GE/Statoil Announce Winners of Sand-Alternatives Contest

Quick–what two things do you need in abundance in order to horizontally drill and frack a well? Yep–water and sand. The two together make up 99.5% of what goes down the borehole to drill and frack a shale well. Water is used to fracture or break open the rock and deliver the sand, which is called a proppant because some of it stays behind and “props open” the fractures in the rock, allowing gas and oil to escape into the borehole. The vast majority of truck trips to a well pad are to deliver water and sand. GE and Norwegian giant Statoil have teamed up to run an “Open Invitation Challenge” which is a contest for technology innovators to propose alternatives to water and sand, to reduce the amount of each and therefore reduce truck trips to and from well pads. The results are in for the sand challenge and five winners will each take home a check for $25,000. The winners have some fascinating technologies and if they meet certain other criteria are eligible for more money to develop and commercialize their technologies. And what are some of these interesting bits of tech? How about a polymer that swells to 10 times its initial size when liquid is added. Or a ceramic proppant that’s shapped in the form of an X acting like a tiny steel girder to keep rock fractures propped open. This is truly creative and potentially industry changing stuff…

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