appreciate because they go the extra mile to help with real-world business introductions and trade show exposure. These guys don’t just fund back-office R&D; they take their small business partners by the arm and pull us into real-world customer meetings. They are a model organization leading PA entrepreneurs out of their shells, into the streets, and winning the sales game.”
SGICC has utilized the annual Shale Gas Innovation Contests to identify the majority of the novel technologies under development that they’ve helped advance. Now approaching the fifth contest, the center has a solid base of industry sponsors that provides the prize money to the chosen winners. These companies also supply the contest judges engaged in vetting the technologies.
Dante Bonaquist, senior corporate fellow, R&D at Praxair, is another sponsor and judge. “Through the Shale Gas Innovation Contest, SGICC brings together a broad range of promising ideas covering production, transportation, and utilization,” he said. From the technology-scouting perspective, there is no better opportunity to see high-caliber, shale gas-related innovations on display at a single event.”
This year’s contest also will include a keynote address by Joe Frantz, vice president of engineering for the Marcellus Shale Division of Range Resources Corp. Frantz will share his views regarding Range Resources’ innovation strategies, noting, “Range’s operational team continues to be creative and efficient in how we do our work, from small steps to large-scale changes, to help reduce costs. Last year alone, Range saw drilling costs drop by 21 percent per lateral foot, combined with a 33 percent reduction in completion costs.” Frantz’s presentation will focus on Range’s key drivers in well cost reductions and the application of technology to improve overall performance.
The contest uncovers a broad array of technologies. Any new technology that could be employed along the entire O&G industry value chain is of interest. This includes natural gas or NGL utilization concepts; exploration or drilling/fracturing-related technologies; water management or technologies such as novel coatings or chemicals, sensors, IT management concepts, and EH&S focused technologies.
To learn more about the upcoming Shale Gas Innovation Contest Finals Event, go towww.sgicc.org and click on the “2016 Shale Gas Innovation Contest” button. Information regarding all of the companies participating can be found there as well as registration information to attend the free event.
As part of the statewide Ben Franklin Technology Partners network, the Shale Gas Innovation & Commercialization Center is designed to vet new technology concepts, business strategies, or products/services directed towards the shale energy play, and when appropriate to provide access to seed capital that will help move promising concepts and early stage small companies forward.
PITTSBURGH, PA –On May 18th in Pittsburgh during the 5th Annual Shale Gas Innovation Contest the following four companies each walked away with a winner’s check for $20,000:
Bill Hall, Ben Franklin SGICC Director noted, “The 12 finalists once again show the diversity of ideas being brought to the table by entrepreneurs and small companies in the region to help advance the shale energy play. Innovations are now more than ever, critically important to the industry as we manage through this downturn. Continuous innovation is needed in every sector of the industry and all along the value chain, and this is exactly the space that the Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation & Commercialization Center (SGICC) works in every day.”
At the event, Joe Frantz, Vice President of Engineering Technology for Range Resources provided a keynote address where he discussed just some of the incredible advancements that have been made recently by companies to improve their performance. He also noted, “What I like about the Innovation Contest process is that I always see several new technologies that might help Range further improve our operations. I take the new ideas back to the office and meet with other staff to see where they might fit in."
Hoon Won, President of Compass Natural Gas commented, “It’s an honor for Compass Natural Gas Partners to be recognized by SGICC and its distinguished panel of judges. Compass has benefited from the association with and support from SGICC. SGICC’s work to catalyze innovation and entrepreneurship in the Marcellus is important to the future of the state and the region.”
Gordon Craig, Chief Technology Officer from Epiphany noted, “Epiphany Water Solutions is honored to be recognized by the Shale Gas Innovation Contest and its well qualified panel of judges as a winner of the 2016 Shale Gas Innovation Contest. The contest is a great way to continue to improve the safety, efficiency, profitability and sustainability of the shale gas industry. The competition is especially valuable to Epiphany as it highlights our technologies in front of key personnel within the industry. It’s not often that you get to speak about your company and technology in front of the decision makers of so many E&P organizations.”
Donny Beaver, CEO of HalenHardy noted, “SGICC and the Ben Franklin program have been instrumental in helping HalenHardy innovate new products since our inception. They’ve not only provided much needed early stage funding but also continue to offer us world class advice and business connections. Bill Hall and John Siggins are constantly encouraging us. We could not have come this far so quickly without their priceless input.”
This year the contest once again also included a winner from the state of West Virginia thanks to a grant provided to the SGICC from the Benedum Foundation. That winner was Aridea Solutions from Charleston, WV. Their on-demand pneumatic actuated valve system allows valves at remote sites such as pipelines in rugged terrain to be controlled at significantly lower costs than traditional SCADA systems.
This year’s event also included a panel of previous Innovation Contest winners that fielded questions posed by shale energy expert Katie Klaber, President of the Klaber Group. The panel that included KCF Technologies, Optimum Technologies, and PIX Controller addressed topics ranging from the support they’ve received from Ben Franklin and SGICC to the challenges they faced with the slowdown in the industry.
This year the contest also included a poster session showing off some of the cutting edge research and technologies under development by 4 regional universities (CMU, PITT, PSU, and WVU). Three posters were chosen as winners of $500 prizes and they were:
Contest Sponsors also praised the event. “Given the cyclical nature of the natural gas industry, a deliberate and focused effort on finding and developing new, innovative technologies has always been a huge differentiator for EQT – and the return on investment is particularly beneficial during a low-price, downturn environment”, noted Karl Coke, Senior Vice President of Innovation at EQT Production. “For this reason, EQT supports events such as the annual Shale Gas Innovation Contest, which provides tremendous learning opportunities and allows us to make connections that might otherwise have been missed.”
Finalist presentations and additional details on the event are posted at http://www.sgicc.org/finals-event-2016-shale-gas-innovation-contest.html.
This 5th Annual Shale Gas Innovation Contest’s GOLD sponsor is the Ben Franklin Technology Partners (http://www.benfranklin.org). Industry sponsors include: Chevron Technology Ventures (http://www.chevron.com/ctv/ctvi/), EQT Corporation (https://www.eqt.com), First National Bank (www.fnb-online.com), GE Transportation (http://www.getransportation.com/), LPR Energy (http://www.lprenergy.com/), LPR Land Services (http://www.lprls.com/), the Marcellus Shale Coalition (http://marcelluscoalition.org), PPG Industries (http://corporate.ppg.com/), Praxair (www.praxair.com), Steptoe & Johnson PLLC (http://www.steptoe-johnson.com/ ), and Williams (www.williamsinthenortheast.com). Non-Profit sponsors include: Carnegie Mellon University’s Scott Institute for Energy Innovation (http://www.cmu.edu/energy/), Penn State University’s Institute for Natural Gas Research (http://www.ems.psu.edu/INGaR), the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Energy (http://www.engineering.pitt.edu/cfe/), and West Virginia University’s Energy Institute (http://energy.wvu.edu/). And the Media sponsor for this year’s event is the Marcellus Business Central (http://www.pabusinesscentral.com/).
About the SGICC
The Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center (www.sgicc.org) supports and commercializes early-stage technologies that enhance responsible stewardship of the environment while properly utilizing this energy asset.