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Flotek opens research and innovation center in Houston

By Alex Endress, Editorial Coordinator

Flotek recently opened its new Global Research and Innovation Center designed to foster collaboration with operators. The company sees such collaboration as critical, especially during development of its custom formulas for downhole chemicals involved in drilling and completions.

The 55,000-sq-ft center features 32 laboratory research workstations, with 40% of the facility’s total space devoted to developing downhole chemistries with operators in open lab space combined with an auditorium meeting space. “What we wanted to do is create an environment where you could interact with the folks that are here creating this technology,” Flotek CEO John Chisholm said. The company is also trying to spread awareness of chemicals that use d-Limonene extracted from citrus oil to extract hydrocarbons from rock, which reduces the toxicity of chemicals commonly found in oilfield surfactants. “Certainly, we make a difference in the environment by using fewer and less toxic chemicals.”

The use of D-Limonene in solvency applications is an increasing trend, Mr Chisholm said, noting that parts of the medical industry are now using it to extract fatty tissue from around tumors when screening for cancer. For them, D-Limonene replaces xylene, which is toxic. While d-Limonene can be extracted from any citrus fruit, Flotek currently uses orange oil, which is a byproduct of the juicing industry, and combines the oil with surfactant commonly found in dishwashing soap and shampoo. This combination creates Nano-droplets of orange oil that move through the well to increase fluid mobility, solvency and, ultimately, resource recovery from the formation. The company calls this complex Nano-fluid (CnF).

The new center’s combined auditorium and lab space allows visitors to communicate and interact with the company’s scientists while they create custom chemistries for operators. Mr Chisholm said the company’s inspiration for the auditorium space was the US space program. “In 1964, one of the more fascinating things was when the United States started the space program, and we watched it on television, whether it was mission control here in Houston or other control places around the country… We wanted to create a similar environment here,” he said.

At the new center, Flotek encourages operators to visit and participate in the custom chemistry process by observing and providing feedback while scientists develop the downhole chemicals in the center’s labs. By allowing operators to directly communicate with Flotek’s scientists during chemical creation and testing at the new center, the company hopes to break from industry norms. “There are rules of thumb that get passed down in the industry, such as to use a gallon per thousand (feet) no matter what the chemical is,” Mr Chisholm said. “We’ve changed that with our complex Nano-fluid, where in many cases it make sense economically to pump a gallon and a half or two gallons based on the formation.” Flotek has approximately 50 different formulas that have been created to increase hydrocarbon recovery.

Additionally, Flotek aims to market its product directly to operators instead of going through pressure-pumping oilfield service companies. This can reduce the purchase price for operators by as much as 50%, he said. The company began marketing its chemicals directly to E&P companies in 2015 with the launch of the Flotek store. “There’s a different way to get the value to the ultimate end user than what has been done for the last three or four decades,” he said.

Flotek is also using the facility to host lectures from different segments of the oil and gas industry, as well as other interactive events promoting chemistry education for students from local schools and universities. “We want to make a difference, impacting the lives of students at local schools by planting the seeds of curiosity for a life of learning.” Mr Chisholm said. The center will help “show students the possibility of careers related to chemistry in the oil and gas industry.”

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