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WellAware Remotely Monitors Eagle Ford

October 20, 2013   ·   0 Comments

Remote monitoring tools in use around Eagle Ford Shale area.

 Beyond a ranch gate in the middle of a field of wildflowers, Matt Harrison hops from his truck to check equipment just installed at a long-producing oil well.

As he walks the sandy site, Harrison passes one piece of gear his new technology just replaced: a green metal mailbox with chipping paint.

“That’s old school,” Harrison says, tapping the mailbox with his knuckles. Its sits next to large tanks that hold oil and water, and for years the mailbox has been used to hold production sheets, the hand-scribbled notes about how much oil was removed by drivers hauling crude oil.

Harrison hopes his company, WellAware, will make the metal mailbox a thing of the past.

The San Antonio-based startup technology company recently launched a real-time, remote monitoring business in the Eagle Ford Shale. WellAware created software that lets customers track wells, pipelines and other oil field equipment by smart phones, iPads and computers, as well as control oil and gas production remotely.

It uses technology originally designed for the smart meters that utility companies across the country are moving to, which allows them to monitor utility use electronically. WellAware partnered with companies that include GE and Emerson to design and build the hardware needed for the oil field.

The idea is to analyze data to catch equipment problems as soon as they happen, reducing downtime. Ultimately, the data becomes predictive and is able to tell there’s a potential problem — as pressures and other variables change — before the equipment fails.

“There are tremendous financial implications,” Harrison said. “There are environmental concerns.”

The technology doesn’t eliminate the need for gaugers and workers to check equipment in person, but Harrison said it can make them more efficient and reduce their drive time, sending them to the places that need attention. “We get a heartbeat of their assets,” he said. “It prioritizes their rounds.”

Because of gaps in cellular service across South Texas, WellAware leased space on 29 towers across the region to make sure that it doesn’t have to rely on another company’s communications network.

Its first customer, San Antonio-based Welder Exploration & Production Inc. tested the equipment and provided feedback. Raymond Welder III said he was a quick convert to the technology.

“We have already recognized financial benefits, improved production efficiencies and increased visibility of our entire asset base in real time,” Welder said in a prepared statement. “WellAware’s technology and its people are game changers.”

Its Eagle Ford network stretches across 24 counties. Next year the company expects to be operating in the Permian Basin in West Texas, where it’s building a similar network. From there it’s looking to expand into other shale fields. Harrison is fielding calls from North Dakota and Canada, where winter weather can sometimes make it challenging to reach well sites.

Harrison, who came to San Antonio about four years ago with InCube Laboratories, an incubator for biotech companies, funded the company himself for several months last year while he pilot-tested the technology. He said his first clients told him, “Don’t mess anything up,” but were happy to let him test the software and hardware on their wells and pipelines.

“That’s what I love about this industry,” Harrison said. “It’s a wildcat mentality.”

When the pilot was successful, Harrison raised $8 million from private investors. WellAware’s board members include Gene Powell, a San Antonio developer and the former chairman of the University of Texas System board, and Leo Quintanilla of Quintanilla Management, an oil-field service company.

By February of this year, the burgeoning company was working out of an apartment. But it recently moved into office space at Zachry Corp.’s headquarters on San Antonio’s North Side.

So far, the company has 15 engineers and about 50 consultants.

The monitoring service costs “one- or two barrels” per month per well site, Harrison said. (Crude oil is selling for around $100 per barrel).

Its target customers include oil and gas exploration and production companies, midstream companies, oil-field services companies and mineral owners.

Read it here.

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