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The Fracking Innovation Challenge Winners Are…

california pumpjacksGeneral Electric and Statoil announced the winners of its inaugural Open Innovation Challenge, which focused on addressing the use of sand in unconventional operations.

Sand plays a critical role in shale development and the hydraulic fracturing process. The proppant is mixed with water and injected into a formation to stimulate or prop open the tiny fractures, enabling oil and natural gas to flow freely.

By focusing on sand, which requires hundreds of truck trips to transport, the challenge looked for solutions that have the potential to reduce the environmental impacts on local communities, lessen emissions and make energy production more efficient.

The following five winners were selected from more than 100 submissions from over 30 countries.

  • Bioastra Technologies developed a lightweight, expandable polymer proppant. Made from composite particles that swell up to ten times their initial size in liquid, they are also pliable and can conform to small cracks in the formation.
  • Biopolynet developed a coiled biopolymer fluid additive, which makes fluid more viscous, better suspending proppants and enables proppants to adhere to the surface of fissures in the formation.
  • Hoowaki developed an alumina ceramic proppant in the shape of an “X”. Developed with Shell, the unique X shape creates a drag, reducing settling by up to 50 percent and wedges itself into fractures helping them stay open and prevent the proppant from flowing back.
  • Semplastics developed a lightweight polymer proppant, which is half the density of sand and resilient to corrosion. It is also heat and crush resistant.
  • University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center developed a lightweight, locally sourced ceramic proppant. Made from local, widely available non-premium ore, it is approximately 40 percent less dense than current ceramic proppants.

Each winner will be awarded an initial cash prize of $25,000 and will be eligible to receive additional funding from an available discretionary prize pool of $375,000 for potential development or commercialization.

The second Open Innovation Challenge — focusing on water in unconventional energy development — was announced earlier this month and remains open for submissions.

Photo: pumpjacks via Shutterstock. 

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