Technology Above Ground

By Luke Geiver | April 22, 2013

Innovative technology in the Bakken isn’t limited to below ground activity and the thousands of miles of horizontally drilled laterals. Bill Biewenga has proof. As the chief operating officer for Rhode Island-based Qv21 Technologies LLC, Biewenga has helped integrate a fleet-tracking software package into the region that has streamlined the logistics management industry, and, more importantly, he says, cut down on the use of paper used for recording keeping. 

Every time a truck enters or leaves a well site, water depot, wastewater site, storage facility or any other destination where a resource such as water, oil or frack sand is loaded or unloaded, a paper ticket is generated. Each ticket includes handwritten notes along with information explaining the volume and type of load that any entity involved with that particular load will then have to record for resource management and budgeting. Those tickets may rest on a driver’s dashboard for a day, a week or a month. “When the tickets come in,” Biewenga says, “someone has to decipher what the tickets say even when somebody had to write them in below-zero weather.” In some cases, driving operations may create 8,000 to 10,000 tickets per month. 

The Qv21 Technology team knew their efforts to create a hardware and software package that could wirelessly track drivers and reduce the use of paper tickets by the creation of e-tickets were a worthy cause from the beginning. But learning that some operations in the region had tasked individuals with the sole job of eliminating paper tickets didn’t hurt either, he says. 

Since it first entered the play roughly one year ago, the team has outfitted thousands of trucks in the Bakken with its wireless, electronic onboard monitoring software and hardware package equipped with its trademarked LogisticsFramework system. The hardware can be housed in any Android operating system, and the software can provide logistics managers with real-time information of the driver’s hours, mileage and load information. The use of paper has been drastically reduced and logistics managers can focus on troubleshooting instead of mundane tasks, he says. And, that might not even be the most important facet of the technology, according to Biewenga. 

“Every load has a value, and every truck carries a load of data. That data has a value as well.” Because some trucking operations engage in factoring, a practice that allows the company to expand by borrowing against its accounts receivable, having data quicker is important. The sooner data can be entered, the sooner a company can provide loan officers with the information needed to borrow, based on what their accounts of the future can prove. Logistics software housed in a smartphone isn’t the only proof that innovation is everywhere in the Bakken. The companies of Hose Solutions Inc. and Sionix Corp. are both developing a presence in the Bakken with their water-based technologies. Hose Solutions Inc., an Arizona-based hose designer and manufacturer, is now providing clients in the region with a polyurethane hose as strong as rigid pipe but as flexible as normal hose. The product can help move water from a water depot to a well site while cutting down on labor costs and planning time. The hose can be maneuvered around culverts, roads or other obstacles, and according to Tanner Tryon, company general manager, the product has been used in nearly every oilfield in the country. “We have a high demand for the product,” he says, “but we are short on supply.”

Sionix Corp., an L.A.-based firm that recently relocated to Houston, is perfecting a wastewater treatment process that will allow for the recycling of water used in the drilling process. The firm has finished testing at a facility adjacent to a water depot near Dickinson, N.D. An independent water-testing service has verified the results of the dissolved air flotation technology developed by Sionix. “We didn’t want to do this on test water, we wanted to do this on the real thing,” says Ken Calligar, CEO. 

Henry Sullivan, independent director of the company, says the idea of Sionix’s treatment process is simple. Drilling teams that normally pay to dispose of wastewater should be able to recycle that water instead, and use it again. “We aren’t asking people to be environmental heroes, we are asking people to save money,” Sullivan says. But, he adds, the process does provide an immense environmental benefit to those who use the process.