The discovery of the potential for natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale formation presents worlds of opportunity for scientists and entrepreneurs. Naturally, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, which nurtures new and established companies statewide, established a
Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center
dedicated to developing business opportunities in natural gas.
"The business model is so complex that you can have innovation literally everywhere," says the center's executive director, Bill Hall. "The more you learn about the shale gas space, the more complicated it is."
This complexity means opportunity for those who find a way to improve any part of the gas-production process, Hall says. That includes advancements in the actual drilling, security of drilling sites, or the hydraulic fracturing that uses high-pressure water to release natural gas from the shale. Perhaps gas-derived products could be developed to replace the water in this process.
The center is currently accepting applications for its Shale Gas Innovation Contest
, which will give a total of $50,000 in cash to the two most promising shale-related innovations. Winners will be chosen in categories for research in new technologies and new products and services.
Hall predicts that the most significant opportunities lie in the potential to use natural gas near the areas were it is drilled. Many estimates put the cost of gas-pipeline transmission at $2 per foot, creating an incentive to keep the fuel nearby. "If you can use your gas locally and not put it in the interstate pipeline, you have a tremendous cost advantage," Hall says.
Source: Bill Hall, Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center
Writer: Rebecca VanderMeulen