Eco­nomic Stim­u­lus

How a five-year-old Cal­gary well-stim­u­la­tion firm is boost­ing bar­rel counts at the well­head, crank­ing up cash flows for pro­duc­ers and grow­ing in the down­turn



po­ten­tially revo­lu­tion­ary well-stim­u­la­tion tech­nol­ogy is as easy as find­ing an out­let for an ex­ten­sion cord. It’s a char­ac­ter­is­tic un­der­state­ment from the Blue Spark En­ergy pres­i­dent and CEO, who started the com­pany in Jan­uary 2011 based, he says, on “whis­pers” he heard com­ing out of a French re­search lab­o­ra­tory. But there’s good rea­son for the am­bi­gu­ity. When you catch light­ning in a bot­tle, many will try to steal your thun­der. And putting light­ning in a bot­tle is a pretty near de­scrip­tion of what Blue Spark does. “We roll up to a well­site, we un­plug the coffee pot and we plug our tech­nol­ogy in,” Parker says. “Down­hole we con­vert that power into an ex­tremely brief elec­tri­cal power out­put – in the or­der of mi­crosec­onds – [that’s] very pow­er­ful.” That sud­den jolt of elec­tri­cal cur­rent and the re­sult­ing shock­wave is of­ten all that a blocked well needs to start pro­duc­ing at peak vol­umes again, whether

by dis­lodg­ing a block­age or oth­er­wise stim­u­lat­ing the reser­voir, Parker says. “Yet, the amount of elec­tric­ity is very mod­est. To go and treat a 15-me­ter sec­tion of well, we’d use about the same amount of elec­tric­ity as if you left a light­bulb on for three hours.”

The abil­ity to send high-pres­sure im­pulses down the well – and get more bar­rels of oil back up – us­ing rel­a­tively lit­tle en­ergy is the se­cret to the Blue Spark for­mula, one that’s ev­i­dently find­ing cus­tomers far afield from the com­pany’s Cal­gary home. “We’ve gone world­wide with this now,” Parker says. “We started in Al­berta be­cause I’m a proud Cana­dian. But also the sig­nif­i­cance of hav­ing suc­cess in Canada is quite large; we are rec­og­nized in­ter­na­tion­ally as a place where we have ex­tremely ef­fi­cient, eco­nomic and safe ap­pli­ca­tions. When some­thing is work­ing and ef­fec­tive here, other coun­tries take no­tice.” And what nearly half the pro­duc­ers that hire Blue Spark are notic­ing, ac­cord­ing to Parker, is dou­bled pro­duc­tion vol­umes in the three months af­ter one of the com­pany’s small-scale well in­ter­ven­tions. “In­stead of hav­ing large tanker trucks of acid or other flu­ids rolling through the coun­try­side and out to the well, we have a pickup truck with some in­stru­men­ta­tion we lower into the well­bore – it’s a re­ally small foot­print.”

The com­pany’s cor­po­rate foot­print, on the other hand, is grow­ing. Af­ter Parker, Marci Hamil­ton is em­ployee num­ber two at Blue Spark, where she man­ages the com­pany’s cor­po­rate ser­vices. “We’ve got em­ploy­ees now in Canada, em­ploy­ees in the U.S., em­ploy­ees in France and we’re cur­rently hir­ing in Scot­land,” Hamil­ton says. With fewer oil wells be­ing drilled re­cently, due to the oil price col­lapse, one might think that the mar­ket for Blue Spark would be shrink­ing too. But with many oil pro­duc­ers, es­pe­cially in North Amer­ica, in­stead try­ing to max­i­mize pro­duc­tion from fields al­ready drilled, busi­ness for Blue Spark is boom­ing. The com­pany’s tech­nol­ogy doesn’t just make gains by help­ing com­pa­nies get more oil out of the ground, ei­ther. It can de­liver sav­ings on the en­vi­ron­men­tal and safety sides, too, by lim­it­ing work­site ex­po­sure to heavy equip­ment and po­ten­tially harm­ful chem­i­cals. “Ob­vi­ously dur­ing this time com­pa­nies aren’t fo­cused solely on ef­fi­ciency but also on man­ag­ing risk,” Hamil­ton says. “And our tech­nol­ogy is re­ally one that, from an en­vi­ron­men­tal and also from a safety per­spec­tive, has done a lot of work around lim­it­ing that risk for some of those pro­duc­ers and that’s one of the other things that makes this tech­nol­ogy in­ter­est­ing.”

It’s not just oil pro­duc­ers that are in­ter­ested. Blue Spark has used the same sys­tem it uses to stim­u­late pro­duc­tion wells to also clear de­bris from waste­water dis­posal wells. Re­cently, a nat­u­ral gas pro­ducer had Parker and his team test Blue Spark’s ef­fec­tive­ness in its gas wells. “We’re still an­a­lyz­ing the re­sults and it looks en­cour­ag­ing,” he says. “But I don’t want to tell you it was a suc­cess out of the gate just yet un­til we un­der­stand from a cus­tomer per­spec­tive that we did change the eco­nom­ics. But be­cause of the op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing fast and sim­ple and safe, peo­ple are com­ing to us with ap­pli­ca­tions we had never en­vi­sioned be­fore.” It seems that max­i­miz­ing a well’s eco­nom­ics – and do­ing it quickly and af­ford­ably – is just good busi­ness, re­gard­less of which well busi­ness you’re in.


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