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Posts Tagged ‘green technology’

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 »

Vortex Tools shares some insight into the current Chinese market and how air quality is affected, leading to people taking pictures of themselves by a picture of the skyline

Last year, we signed a distribution deal to sell our oil & gas optimization tools into China. As a result of this, we naturally make trips out there to connect with customers and grow the relationships.

If you haven’t got the memo, China is changing:

If someone went to the big cities 10-15 years ago, they’d tell you of bikes everywhere. These days, it’s lots of fancy cars—Mercedes, Audis, BMWS—and like many parts of the world, where there are four lanes, they make six and all honk at each other. They want quality for themselves and they’re selling the junky stuff to tourists (like how if you believe you can get a Gucci purse for $20, there are about 10,000 of them for you to haggle over with the street vendors of New York City).

It’s not uncommon to see a 30-story tall apartment complexes—30 of them together: three rows by 10. One of our Chinese customers joked that the construction crane is now their national animal because you see them everywhere these days.

Probably won’t bite you. Probably…

He also told us that a quarter-million people are moving to Beijing every month.

That’s all of the Denver Metro area (some 3.27 million people) getting crammed into Beijing in a little more than a year.

Naturally, this has had some impact:

  • For starters, they can’t stop the westernization of their culture. It’s odd to mosey around town and see modern buildings surrounding an encased artifact from the fifth century. In many ways, they’re losing their traditions—ask to see my happiness ball sometime (no, that’s not inviting a felony)—but given the discrepancy between city life and country life, I can’t blame any of the 250,000 a month making the move for a better life.
  • The second thing, however, is this: All those people, all that construction—it comes with an environmental cost—and parts of China are struggling with poor air quality (many believe they’re at the level where the US was in the 1970s).

The best pic of this I’ve seen is actually from Hong Kong (a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China) where people take pictures in front of a fake skyline… as long as they focus low enough. While this picture is of a particularly smoggy day in a particularly smoggy period, it still gets the point across that there’s a lot of work to be done:

Credit: Alex Hofford / EPA / Landov

Credit: Alex Hofford / EPA / Landov

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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 »

What kind of a masochistic hot dog pours condiments on himself?

What kind of a masochistic hot dog pours condiments on himself?

I’ve been a bad blogger.

Typically this means I’ve been good at the rest of my marketing responsibilities—visiting various parts of the world, working trade shows, keeping up with customers, farting around on our Twitter—but if there’s one thing that pulls me back to blogging, it’s seeing what environmental abomination has come around to blight another holiday (I still shudder over tofurkey).

Last July 4th, it was environmentally friendly fireworks and safer armor-piercing bullets, but this year, it seems like the fun is gone. Maybe it’s that there are genuine concerns—like air pollution, setting your neighbor’s lawn on fire (more fun when you’re the irresponsible kid rather than the neighbor, FYI), and triggering PTSD—but recent searches for a green Fourth of July turned up the same ol’ approaches—using some bad pun about being red, white, and blue AND green. Bleh.

At most, I’ve found dull articles on making vegan snacks. No thanks. I’m going to stick with being slightly appalled when I can’t figure out the mystery meat texture of the fifth hot dog I eat today.

Because America. That’s why.

So I’m going to have to resort to old safeties: patriotic songs from 80s wrestlers (why somebody thought it’d be a good idea to screech “America” for the last minute of this song I’ll never know):

Have a great Independence Day, all. Be safe; pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

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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 »

Vortex Tools covers Colorado becoming the first state to control methane emissions at oil and gas sites, as well as noting its solution to help keep oil and gas companies in compliance with more stringent air quality standards. 

The Colorado Air Quality Commission just passed the strictest oil and gas air regulation issues in the nation, as they are the first to directly address and regulate emissions of methane gas (which is linked to climate change). For some, this is an overdue environmental necessity. For others, it’s one more attempt to shut down oil and gas production under the guise of purely health and environmental motivations.

Gov Hickenlooper (colorado.gov)

Gov Hickenlooper (colorado.gov)

After four days of hearings, on February 23rd, the state Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) passed the motion by a vote of 8-1. They did so with support from Governor John Hickenlooper, environmental groups, and three large oil and gas operators — Anadarko, EnCana, and Noble Energy — along with Colorado’s largest natural gas gathering/processing company, DCP Midstream.

However, several smaller oil and gas companies, along with the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and the Colorado Petroleum Association (CPA), opposed the far-reaching aspects of the regulations. COGA spokesman Doug Flanders noted, “Unfortunately, we were not successful in ensuring that the rule accommodates the differences in basins and operators. Nevertheless, we are committed to working with our operators, our communities and the state to successfully and effectively implement these rules.”

According to the Denver Business Journal, “State officials have pegged compliance costs at about $42.5 million a year, or less than $500 per ton of pollution eliminated. Executives at some of the Colorado’s biggest oil and gas companies have said the state’s estimate is in line with their estimates and a cost they consider acceptable.”

Funny thing about estimates that occur before regulations go into effect: they often fall woefully short once the laws of supply and demand kick in. If you must fix something to avoid fines (and yes, avoid damaging the environment), no one is surprised when the cost of fixing that requirement goes way up.

In addition:

The new operations standards are expected to remove from the air about 93,500 tons per day of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can cook into ozone on hot, sunny days, state officials have said.

They’re also expected to cut methane leaks by about 65,000 tons per year, with the methane — a strong greenhouse gas — captured and redirected into pipelines bound for markets.

Methane: harmful even when not coming from the backside of a cow

Methane: harmful even when not coming from the backside of a cow

So how are these rules different?

1. The regulations affect all of Colorado

This is something oil and gas proponents don’t like because different areas can have different issues, so a blanket approach not only takes the power away from the individual counties to make their own decisions, but can potentially apply standards that don’t make sense to that area. Like an omnibus or a comprehensive reform bill, some things get over-regulated, where other things aren’t regulated enough. In addition, these sweeping decisions can also be viewed as a state power grab over what should be an ongoing area-by-area conversation. For example, attempts to ban fracking in Colorado went after a statewide approach, got shot down, and returned as county-by-county initiatives (with some successes, some failures).

However, understand this: Similar to how a ban on fracking essentially shuts down oil and gas production, over-regulating methane emissions in producing oil and gas wells can do the same thing. For activists opposed to oil and gas, this is simply a greater victory, but the Average Joe voter may not be aware of all the damaging effects of this sweeping move, especially to the local economy and jobs.

2. The regulations require routine checks for leaks

This makes sense. If equipment is malfunctioning or something needs to be repaired (because it’s not doing what it’s designed to do), it should be fixed. Regulators can check up to once a month and any issue needs to be resolved in 15 days or the company faces ongoing fines.

I’ve been to enough oil and gas conferences to where I’ve heard repeatedly that oil and gas companies state they’re not opposed to regulation, just bad regulation. A lot of the larger companies — like the four above — are stepping out ahead of regulations to embrace these changes. Many of them now realize that the concerns of the Average Joe towards oil and gas are important (even if those concerns are shaped by misinformation supplied by activists opposed to this energy industry). This should be an obvious understanding, but it’s only recently, with some fracking bans succeeding, that valuing these concerns has increased.

But why are these big four on the opposite side of a lot of the smaller companies? Part of it is innovation. I saw a presentation from XTO Energy where they were detailing changes to their standards to improve wildlife protection. They weren’t being forced; it seemed like an “everybody wins” business practice. However, these larger companies can also afford to take a slight hit in Colorado if it helps their PR elsewhere. Noble Energy I’m unsure on; they’re fairly committed to Colorado, but the last time strong oil and gas regulations showed up in Colorado, EnCana slashed their state budget to 10% of what it was the year before. If EnCana pulls back again, they still have a global business to work with, but Colorado takes a hit on the jobs they no longer provide, and the smaller oil and gas companies take a hit due to increased costs.

 3. The regulations specifically target methane

Prior legislation only regulated volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When referring to oil and gas emissions, VOCs typically mean harmful gases and vapors. Previously, no other state has regulated methane, as it’d be difficult to enforce throughout the oil and gas chain. Which brings us to the next point:

4. The regulations include the entire natural gas chain

This includes “the well site, storage tanks, gathering lines and compression stations as well as processing plants.”

I’m all for preventing methane issues — especially in leaking and abandoned wells that should have their environmentally negligent issues addressed — but there are ongoing production areas that will become an issue. I mentioned above that methane regulation would be difficult to enforce throughout the entire chain. It’s not tough to enforce because the EPA doesn’t have the means — they have infrared cameras on helicopters to fly over and fine with ease — it’s tough to enforce because so many parts of producing wells have problems that stem from moving gas, especially with the 95% compliance rate they’ve set.

Natural gas is hard to control. It’s not like you can just grab it in scoops and stick it a giant zip lock bag that’ll never leak, and once it’s loose, there is no amazing net to swat over this loose natural gas to reel it back in.

As with many issues in the oil and gas industry, solutions shift once the existing solution is regulated away.

Vortex Tools has a solution to vented methane emissions at the well site. As with VOCs, the Vortex tool spins the flow of oil, gas, water, and natural gas liquids. By doing so, much of what would be fugitive vapors are converted to liquids and not allowed to escape at the culprit atmospheric release points. This allows operators to remain in compliance with EPA air standards (customer data shows negligible vapors at the well site, even at 103-degree F ambient daytime temperatures) and recover more valuable oil, condensate, and natural gas liquids to boot.

Vortex vapor recovery tool

Vortex vapor recovery tool

For more info on this application, email me at colin (at) vortextools (dot) com.

Of course, the largest sources of methane emissions still belong to termites and volcanoes, but bugs, exploding lava, and giant smoke clouds don’t listen to regulations. Maybe we’ll work on a solution to them next.

For now, it will be interesting to see if other states follow the standards set here or if it’s simply a Colorado-only effect for all the good and bad these regulations can bring.

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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 »

Vortex Tools discusses the idea of taxing states that benefit from technological breakthroughs in oil and gas (namely hydraulic fracturing/fracking) while limiting its use.

A few months back, I mentioned that Fort Collins, Colorado, was considering a five-year moratorium on fracking (initiative 2A). Well, in November, 2A passed and the ban is on. Unlike Vermont’s fracking ban—which was akin to a land-locked state making rules against the ocean—Colorado actually has oil and gas operations to hinder, and these moratoriums against fracking bring new complications.

We live in a meme culture where people attempt (and fail) to summarize complicated issues with a picture and an oft-scathing caption. Take this Twitter pic for example:

Twitter anti-fracking labels pic

It’s actually pretty funny—noting how this protestor’s camp gear was essentially enabled by oil and gas production (same goes for your smart phone, FYI)—but there are several fracking issues that are actually concerning: For example, the amount of water used in fracking. Some put that average at 3-5 million gallons per frack job. Multiply that by the number of wells drilled in a year and that’s hundreds of billions of gallons of water annually. Up until recently, the produced water from these frack jobs was largely not being reused (though innovative companies are starting to change). It got pumped back down and stored underground.

With our sister company, SpiroFlo, working in both water savings and water purification applications, we know the specifics of how wrong this approach is, but you don’t need to be an expert to realize that, with a water shortage looming in 2020, this—and frankly, a lot of our residential water use practices—are unsustainable.

I’ve noted before that many fracking issues are not about good science (along with valid reasons why oil and gas companies are hesitant to own up to mistakes), but there are parts of the fracking practice that need to change. I’ve been to enough oil and gas conferences to know that the industry isn’t opposed to regulation, just bad regulation. That may sound like a good public talking point, but the anti-fracking group has its own questionable statements.

I hear people talk about potential alternate energy use (read: absolute best case scenario / rabid fantasy for wind power and solar) as if it could replace oil and gas today. Others say they want to ban fracking, but won’t own up to wanting to ban oil and gas use, period. Many of them don’t know that a ban on fracking is essentially a ban on oil and gas in today’s world (some do and don’t want to publicly admit it).

And what about cities and states that want to ban fracking? What are the consequences for them? Right now, there aren’t really any. A co-worker of mine has over 30 years in the oil and gas industry. He’s seen a lot of what works and a lot of what doesn’t. His idea is to tax cities and states than ban fracking, because they’re hindering energy growth (along with bringing back up all those foreign oil dependency issues people don’t like) while benefitting from the energy-reduction perks that stem from these technological breakthroughs. Shouldn’t there be a cost to that?

According to recent polling, most New Yorkers are opposed to fracking. While the percentage of that majority can vary, on the opposite side, most of these same New Yorkers have embraced lower heating bills thanks to an abundance of cheaper natural gas from widely fracked areas like the Marcellus Shale.

Maybe you’ve noticed cheaper gasoline at the pump in 2013. In part, you can blame fracking for that, too.

Overall, there’s a need to educate people on both the pros and cons of fracking (and the practices of the oil and gas industry as a whole). It’s not a quick and easy debate, and part of the responsibility falls on the debaters themselves.

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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).

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cleantech open logoSpiroFlo qualified as a semifinalist in the 2013 Cleantech Open (CTO)—a global competition to accelerate green technologies—for its application in reducing pumping costs and providing water/energy efficiency to green communities. This series of blogs was designed to cover our experience going through the process a second time (we went through as our sister company, Vortex Tools, last year)—giving future applicants a heads up on what to expect from the CTO. Each 2013 entry is included here.  

Another year, another Cleantech Open. As I see no reason I’d be back in a participating team next year—unless someone wants to pay me in excessive amounts of nachos—I figured I’ll compile our complete 2013 CTO experience here:

The ‘too long, didn’t read’ (TL;DR) version of this three-part series: If you’re willing to put in the work and ride out the flaws of a growing volunteer organization, the Cleantech Open (CTO) is a great process for startup companies to connect with customers, refine their business plan, and get exposure in the marketplace… but the final regional judging experience still sucks.

Main Posts: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the 2013 Cleantech Open

Part One: What Stayed the Same? Covers how the CTO is a good process at its core, but that there are still flaws with webinars, variance in volunteers, and growing pains.

Part Two: What Changed? Notes that most of the changes made this year were positive.

Part Three: Final Judging Still Sucks: Covers how the final regional judging process needs an overhaul, as it’s flawed in its current form.

Every post from the 2012 CTO experience can be found here (covers what to expect at each stage).

Misc. Posts

Step Away from the Green Grants: Comments on what generalist mentors are for in the CTO.

An Awkward Steve Jobs Joke

SpiroFlo Qualifies as a Semi-Finalist in the 2013 Cleantech Open: Covers why we decided to return for a second year.

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If you have any questions or comments, please email me at blog (at) spiroflo (dot) com

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 »

cleantech open logoSpiroFlo qualified as a semifinalist in the 2013 Cleantech Open (CTO)—a global competition to accelerate green technologies—for its application in reducing pumping costs and providing water/energy efficiency to green communities. This blog shares SpiroFlo’s summary thoughts in going through the accelerator. In this final part, the focus is on the biggest problem in the Cleantech Open: the final (regional) judging process. 

The ‘too long, didn’t read’ (TL;DR) version of this three-part series: If you’re willing to put in the work and ride out the flaws of a growing volunteer organization, the Cleantech Open (CTO) is a great process for startup companies to connect with customers, refine their business plan, and get exposure in the marketplace… but the final regional judging experience still sucks.

Last year, I had an extensive series on what to expect at each stage of the Cleantech Open (CTO). In going through the process a second time, I spent the last two blogs noting what stayed the same and what changed. As usual, this is just the opinion of one big mouth fella in the Rocky Mountain region. In reading my other CTO posts, you’ll see that most of what I’ve had to say on the process is positive, but well, let’s cut to the ugly: The final regional judging experience still sucks.

EDIT: To avoid any confusion: I’m referencing the final judging in the Rocky Mountain region, not the overall final judging in San Jose, CA (where they vote on the top teams selected from each region).

As this is the biggest problem in the CTO—one that leaves a bitter final impression after months of work—I’ve dedicated this post to it. One of the improvements that the CTO tried to make this year was to have mock judging—where you go in and pitch to a different set of judges a month before the real deal—be as similar to final regional judging as possible. Unfortunately, there’s still an issue with some of the people they bring in for the big show.

I don’t think anyone expects every judge to connect with every team. You can have a mixed experience, and I’ve covered before how judges can miss the value of your product at each stage in the competition. Last year we presented early enough for the judging team to forget our value by the end of the day. This year, we presented mid-afternoon and the room was giggly enough to stifle our Q&A session. All this is to say, like everywhere else, there’s not an ideal time to present and people are flawed.

One of the judges who was engaged last year spent a number of presentations this year farting around on his phone and computer. Another judge grilled a team extensively, then later, upon getting a chance to have his questions answered, said, “Oh, I was wrong. Disregard my comments then,” but by then, his comments already held sway, and he’d already voted against that team. The biggest problem though, is the same judge from last year.

I debated identifying this judge by name, as I figured that if the CTO seems content to keep bringing him in, I figure you—if you’re not a fan of this blog, you’re a potential CTO team—might as well know what you’re up against, but I don’t think it would help. You’ll know him though. He’s a bit of a Simon Cowell (Brit accent and all), where even if he’s giving a fair criticism, he feels the need to phrase it in an obnoxious way.

I mentioned judges missing obvious information. This is the guy who last year missed that we (Vortex Tools) were in revenue, despite stating it on multiple slides along with noting that we’ve sold over 1,500 tools into the marketplace. He actually realized his mistake towards the end of our Q&A session and instead of owning it, decided to put it on us, stating, “You guys blew it.”

inconceivable

Last year, this judge torpedoed every team except the team he already knew, liked, and planned to work with. This year, we met the team who was like us last year—they worked hard, participated in everything, and were picked by most as a winning team. I can’t say it was a surprise when this team came away burned by, guess who? The same ol’ judge pulling the same ol’ crap.

Both years, I’ve asked other teams about their experience (hence some of the more encompassing comments above), and this is the worst judging story I heard:

Everyone’s favorite judge is an investor. As an investor, he’ll sometimes make himself a board member in his investment companies. Other times he’ll appoint himself CEO. The problem is this judge sat in on a pitch from a company that’s a direct competitor of one of the investment companies he sits on as board member.

While you shouldn’t be sharing proprietary information on your technology at any stage of the CTO, most of us can understand that sharing your go-to-market strategy—your intellectual property protection plan, testing data, target market, initial clients, and other business development pieces—with your direct competitor in the room is something most people won’t like, especially when your business is small enough that you’re not sharing these types of strategies anywhere publicly.

Let’s be honest: entrepreneurs can be a bit off kilter. It gives them a brain for innovation and the guts to risk all the pitfalls of running a start up. It also leads them to protect their baby (invention) in a way that can wind up driving themselves out of business. They’ll say things like, “I’m never selling any stock ever; I will always be in complete control of my company.” (Run from this person—at least for long enough until they figure out that this is an unreasonable standard for most growing businesses.)

So if it becomes standard fare that the CTO connects you with both valuable resources and the types of people you don’t want anywhere near your business, eventually, start ups will simply go to other green competitions instead. It’s not like there aren’t plenty around. In fact, half the problem is that green competitions, at least on the state level, pull from the same volunteer resources, so it can be hard to be completely neutral on a company, especially when some go the route of snagging every green grant or competition slot they can get.

This isn’t to say everything this judge does is wrong. One of the things he does right is that he only shows up for final regional judging. You won’t see him anywhere else in the CTO. Every judge in the final judging room should do the same.

Alas, there’s still that direct competitor issue listed above. This judge was smart enough to recuse himself from scoring his competitor team, but not before grilling the team during Q&A. According to a team member, this judge didn’t have to score the team low; he’d already poisoned the room so that scoring judges would do the same anyway. As a direct competitor, he shouldn’t have even been in the room to hear the presentation.

A tough judge is fine (even if I’ve got some preferences for demeanor); a compromised judge is not. Even the CTO has acknowledged that they depend on judges to have the standards to recuse themselves when a blurred line inevitably rises, but as far as I can tell, this judge doesn’t have the sense.

Really, the CTO is in need of an overhaul in regional judging. I think they should look at teams and say, “Look, if you put in the work, you’re going to improve your business no matter what in this accelerator, but judging is just like the real world with any investor: It’s all about your final presentation. If you blow off each stage of the competition—the events, the webinars—I can tell you that you won’t win, but it’s this isn’t cumulative. Whatever you think of your presentation, whatever you think of the judges, come with your best and hope for the best. You’re going to have to kiss many investor frogs in this world to find a prince, and while the CTO final judging is just one frog, we’ll improve your smooch for the rest.”

So there you have it: Whether you win or lose, the Cleantech Open is a good accelerator for focusing and growing your start up business, but it’s an imperfect experience that unfortunately has most of its flaws at the end.

*     *     *

If you have any questions or comments, please email me at blog (at) spiroflo (dot) com

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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