Changing how upstream companies communicate with startups

 In News

Beneath all the regulatory, environmental and economic chaos surrounding oil and gas today, one demand is constant: the pressing need for innovation. Unfortunately, a disconnect exists between innovators and upstream operators, and critical advancements are taking far too long to reach the companies that can use them best.

Changing how upstream companies communicate with startups

A just-announced partnership between Powered Australia and Darcy Partners will bring a new model of harnessing innovations to the Australian upstream industry.

After years of running their highly-successful forum events in the US, which have seen attendance from several major Australian and many international exploration and production (E&P) companies, Darcy is poised to begin hosting forums in Australia for the first time.

“Origin has come to us, and Santos as well, and said, ‘Hey guys, we know what you’re doing, and we’d love for you to come to Australia to do it,’” Marcial Manzano, Development Manager at Darcy, explained.

Their finely-curated approach distinguishes their offerings from other industry events, which tend to have generic themes and focus on quantity over quality.

“We limit our forums to about 50 to 60 people max. It’s much more intimate,” Mr Manzano said.

“Any other conference, there’s not this amount of focused, in-depth discussion going on.”

New channels for innovation

When it comes to acquiring new technologies, there are three main channels that the upstream industry uses. The first is internal research and development, which is generally the territory of major companies that can afford to have researchers and testers on staff. The second is the use of consultants at large oil field service companies like Schlumberger or Halliburton.

The third channel is external innovators. These smaller entities, often startups, are rarely used as a direct resource for upstream corporations.

“These innovators don’t know how to approach oil and gas companies. They don’t know who to talk to,” Mr Manzano said.

Darcy’s role is to create an environment where those critical introductions happen.

Each year, the firm chooses eight broad topics, such as drilling, geological/geophysical or production, and then refines the research scope for each based on input from their E&P member companies.

“We survey [our member companies] and say, ‘Okay, based upon these broad topics, what specifics do you want to see addressed? What are your pain points?’” Mr Manzano said.

With that feedback in hand, Darcy does all the legwork in assessing the landscape of emerging and incumbent companies, and identifying and validating innovative technologies — to arrive at a preliminary assortment of 100 to 200 technologies that make the initial cut.

Cream of the crop

Further research and due diligence from Darcy’s in-house team, which includes operations experts and PhDs in petroleum engineering and geology, whittles the first round down to 20 to 30 field-proven innovations. Once these high-graded innovators have been validated, the top eight to twelve are selected to present at the forum.

All of Darcy’s E&P member companies then come together to hear from the presenters and openly discuss their opinions and experiences with the different technologies.

“If it’s a drilling forum, you’ll have the drilling engineer from Murphy, from Exxon, from Santos, Anadarko, sitting at a table next to each other, and Darcy’s in the middle facilitating the discussion,” Mr Manzano said.

The presentations are followed by breakout sessions where each of the operators can talk to the innovators one-by-one. Finally, at the end of the forum, Darcy consolidates their independent research on the topic and the insights they gained from the 20 to 30 high-graded technologies into a white paper for attendees to take home.

“Say we did an IoT forum, our white paper will say, ‘The focus here is IoT. Here’s the background, here’s the landscape, the status quo. Here are the challenges that the industry’s facing. And here is, based upon our research, the different innovators that we think can move the needle’,” Mr Manzano explained.

Transforming innovation in Australia

Completions, cutting edge, production, analytics and IOT, geological and geophysical, EOR, drilling — all of these are on the table as topics for forums in Australia as early as 2020.

“Darcy’s new partnership with Powered brings together two companies with vast networks in their home markets, with the idea to share connections and align goals to create something more,” Wade Elofson, founder and CEO of Powered, said.

Mr Manzano is equally excited for the opportunities the partnership will bring.

“The idea is to create innovation hubs, and ideally Australia would be one of those where, whether it be annually or every quarter, we’re hosting forums to help to drive innovation in the oil and gas industry,” Mr Manzano said.

“And if we’re talking to all these oil and gas company innovators based out of the US or other regions, and there’s a strong interest to come to Australia, they’re going to need somebody like Powered to help them set up.”

If you work for an Australian energy company or provide innovative products and services to the energy industry and want to get involved in these forums, please contact Wade Elofson at

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