By Velda Addison, Hart Energy

Do you like money? Here is a chance to win $25,000 and help solve a challenge that the industry is facing, specifically in shale plays.

GE Oil & Gas and Statoil have teamed up to lead the search for technologies to lower the amount of sand required to drill and maintain wells. Hopes are to reduce truck traffic in communities while also cutting costs. The two are calling out to engineers, technology innovators and startups to submit their ideas.

On average, between 5 MMlbs and 6 MMlbs of frack sand—used to keep fractures open during the hydraulic fracturing process—are used per well, according to PacWest Consulting Partners. However, the top five operators in North American shale plays are using nearly double this amount, consuming 9.7 MMlbs of frack sand per well.

And most of this sand is transported to drilling sites on trucks traveling on community roads, which GE said have weight limits that prohibit trucks from hauling maximum-capacity loads. Truck traffic is among the top concerns that communities have with the industry.

“Transporting sand to well sites is costly, logistically tricky and can compound the community and environmental impacts of drilling,” GE said in a news release about the challenge. “Trucking is a key political and public concern around the development of fracturing sites all over the world.”

Proposals are being taken on two focus areas:

  • Keeping sand suspended in an aqueous slurry, creating a more efficient use of sand. Ideas should reduce or prevent sand from settling out of fracking solution when injected downhole.
  • Finding materials or chemicals to replace sand. Key to this focus is finding materials or chemicals that are just as strong as sand and weigh less but are still capable of allowing oil and gas to freely flow out of the rock, according to the rules.

Up to five winners will be selected to receive a cash prize of $25,000. But there is a chance for each of the winners to get more funding to continue the development and commercialization process, according to the rules.

GE and Statoil intend to create a portfolio of five technologies, aimed at lessening the environmental impact of hydraulic fracking, to be commercialized within five years. They want to eliminate 20% of truck trips per well per year.

This initiative, as well as similar ones underway, should be commended. It shows that the industry is not only trying to be a good neighbor, but is also trying to become more efficient.

Moreover, the $25,000 prize is a good way to attract ideas. Hopefully, this challenge will lead to a solution that accomplishes what GE and Statoil are targeting, while also strengthening the industry’s relationship with the communities in which they operate.

The entry deadline is April 28. More information is on the web. Winners will be announced in June.

Contact the author, Velda Addison, at