One Firm That Benefits From Rising Gas Prices

Back in the mid ‘90s, Henrique Tono was an oil executive in his native Colombia. He’d returned there after earning a master’s in geophysics from Stanford and started three successful companies. Then he received a call from his old department chair.

“This guy calls me up in the middle of the night on a Sunday evening and says, ‘Henrique, I figured it out! I figured out how to compute how fluids move through a rock without actually having to put the rocks in a laboratory and push fluids through it.’ The reason he was so excited is that understanding how oil, gas, and water move through the pore space in a rock is the Holy Grail of producing oil and gas.”

 Henrique Tono, CEO of Ingrain
Andrew Schneider interviewing Henrique Tono, CEO of Ingrain

Tono was skeptical but flew up to Stanford to see for himself.

“He showed me what he was doing, and at that point I said, ‘We need to build a company out of this. There’s too much value in this.’”

There was just one problem: the calculations required huge amounts of computing power, enough to stress even Stanford’s supercomputers to the limit.

Fast forward a decade. Colombia’s escalating violence devastated Tono’s businesses. He moved back to the U.S. and pursued a Ph.D. at Duke. Eventually, technology caught up enough that Tono decided to give his mentor’s idea a try. He came to Houston and in 2007 formed a new company: Ingrain.

Ingrain is now benefitting from rising interest in extracting oil and natural gas from shale beds. But the same energy majors now engaging Ingrain’s services are also looking to compete.

“The easy oil and gas is mostly gone, so we go to more difficult reservoirs, more difficult geology, and more difficult fluids. Being able to understand the behavior of those fluids better allows us to make better development decisions on how to produce those oil and gas fields. These digital rock technologies help us to make those assessments and those judgments.”

That’s Jeroen Regtien, vice president in charge of Shell’s Digital Rock program. Regtien is based in the Netherlands, but much of his research team operates out the firm’s Bellaire Technology Center.

Shell also recently announced plans to partner with Schlumberger to throw even more brainpower at the problem. And Exxon Mobil has its own team hard at work.

For now, though, Ingrain is enjoying a comfortable lead.

“By far, the technical leaders in shale rely 100% on us.”

From the KUHF Business Desk, I’m Andrew Schneider.
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