InnovOil had a chance to meet with two of the participant start-ups in TechX Ventures’ programme to discuss their businesses and the technology behind them.
Immaterial is start-up that works with ‘molecular sponges’ that can store and separate gases. Known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), these materials are highly porous and can selectively adsorb large quantities of gas per unit volume.
Although MOFs generally exist as a powder, Immaterial has developed a specialist process to shape MOFs into a solid pellet, which they call monolithic MOFs. This gives them four times the density of a powdered MOF and four times the storage capacity.
Immaterial works with a new, denser form of MOF with dramatically increased performance. By synthesising the materials as ‘monoliths’, they can as much as quadruple the storage capacity of any MOF, making them viable on a larger scale.
Immaterial COO Benjamin Swan told InnovOil: “Our aim is to make gas storage and separation cheaper, greener and safer.”
By tailoring the MOFs to target specific gases, Immaterial can create a customised product for a variety of applications. “The field has about 80,000 different materials: each of these have different pore sizes, different surface chemistries, lots of different things that will affect the type of gas it’s attracted to or the type of gas that it rejects.”
In the oil and gas industry, Immaterial is working to develop a material for the low-pressure storage of natural gas. With their innovation, they are able to store the same quantity of gas at 6,500 kPa as can normally be stored in a 25,000 kPa CNG tank.
This ‘adsorbed’ natural gas (ANG) can then be used for the short-haul transport of gas from well to shore for small or associated fields where it is not economical to construct a pipeline. Work on this concept has been funded by a major IOC for the past four years, and Immaterial is now at a stage where it is looking to open this idea up to the rest of the industry.
“By being able to store it at lower pressures, you’re eliminating the need for colossal offshore compression needed by traditional CNG projects – in many cases, you don’t need to compress at all, you can free-flow out of a new non-associated gas well at 10,000 kPa. You’re also now working with a design that’s intrinsically far safer because a MOF will release the gas slowly, meaning an ANG tank will never explode; it can only ever burn”
Gas is extracted simply by reducing the pressure in the tank, leaving the MOF to be reused.
“You can also perform separations with these materials,” Swan said. “A few of the most promising that we’re looking at for the oil and gas industry include carbon capture, syngas purification and gas sweetening. We work on a joint development basis with customers to identify a material that can solve their specific problem”.
Envio is a logistics technology company with a solution for tracking high-value industrial equipment. Envio’s service provides a tracking device that can be fitted to a mobile equipment container or, using a bracket, onto a larger piece of equipment directly; along with a cloud software service, this allows a customer to track the location of an equipment container via GPS along with its contents, all while providing a dynamic display with information on the equipment.
InnovOil spoke with Envio founder and CEO James Wilkinson about the start-up’s history.
“We came into contact with the OGTC last summer, as we were keen to understand if we could establish further applications for our technology. We joined the TechX programme as a way of exploring what the oil and gas applications looked like”.
The digital display can provide up-to-date information about the equipment. “We can put things like how many days of certification are left for the specific equipment. As a service company or an operator, the last thing you want to do is have to redo a piece of engineering work because, for example, you found out the digital torque wrench you used to do up a flange was out of cert when you did it.”
The device can be retrofitted to existing containers and comes with a retrofit kit. “It’s very easy and can be done by us or the customer”.
The tracker and display are designed to be used in extreme conditions, such as in deepwater environments or battery-sapping low temperatures. “We’ve put the hardware through a lot of torture testing to make sure it’s ready for the worst offshore environments”.