Digital Start-Ups Modernizing Upstream Sector

The latter half of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 has been marked by a series of funding ventures and acquisitions of upstream-focused start-up companies. Oil and gas producers, manufacturers and outside investors are looking at the wide array of new digital innovations set to help increase the profits of this trillion-dollar, global industry. 

The technologies range from new inspection systems, to improved infrared monitoring cameras, advanced analysis programs and others aimed at reducing specific fugitive emissions such as methane and carbon. Most recently, cloud-based products have become readily available through online retailers such as Amazon.

According to the Journal of Petroleum Technology, since September 2019 a handful of start-ups have raised a disclosed sum nearing a quarter of a billion dollars (USD). The trend remains largely on track in the first month of 2020. 

As developers of digital technologies work to improve functionality in the upstream sector, companies will find increasing competition in the marketplace as the year progresses. Below are a few initiatives by start-ups attempting to modernize the upstream oil industry.

, Investors: Saudi Aramco, Chevron & others – January 2020
Seeq Corporation is a software company that provides tools with advanced analytics capabilities for industrial processes. Several large-scale oil and gas producers have adopted Seeq’s software to monitor assets of value that produce a time stamp including flow meters, compressors, production facilities, and refineries. The user-friendly interface and back-end data management provides seamless access to equipment data, making it well sought after. The company reports it has raised USD $60 million in funding to date.

LaserStream, Acquired by Stress Engineering Services – January 2020

LaserStream is a technical service company specializing in laser mapping of tubular assets, such as marine risers and flowlines, which are susceptible to erosion. The data-acquisition service delivers high-resolution images that can be used for non-destructive testing, asset condition monitoring, and predictive analytics.

Rebellion Photonics, Acquired by Honeywell – December 2019

Rebellion Photonics is a developer of an automated visual monitoring technology that detects gas leaks and plumes at oil and gas facilities. Before the sale to Honeywell, international majors Chevron, BP, and Shell were clients, using the technology internationally in such sites as Oman, where BP used the sensors on drones to detect methane leaks, and west Texas with an installation by Shell.

Intelligent Mud Solutions, Investor: Equinor – December 2019

Intelligent Mud Solutions (IMS) is a developer of a portable automated drilling fluid analysis system and has been a part of Equinor Technology Ventures’ LOOP program since 2015. IMS technology works in real time, as the apparatus is attached to the return line of a shale shaker on a drilling rig, where it measures the mud’s rheology, viscosity, density, and gel strength. This makes the traditionally manual process of mud mixing and property analysis, automated like modern pipe handling systems found on many offshore rigs.

Cold Bore Technology, Investor: Rice Investment Group – September 2019

Cold Bore Technology develops sensor-based hydraulic fracturing monitoring services that allow operators to track the operational efficiency in real time. The software is coupled with valve positioning and pressure sensors to highlight important events and issues during the completion operation. Operators can use the data to identify lost-time events to reduce the time spent fracturing each well.  Rice Investment Group made its first investment in Cold Bore in 2018, ranging from USD $1 to $40 million. Cold Bore boasts that six of the top 10 producers in North America have signed up for the service over the past six months. 
Source: Journal of Petroleum Technology Online. Image Courtesy of Deloitte Insights.
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