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Sparking innovation: turning ideas into reality
An ability to nurture ideas and turn them into commercial reality is critical to the success of any technology company. At Shell, the GameChanger programme does just that. And it has scored some remarkable successes.
Human ingenuity is increasingly essential to tackling the technical challenges of delivering more energy in a world of growing demand. It helps develop advanced technologies that can unlock new resources responsibly – and recover more from declining fields.
The Shell GameChanger programme encourages inventors outside and inside the company to come up with creative ideas.
Then, with a combination of funding and technical expertise, it helps turn the most promising into commercial reality.
“GameChanger is a place to come with your idea and get the support and resources to prove it could work,” says Russ Conser, Shell GameChanger Manager. “We invest in you to get the evidence you need to develop it further.”
An idea must be novel and show potential benefit for Shell. An inventor simply has to submit it to the GameChanger website, and may then be invited to deliver a presentation in person.
A number of successful GameChanger ideas have led to the creation of spin-off companies to market the technology.
From toy store to oilfield
Shell launched GameChanger in 1996. Since then, the programme has invested over $250 million in more than 3,000 ideas, turning around 300 into commercial projects that are helping Shell deliver more energy to customers today.
For example, a toy rubber dinosaur that grew when placed in water proved an inspiration for Shell Senior Research Scientist Erik Cornelissen. As a result, he invented a synthetic rubber seal that swells on contact with water and can withstand enormous heat and pressure underground.
As a field ages, greater amounts of water mix with the oil coming from wells, making operations increasingly costly. By swelling as soon as water appears, the seals prevent it from entering the well and keep the oil flowing, lengthening a field’s life.
In the first three years of using swellable rubber seals, Shell increased oil recovery by more than 1.5 million barrels by the end of 2006. The technology is now used widely in the industry.
“GameChanger made it financially possible to do the research for the first application,” says Erik.
Another example involves the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to improve understanding of how fluids move through rock.
Matthias Appel, Shell Project Manager, Rock and Fluid Physics, found a way to apply the technology of medical MRI scanners to the energy industry. “Having the ability to make images of fluids in the rock is extremely powerful in understanding what’s going on when you are producing hydrocarbons,” he says.
Other GameChanger projects are expected to boost the future development of energy resources. One is a giant floating facility that can liquefy natural gas at sea for shipping to markets, avoiding the need to pipe it ashore for processing and reducing environmental impact.
Floating LNG (FLNG) will be used to access offshore fields previously thought too difficult or costly to develop such as the Prelude field off Australia, which will be its first project.