Originally posted by Forbes
As governments around the world continue to discuss, shape and implement multilateral climate change agreements, oil remains the lifeblood of the global economy. Recently, the United States of America has become a net exporter of petroleum products. The increase in exports from the U.S. comes from Congress lifting a ban on crude oil exports, as well as the use of hydraulic fracturing or fracking to recover shale oil from the ground. Fracking has a negative impact on the surrounding environment. Paris Smalls, 26, Ammar Alali, 29, recognized the potential for novel extraction techniques to recover oil and created Eden GeoPower as a solution. Eden GeoPower is a green energy tech startup that has developed a unique, electric, and environmentally technology to allow for less-water intensive hydrocarbon extraction. The U.S. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program primarily funds the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup.
The main issue with increased oil production in the U.S. is the reliance on hydraulic fracturing. Fracking uses highly pressurized fluid to penetrate deep-rock formations to release oil and gas trapped within the earth. The technique was initially pioneered in 1947 and has been the main driver in the U.S. increased oil production. However, fracking is not without its environmental and social risks. The fracking can generate runoff, or liquid waste during the oil extraction, which can collect in bodies of surface water or leach through the soil into groundwater, particularly aquifers. Fracking is also a noisy industrial activity that contributes to noise pollution as well. However, given the necessity for oil in today’s global economy, the market for such a valuable commodity cannot be neglected.
According to Statista, the total market size for U.S. oil and gas companies is $411.7 billion. With global demand for oil continuing to grow (although not as fast as in past years), North American oil and gas companies have invested around $150 billion into new oil and gas exploration and technologies. The combination of world oil demand growth and an increase in exploration expenditures shows there is a market opportunity for a product created by Smalls and Alali at Eden.
“We are developing a proprietary Pulsed Electric Reservoir Stimulation (PERS) technology. It is an inexpensive and environmentally friendly method to increase reservoir permeability that uses significantly less water than traditional hydraulic fracturing methods. In the deployment, at least two electrodes (one anode, one cathode) are inserted into perforations in the wellbore. On the surface, a pulsed power generator is utilized to create a voltage difference between the electrodes. As the energy travels from electrode 1 to electrode 2, joule heating of the reservoir and increased pore pressure induce thermal and mechanical stresses. These stresses create a network of micro-fractures,” CEO Smalls says. These small cracks in the deep-rock formations allow for higher extraction rates of oil and gas from fracking wells. Also, PERS technology does not generate high levels of noise or runoff like fracking does, making it a cleaner energy alternative in extracting oil and gas. The success of this complex, more sanitary method of oil extraction relies on a team of seasoned practitioners from the petroleum industry.
Smalls and Alali both have extensive backgrounds in the energy industry. Smalls, a current doctoral candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, previously earned his Bachelor’s degree at the University of South Carolina-Columbia in Geophysics & Coastal Processes. Alali has continued to work at Saudi Aramco as a geophysicist at Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Arabian state-owned oil company (also the world’s most valuable company), for over eight years. Before Saudi Aramco, Alali earned his Bachelor’s degree in Geophysics from the University of Houston.
Smalls’ theoretical knowledge from academia, combined with Alali’s experience as a practitioner in the oil industry, sets the stage for a positive impact on the U.S. energy industry through Eden.