Energy firms large and small have taken a hit thanks to an historic downturn in crude oil prices. Cleargistix is one of four New Orleans-area startups who see potential for growth despite the slump.
The Idea Village this fall welcomes four startups to its EnergyX program, a 12-week business accelerator geared toward Louisiana oil and gas startups. The most promising ideas will get to move on to the Idea Village’s CapitalX program, which focuses on connecting startups to investors.
Here is a look at the four participating startups.
CEO: Steven Toups
PRODUCT: A field ticketing and work flow approval software platform for the oil and gas service industry.
Oil and gas workers typically use a messy system of paper tickets to report maintenance, inspections and other activity at well sites. Cleargistix is a flexible, easy-to-use tablet software program that improves efficiency and allows service companies to analyze the incoming data, Toups said. “We turn paper information into digital information,” he said.
MILESTONE: The technology behind Cleargistix was founded in 2011 as a workflow solution for the Gulf of Mexico maritime industry. The company overhauled its software in 2015 to target onshore oil and gas after low oil prices prompted a significant slow in maritime exploration, Toups said.
LOW OIL: Low oil prices have forced many service companies to cut office staff. Toups said that strengthens the sell for efficiency products such as Cleargistix.
CHALLENGE: Encouraging workers and companies to change their work process. “Our biggest competition is two things: paper and the way things have always been,” Toups said. “People hate to change.”
FOUNDER: Brittan Breaux
PRODUCT: A logistics management platform and online marketplace for offshore oil and gas services.
Getting equipment and services to oil and gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico requires complicated logistics. Most operations managers rely on email and paperwork to get the work done. Breaux, who formerly did logistics management for a local maritime firm, launched The Offshore Exchange in May to more efficiently match offshore operators with needed services.
CHALLENGE: Getting companies to try out the new platform. “Oil and gas is very bureaucratic and relationship-based,” Breaux said. “There is a strong hierarchy you have to go through in order to bring about change.”
LOW OIL: Breaux thinks low oil prices have made energy companies leaner and more willing to try new products to streamline operations.
NEXT STEP: Eventually, the platform will let companies easily partner up on logistics purchases, for example, sharing seats on a contracted transport helicopter service. “We’re finding there is a lot of spare capacity in the oilfield,” Breaux said.
FOUNDERS: Margo Moss and Lee Lemond
PRODUCT: A database and web app that helps operators monitor methane leaks in pipelines and other oil and gas equipment.
Outdated compliance technology is a big pain point as new Environmental Protection Agency rules crack down on methane gas emissions from oil and gas wells and related facilities. Moss and Lemond are developing NVIROleaks, an app that checks valves and pumps for leaks, notifies users when equipment needs to be replaced and logs data electronically. A select group of industry users are currently testing the app and offering feedback.
MILESTONE: Moss and Lemond, who left their jobs at the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to start a consulting firm in February, originally set out to make a login system for their own clients. They broadened to target a national market after an early meeting with Idea Village advisers. “We left with our idea multiplied,” Lemond said.
LOW OIL: Tighter emissions rules are coming regardless of oil prices and companies will want products that help them comply quickly, Moss said. “They need to do it and they need to do it now,” she said.
NEXT STEP: A national launch of the NVIROleaks app and platform. Moss expects to have a full app available next year for users nationwide.
FOUNDER: Chris Haring
PRODUCT: Hydrogen systems to improve engine efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.
Haring, an electronics engineer by trade, started researching fuel additives and systems in 2007 to improve mileage and lower fuel costs on his truck. Today, he has successfully manufactured and tested his hydrogen generator systems and electronic control boards in a range of engines, including semi-trucks, delivery vans and generator engines. “We went to see every motor on the planet use this technology,” he said.
CHALLENGE: Networking to find the right industry partners. Haring said he is open to licensing the technology to a larger company.
LOW OIL: Gasoline and diesel are relatively cheap thanks to low crude prices, but Haring noted the federal government continues to tighten emissions standards, particularly for truck and delivery fleets. He said his systems are capable of reducing carbon emissions from engines by 40 percent to 80 percent.
NEXT STEP: Scaling up product testing and manufacturing. Haring said he has been talking to experts at Louisiana State University, NASA and Royal Dutch Shell about possible testing partnerships.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the startups will be eligible for $50,000 in seed funding at the end of the EnergyX program. No seed funding is available this year.