Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for November, 2014

SpiroFlo shares the far-reaching effects that environmental technologies need to consider.

Whenever the holidays roll around, I like to look up all the awkward green approaches, but this last 4th of July, I noticed that the fun is gone. While I’ve previously noted that being green often coincides with my tendency to be a cheapskate, I’ve found the approaches to a green Thanksgiving—save the ultimate horror of tofurky—are rather dull.

NOfurky

Do you really need a reminder that it’s environmentally friendly to eat all your leftovers, or is the family cook threatening to kill you if you don’t eat turkey sandwiches for a week the main motivation?

Exactly. I welcome thee, Turkey Sandwich Apocalypse.

So again, what happened to all the fun green holiday ideas?

One of the big problems is that people started to think through what the complete process costs the environment. Suddenly wasting an entire morning on a green project that’s not all that impactful doesn’t seem so worthwhile (and that’s before signing up for the grind of the afternoon/evening meal with your extended family).

So sorry, Mother Earth, I’ve got a Mother-in-Law to deal with first.

Let’s go bigger: Given that we work on environmental issues, we get to hear how everyone and their mom has the greatest green idea ever!!!!! Until, you know, you actually start to work it through.

So, for example, Harry has an idea to reuse Chain Store X’s trash as an alternative fuel. He believes the store should give it to him for free, and that this process will solve landfill issue while displacing fossil fuels with a cleaner, energy-efficient fuel. In addition, Harry will create jobs and make gobs of money while making Mother Earth happy with his trash-to-fuel process.

Sounds great, until you start looking at the complete process. Once this happens, Harry will find that:

  1. Chain Store X will not give him their trash for free because, a) they don’t want to be held responsible for what some crazy unknown entity will do with their stuff (and the PR havoc that could cause); and b) once something has economic value it is no longer simply trash.
  2. Even if Harry can convince Chain Store X to give him their trash, he discovers that in order to go pick up enough trash, he has to get a fleet of gas guzzling dump trucks to route to his facility that runs on fossil fuels. He searches for alternatives but discovers that there are no economically viable energy sources—at least not any that are reliable and scalable enough—and that he doesn’t have nearly enough access to capital to develop his own. In calculating the carbon footprint of his facilities and transportation, Harry realizes that he’s essentially undoing the good he’s creating with his process.
  3. Harry again debates using his own super trash fuel for the above issues, but discovers that scaling the fuel starts to mess with supply and demand, that suddenly his fuel isn’t profitable at this level, and that no venture capitalist is willing to back his growth with the abysmal track record of cleantech startups that have blazed the same trails and burned up with the same mistakes.
  4. Finally, Harry discovers that his process creates a nasty byproduct that can’t be used anywhere. In addition, even the landfills won’t take this byproduct because it’s so toxic, so his great, clean fuel has created a series of problems that he didn’t know about until the process is already in motion, leaving him with a business model that no longer applies.

And so on and so on.

This kind of example sounds ridiculous, but corn ethanol facilities ran on fossil fuels (and that’s before they got into the associated water waste from such an inefficient process that created an unusable bounty of ugly byproduct).

However, more than likely, Harry will never get past complaining about the unfairness of big oil, greedy venture capitalists, and the monopolistic tendencies of the energy world. At best, he will turn a blind eye to the inefficiency he creates with his old, beat-up, alt-fuel pickup truck that runs for four days at a time without breaking down.

The reality is that you can make an alternative fuel from just about anything, but it’s a matter of:

  • How efficient the fuel is
  • How it scales to larger use
  • How economically viable it is to build/maintain the process/end-user device; and
  • How bad you’ll stink driving down the road

(The last one seems to apply the least to the “creative fuel” drivers I’ve met.)

So maybe this isn’t the thankful post I should be writing this time of year, but I’ve just seen a hundred too many cutesy environmental technology ideas that never really go anywhere while wasting a lot of time, money, and credibility. In the meantime, viable (yet in-progress) technologies get nitpicked by the very environmental crowd that will never support them anyway.

If you find the perfect technology, let me know. You should find it alongside a perfect relationship and an alternate reality where the Chicago Cubs finally win the World Series.

*     *     *

Okay, okay, we’ve got a lot to be thankful for… just not in this post. Have a great Turkey Day / mediocre Tofurky Day!

 

Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Vortex Tools explores changes in international business, how oil and gas valuations are changing globally, a recent publication on increasing well efficiency/profitability, and how to find the best Chinese dumplings.  

I have a confession:

I no longer eat Chinese food in the United States.

Not because I’m some food snob, but because in the last couple of years, we started stepping up our international sales. Before, Vortex Tools sold internationally to Australia, Canada, and Mexico (among others), but now we also sell into China, India, and the Middle East. Naturally, international sales often involve a degree of international travel.

In traveling to China every 12-18 months, I eat nothing but Chinese food for a week straight. Oh, and the stuff they consider breakfast food is what the average American considers dinner food, so being a guy that typically likes Chinese food once or twice a month, eating it 20+ times in one week pretty much kills my desire to have it stateside.

(Which isn’t to say I don’t thoroughly enjoy the food there. One of our contractors speaks fluent Mandarin and walked around looking for a restaurant identified only by a doorway. “We’re looking for a doorway?” I said. “In China? Oh, I’m sure we’ll find this place any year now.” Sure enough, the contractor asked around for the door that led to great dumplings and people knew what he was talking about. We walked through a doorway that led to stairs to a basement restaurant serving the best dumplings you’ve ever had.)

Anyway, international business is changing. Overall, the global oil and gas industry is changing, too. The price of natural gas has gone up in India; while in the States the price of oil fell below $80 a barrel for the first time in a year (October 2014). Both of these led to oil and gas operators valuing efficiency more.

oil 80bbl

When natural gas prices are low, no one wants to build the pipelines to recover these low values, so the gas typically gets flared. Gas needs to hit a decent enough value to get recovered and sold. For oil, however, if the price is high, it’s full on drill, baby, drill with no time to consider efficiency. As prices drop and budgets get tighter, operators slow down enough to consider how to squeeze out more value from the well.

$80/barrel for oil is actually a frightful marker for many larger companies—especially those drilling shale wells, where the production rates decline fast enough that they need to keep drilling to keep the profits flowing. Larger companies have larger costs, and some believe they can’t turn a profit at $80/barrel.

So that’s where we’ve gotten more traction with Vortex tools in oil and gas efficiency. After extensive testing in the Austin Chalk and Eagle Ford formations (Texas), data noted that Vortex tools recover up to 10 times more natural gas liquids than conventional methods like pigging (read: shoving a brush down the pipeline). The NGLs are valuable, so greater efficiency = greater profit.

A recent ONG Marketplace article on Vortex Tools’ value in the Utica (Ohio/Pennsylvania) and Marcellus formations (same as before plus New York and West Virginia)—including increasing NGL/condensate recovery, preventing line freezing, and keeping wells in air quality compliance—is available here.

I can’t tell you what country I’ll be in three months from now, but one thing’s for sure: I’ll decline the offer for Chinese food.

*     *     *

Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

Read Full Post »