The natural gas industry is unique in that smaller companies are the best place to find new ideas, said Steven Winberg, vice president for research and development at Consol Energy Inc.
When Consol was working primarily in the coal space, the company frequently went to larger firms when seeking out new technologies instead of entrepreneurs. That’s because coal has a lot more oversight, and developing new technologies that work in mines is more costly than working on innovation in natural gas, Winberg said.
“On the coal side, it’s pretty capital intensive,” he said. “Underground, there’s a lot of regulations. … (It’s) costly to bring innovation to bear.”
But things are different with the burgeoning natural gas industry.
Consol is a sponsor of the upcoming Shale Gas Innovation Contest hosted by theBen Franklin Technology Partners. Big energy companies like Consol sponsor such events because it’s a great way to see a lot of technologies in a short amount of time, Winberg said. Oftentimes, these technologies are ones companies can incorporate into their businesses.
William Hall, executive director of the Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center, echoed similar sentiments.
“For people who are looking for new technologies, it’s a pretty quick way to get an idea of what’s going on in the space,” he said.
Hall said it’s likely that of the 13 finalists competing for one of four $25,000 first prizes at the Shale Gas Innovation Contest, several will find new partnerships at the event May 15.
“I would say that of our 13 finalists, we would expect somewhere between four and seven would end up with beneficial business relationships as a result of the competition,” he said.
Loren Anderson, strategic projects manager at the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said a major goal of companies who support such conferences is to establish relationships with small companies working in the shale gas innovation space.
Anderson explained one such partnership came from the Marcellus Shale Coalitions online process that allows companies to apply to have their new technologies vetted by the Coalition.
The technology, developed by a small company, was a camera that used infrared technology to see small leaks at different connection points along drilling machinery, exposing any problems earlier than companies could discover them on their own. The camera company is now engaged with a number of companies in the industry, Anderson said.
I think that the MSC, we’re going to continue to sponsor and support initiatives that support new research and technologies,” Anderson said. “We want to sponsor fact-based technology and research to promote transparency and growth within the industry.”
Pittsburgh Business Times
Original Source: http://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/print-edition/2014/04/25/developers-look-to-small-firms-for-new-tech.html