Entrepreneurs driving industry innovation forward at the Rice Alliance Start-up Roundup

04 May, 2015

This week OTM presented awards to some of the most promising technology entrepreneurs at the Rice Alliance Start-up Roundup at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. All the companies participating unveiled a range of interesting technologies that could disrupt the oil and gas industry. Here, we reflect on two that particularly stood out for us.

Efficient gas compression technologies

Until now, the gas compression market has been dominated by major players including companies such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, GE and Framo. However start-up, Hicor Technologies has now developed a new, potentially disruptive proprietary compression technology utilising positive displacement. The technology could see them enter as a major new player in the marketplace for topside gas compression.

We think this new technology is interesting on two points. The active cooling system design that is employed permits self-cooling of the compressor equipment. This will eliminate the need for separate cooling systems that are currently in use across the industry, which cause a major lack of efficiency in the gas compression cycle. In addition, the positive displacement technology enables multi-phase compression of both liquids and gases at the same time. In theory, this will eliminate the need to discriminate between different fluid types coming out of a well, helping to drive efficiencies and reduce costs for operators.

Assuming comparative size models can be achieved with current compression systems and the technology can be converted for subsea use, Hicor’s advancements could present another option for subsea gas compression or help drive more efficient topside gas compressions.

Ageing industry demographics

Knowledge is one of the most valuable assets within any company. The ability to capture and apply existing knowledge better than others is arguably the most important source of competitive advantage in the E&P industry. Due to low oil prices and other factors affecting the energy sector in the 1990’s, many operators were forced to lay-off large numbers of their workforce. Consequently, a knowledge gap now exists between those in the industry that are approaching retirement age and their replacements, some of whom are up to 15 years their juniors. This situation presents a problem to the industry, putting at risk the transfer of an entire generation’s knowledge.

In-Acuity, another one of the winners of the Start-up Roundup event this week, presented an innovative solution to this problem. The company conducts interviews with leading subject matter experts from across a range of disciplines in the industry. These experts, who have either just retired or are planning to in the near future, share their knowledge, highlighting key historical points as well as current and future trends. Through in-house knowledge programs and open workshops the company distributes these insights with their clients, enabling internal knowledge marketplaces to develop and thrive. In-Acuity’s solution addresses a well-known problem in the industry, which currently remains unsolved. Whilst still only sharing a percentage of each subject matter expert’s total acquired knowledge, this solution presents a good start towards recycling knowledge that would otherwise be lost forever.

The two examples above illustrate the high quality of the entrants that featured throughout the Rice Alliance Start-up Roundup and highlight the exciting role start-ups are playing in driving innovation in the oil and gas sector.

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