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Unearthing Potential

Date: 07/03/2012

Looking for the next big thing.

Schlumberger’s Early Stage Investment division is tasked with scouring the globe for entrepreneurial technology investment opportunities. Led by Iain, the division is supported by a 12-person review committee and a companywide network of expert advisors. Iain travels an average of 200,000 miles per year seeking “new wow-factor technologies” that, with financial investment and R&D could become exciting new solutions for the energy industry.

How it Works?

Once the decision is made to invest—typically six months after initial contact—a term sheet is written detailing exclusivity, intellectual property and product development.

Iain
Iain, Manager Early Stage Technology Investments

“This is the critical point of commitment,” says Iain. “We aren’t just making an equity investment. It’s now also a commitment of engineering dollars above and beyond the company’s R&D budget, and it requires a long-term commitment by the Schlumberger technology group to pick up the development costs of the new technology in their next cycle.”

Eureka Technologies

Miox, a small firm in New Mexico, USA, presented a solution to disinfection, a critical factor in hydraulic fracturing. The solution involved adding salt combined with electrolysis to disinfect water, a more economical and greener solution that would replace the need for biocides.

“So, we met with Miox,” says Iain. “If we invest, we’ll be able to jointly develop the technology and get it even closer to the 100-percent effectiveness that we require. And while we gain a market-pleasing solution, Miox gets a significant entrée into an industry they would not necessarily have developed their technology for otherwise.”

The decision to invest was based partly on the people. “We always look for a good cultural fit—an entrepreneurial spirit, passion for technology, and a sincere openness to partnering.”

Schlumberger is currently conducting field tests, while Miox is free to use whatever modifications we develop outside of the oil and gas business.

Meanwhile while investigating longer battery life and rechargeability, the Early Stage Investment division discovered Contour Energy Systems with CFX subflorinated carbon batteries. The company was founded by 2005 Nobel Laureate for Chemistry Robert Grubbs at Caltech.

“The “X” formulation is Contour’s unique intellectual property, and the factor that intrigued our scientists with the possibility of a higher power product that could replace conventional lithium batteries entirely across the company,” says Iain. “Furthermore, Contour is also working on lithium-free rechargeables. With lower disposal costs, longer battery life and environmental benefits, CFX batteries offer a potential $5 million per year in savings, especially in the high pressure, high temperature market.”

Tomorrow’s World

This is all good news for Schlumberger. Such ventures help us look for the next big thing, and when coupled with our scientific expertise enable us to remain at the cutting edge of the energy industry—a position we’re determined to maintain.

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