By Velda Addison, Hart Energy

GE and Statoil challenged the world’s innovators to find creative ways to reduce fresh water use in shale oil and gas production, putting $25,000 up for grabs, in July 2015.

After more than 100 submissions poured in from 23 different countries, the organizers have selected four winners for their Powering Collaboration challenge. Participants were asked to submit ideas on how to reduce use of fresh water and ideas on how to reuse water from shale production activities. However, in doing so, participants were also challenged to improve operational productivity.

The technologies and processes they have come up with are indeed innovative. Each one has the potential to make a significant impact on oil and gas operations, especially in unconventional plays where water is scarce, by improving water management. This is an area that many in the industry have made strides in but additional efforts could improve efficiency and perhaps lower costs—which have become the unofficial mantra of the oil and gas industry due to the lingering downturn and the new way of thinking in the field and board room.

And the winners, as announced in a press release Feb. 2 by GE and Statoil, are:

  • Anthony Duong of Battelle Memorial Institute (US). His solution features use of a nano-sponge, described as a gel formed of nanoscale particles. The particles are injected into wells that have been hydraulically fractured and soak up halite ions, which form salt deposits. The process prevents the salt from crystalizing, keeping equipment safe from salt deposits that would have otherwise formed;
  • Chunlei Guo of the University of Rochester (US). High-powered lasers are used to change the surface of downhole production pipes’ inner walls. The process makes the metal surface “super water repellent;”
  • Ahilan Raman of Clean Energy and Water Technologies (Australia). This winning entry featured ice crystals and a process called Eutectic freeze crystallization. The integrated technology first works to remove total organic compounds then separates the leftover compounds by creating ice crystals via Eutectic freeze crystallization; and
  • Karen Sorber of Micronic Technologies (US). Sorber’s innovation is called MicroDesal and the technology purifies wastewater for any source. The solution is a low-pressure, low-temperature mechanical evaporation technology, the news release said.

“A focus on technology helped to unlock the shale revolution. Its intense innovation now shared across industries and between companies will ensure shale development continues in the most sustainable, responsible way possible,” GE Oil & Gas CEO Lorenzo Simonelli said in the release. “The diversity of solutions and sheer volume of submissions we received show the immense talent and creativity gained.”

New technologies and processes are needed to increase margins and reduce carbon footprints, added Elisabeth Birkeland Kvalheim, chief technology officer for 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,” said Kvalheim. “The water challenge is a great example of how Statoil and GE, together with the winners, can fast track promising solutions to the market and take an active role in transforming the future of the oil and gas industry.”

Congratulations to the winners and kudos to GE and Statoil for undertaking this initiative and confronting other challenges, such as carbon dioxide and methane emissions, faced by the oil and gas industry.

Now that the winners have been selected, the proposals will be subject to more in-depth evaluations with $375,000 in funds at their disposal for co-development work.

Velda Addison can be reached at