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Posts Tagged ‘green technology’

Came across the following image on the Weather Channel’s Twitter today.

As of the start of the year, the exceptional drought rate of California made up a third of the state (32%). Now five months on, that exceptional drought rate is up to 47% (pretty much the middle of the state). Maybe it’s time to revisit some of those warnings from earlier on in the year again:

CA drought WC

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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 coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

 

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Vortex Tools looks at the Toyota Mirai—one of the first commercially sold hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. The Japanese car company’s latest video explores some of the more creative ways Toyota can run this fuel cell vehicle (FCV).

If you read the title, you know this one will be NSFW (due to language), but since warnings don’t really work well in snappy titles, sorry…

Anyway, this is the Toyota Mirai (“Mirai” means “future” in Japanese):

Toyota_mirai_trimmed

The Mirai was revealed in November 2014 and Toyota plans to build and sell 700 of them globally in 2015. The car will sell in the U.S. for about $60,000 and only in California at first. Japan already has subsidies in place, but at this stage, it is unclear what government incentives will help promote hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in the States.

So how does it work?

Yes, the video is light on the extensive process of how they strip the hydrogen from manure then use it to fuel cars, but hey, it’s a three-minute marketing piece for the everyman.

On their site, Toyota even admits that this cow manure approach is more of an attention grabber (as part of their “Fueled By Everything” campaign) than a reliable, sustainable approach:

While cow manure contains plenty of hydrogen, it’s not commonly used in the U.S. to create the biogas needed for this process. Today’s market biogas mostly comes from landfill waste, with food and green waste also showing lots of potential.   

As mentioned previously, you can run a car on just about anything—algae, cheese, unreleased Michael Bolton b-sides, maybe?—it’s just a matter of how efficient it is and how bad you’ll sound/smell coming down the road. So while hydrogen is indeed abundant, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be in an available enough format for fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) to cover a full road trip.

However, as Toyota began working on this technology in 1992, and they’ve extensively crash tested with their high-pressure hydrogen tanks, it’s likely that we’re, at the very least, beyond the stage of where people should be concerned about driving around a four-wheel hydrogen bomb. Whether that’s enough to have a successful path through the current car climate remains to be seen.

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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 coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Vortex Tools covers the ongoing scaling back of the oil and gas industry in 2015—specifically: layoffs in Colorado.

I can describe the current American oil and gas experience in four words: Layoffs and low prices.

Whether it’s big companies or small companies, the story is the same: 2015 budgets were delayed then drastically reduced. From there, oil and gas companies have hemorrhaged employees (yet production continues to climb).

With being headquartered in Colorado, we’ve kept tabs on what’s happening around us. Over the last six months:

  •  Noble Energy planned to cut 220 jobs or 10% of its workforce, 80 from Colorado (and Noble is one of the main companies in the state).
  • WPX Energy cut 8% of its nationwide workforce, scaling its Denver office back from 156 people to 15 (25 Denver-based jobs were eliminated—120 were offered to relocate to Tulsa, OK).
  • Bayou Well Services decided to permanently lay off 250 Colorado employees.
  • Sabine Oil and Gas Corp. laid off 102 Denver-based employees starting in December 2014.
  • Linn Energy will shut its Denver office, cutting 52 jobs.

(Despite this, we’ve still sold Vortex DX-I tools into the Wattenberg basin [in northeastern Colorado] to increase oil recovery efficiency in horizontal applications when combined with gas lift.)

Field install of the DX-I Vortex tool

Field install of the DX-I Vortex tool

Some of this is scaling back the bloat that occurred with high oil prices, but some of it has to do with the downside of how many American companies conduct business. I can’t remember where I ran across this study, but it noted how different parts of the world formulate their business plans. Great Britain works off a five-year plan; Germany, a 10-year plan; and Japan, 15 years. The United States? Companies usually plan around whatever will increase stock prices this quarter.

You might think that 5-15 years is too long of a planning period, but planning around what can bump numbers within a 90-day period is woefully shortsighted and often hamstrings future development. However, with oil and gas, when it hurts financially, it hurts big, and when recovery comes, companies can often buy their way to solutions then. For 2015, however, even if it’s a great market to pursue oil and gas efficiency—squeezing every bit of value from the well—it’s going to be a year of engineers trying not to get fired.

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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 coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo covers the recent controversy over single-serving coffee cups waste, the inventor’s regret in even making the cups, and the landfill problems that still remain.

Maybe you’ve seen this video going around (NSFW: language). It’s got a bit of a “Cloverfield” vibe, but, you know, with a giant monster made of plastic single-serving coffee cups (or K-Cups):

It’s decently done, but like many marketing efforts, it’s too hip for its own good. Remember those Burger King ads where their mascot, the King, became weird and creepy? Sure, some were fun, but you know what it didn’t do? Make people want to buy more burgers. McDonald’s’ ads are boring—look: food + happy people—but showing your food for 30 seconds along with a jingle gets the job done.

What this video has done is increased my desire to pelt people in the face with K-Cups and/or create an army of giant evil monsters. Probably not what they were going for.

Interestingly enough, over the last month:

  1. The creator of K-Cups has stated he regrets making them (but already sold off the company in 1997); and
  2. Keurig has pledged to make their K-Cups 100% recyclable by 2020.

As for point A, I’ve already discussed thinking through the total environmental impact of your technology, but in 1997, that understanding wasn’t there in the same way it is today. As for B, there are recyclable K-Cups available now, but it essentially requires modifying your current Keurig machine and buying knockoff cups so, surprise, Keurig isn’t too into that.

Despite the buzz this generated, some of the biggest “convenience drink” perpetrators are still going on as is. Starbucks pledged to make their cups 100% recyclable by, well, now (they said 2015), but instead opted to sell reusable cups when it wasn’t cheap enough to remove the plastic coating from their disposable ones. Meanwhile, plastic water bottles also contend for which unrecyclable waste can load up landfills faster.

But hey, nobody’s made a video of monsters made from those yet.

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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 coal, biosolids, sugar beets, dairy waste, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Vortex Tools discusses why oil prices (and gasoline prices) have declined, the inefficiency of U.S. oil and gas, and what can be done to make a profit at low crude prices.  

If you haven’t kept track of the recent changes in oil and gas prices, here are the basics:

  • People are happy at the pump: Gasoline prices are at a four-year low (down 40% from six months ago). Eight states are expected to have gas below $2/gallon, and the 2015 nationwide average is projected to stay lower than 2014 average.
  • Oil and gas companies are scaling back: In addition to gasoline prices sitting at a four-year low, crude oil prices just hit a five-year low. Currently, they’re at the low-to-mid-$60s/barrel range. There are projections that the slump is not over, that these low prices could hold through 2016, and that oil may not get above $100/barrel again for a long time.

While there are natural ups and downs with commodity prices, this rapid decline was unforeseen by most, and the timing is bad for the industry. The Organization of Petroleum Countries (OPEC) reduced the oil estimates needed in 2015 by 300,000 barrels down to 28.9 million. Doesn’t seem like a lot percentage wise, but it’s the lowest in 12 years. With lower demand, drilling rig counts are down, 2015 budgets are getting slashed, and oil company stocks are falling.

Even with low prices, the Middle East has no plans to slow down their production. Some say this is a way to root out terrorist influence, others say it’s a way of protecting market share, but whatever the case, the success or failure of the U.S. oil and gas industry doesn’t majorly play into their plans.

What this has done is highlight the inefficiency of U.S oil and gas.

The Middle East claims that their costs per barrel are at about half of U.S. costs (and significantly lower than the average cost of all other countries), so $60/barrel oil may cut into their profits, but in the U.S., where $60-$64/barrel is considered break-even price for shale production, $60/barrel can be a breaking point.

Probably doesn’t hurt that Saudi Arabia has $700 billion in foreign currency reserves thanks to higher oil prices.

From: https://i1.wp.com/cdn.na16.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/scrooge-mcduck.jpg

Pretty much what I think of, head-into-coin injuries be damned

You can debate the profit mark—which will also fluctuate due to legislation, available technology, and world issues—but generally speaking, the U.S. oil and gas industry has two modes, both of which avoid efficiency:

  • When oil prices are high, they’re too busy to invest in innovation/efficiency and it’s full on drill, baby, drill!
  • When oil prices are low they don’t have any money to invest in innovation/efficiency.

These maxims hold true until legislation requires oil and gas companies to change, and 2015 is a year of legislation when it comes to making companies deal with flared gas, vented vapors, and the volatility of oil.

It also doesn’t help that U.S. companies largely focus on what will boost their stocks this quarter, even if it’s to the detriment of say, next quarter. Oil and gas companies care about their bottom line (which is good—you should make a profit in business), but they often don’t have the ability (read: time and/or money) to care about efficiency in their processes, even if doing so would greatly increase their bottom line.

I recently met with a customer that had posters everywhere that said something like, “Safety first, environment second, profit third.” I joked that the reality is actually, “Profit, profit, profit… and don’t get me fined while you’re at it.” This doesn’t make them villains. The reality is I’ve worked in enough green industries to know that the way you get people—individuals or business groups—to care about environmental issues is to make them money while doing good.

To be blunt: No company primarily cares about environmental issues when they’re facing heavy losses and/or going out of business.

Given that Vortex tools improve oil and gas efficiency and gives an environmental benefit, here’s some of what we can do (and are expecting to grow into more in the coming year):

2015 is set to be a rocky year for oil and gas producers/operators. It’s time to squeeze every bit of efficiency and value from production.

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*Sources and image credit listed in the comments.

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).

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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.

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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).

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Vortex Tools discusses Denver Startup Week, how much sand is used in fracking operations, and how jobs in the oil and gas industry are changing.

Denver Startup Week was this month. We’ve participated before, but this year we attended their “oil and tech” presentation by RockPile Energy Services‘ VP Marketing and Sales, Howard Rough. Rough worked for Schlumberger for 30 years before starting RockPile—they provide services to the oil and gas industry.

Sounds pretty generic, yeah?

Okay, let’s chat specifics: In 2015, RockPile will provide a billion pounds of fracking sand to the Bakken formation in North Dakota. That’s the size of Santa Barbara beach.

Shove it down a well!

It sounds like a lot, but they’re maybe 5-6% of the frack sand market in North Dakota. One well uses about 10 million pounds of sand (along with a lot of water and a bit of gar gum [hydroxyethyl cellulose] to suspend the sand in the liquid). It’s not just any sand either. We’re talking white, clean sand from Minnesota that’s a specific size. You can use other sand, but in the opinion of many, it’s not as good.

And that’s where a current pain point of the oil and gas industry lies: It’s really difficult to logistically transport and store all that sand and water with minimal environmental impact.

Overall, there’s a push for greener fracking approaches. As a company that works with oil and gas operators to increase their energy efficiency (recovering more natural gas liquids and condensates) and to keep their wells in EPA air quality compliance, we know some of the struggles they face. Fracking is perceived as a huge water waste (when it’s less than 1% of Colorado’s water use). While I’m happy to see companies reusing fracking water, agriculture is still the water monster to slay in these drought years (using 69% of the state’s water).

On the sand side of things, they don’t have great logistics, and rail is an entirely separate issue. Finally, the massive silos required to store sand lead to storage issues, too.

Overall, there are many pain points with fracking logistics that Rough would like to see addressed. The second is addressing employee retention in oil and gas. There are two problems here:

  • In the oil and gas industry, you have Baby Boomers with 30+ years of experience getting ready to retire. The next rung down is those with 10 years of experience. Most of the oil and gas industry workers have 3-4 years’ worth of experience, so there’s a huge changing of the guard going on.
  • With most people having little experience, a huge chunk of the problem is employee retention.

Unless you’re working at the downtown corporate offices, you can get shoved off to some mighty obscure places. Oil and gas fields are often in the middle of nowhere, thus oil and gas jobs can be in the middle of nowhere, too. Plus, right when you get adjusted to your living arrangements, you get transferred to the next less-than-ideal place. After 3-4 years of repeating that cycle, you can get burned out and move on to a different line of work.

But wait, your brain says, don’t oil and gas people make six-figure salaries?

Some do, but it’s long hours and less-than-ideal work conditions. Parts of North Dakota freeze for four months and get 100 mph winds; you can work outside in Alaska when it’s 62 degrees below zero. Then after that, you return to the trailer with a dozen other dudes and sleep in the sweaty bed that the last guy just left. There’s no going home for days or weeks on end; the well site is in the middle of nowhere. One of our engineers worked a similar set up and kept getting his electric razor stolen… by someone else also making six figures.

You can understand why all this might get tiresome. With these issues, there’s not enough experience and huge companies have a big turnover rate (40% annually). That’s a lot of money wasted on training for people who don’t stick around that long.

So there’s also a need for oil and gas companies to connect with qualified, talented individuals. Rough thinks the future may be a LinkedIn for oil and gas professionals—maybe even something that helps give people a virtual tour of an oil and gas field. That way they know what to expect. What Rough has found is that military are often a great fit for the oil and gas industry. As one man put it: “It’s twice the pay and you don’t get shot at.”

If you think you can address the problems covered here, there’s demand, and if you’re military personnel looking for your next gig, come get more pay and less bullets (unless you work in Texas—no guarantee there).

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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 »

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