Natural Resources Roundup for February 2017

Natural Resources Roundup for February 2017

By Kyle Gracey

PreScouter is dedicated to keeping your company up to date on emerging technologies. That’s why I’m inaugurating a new feature: the Natural Resources Roundup. Check back at the beginning of every month for a quick bite of key technology headlines in the natural resources space. Up this month: renewables everywhere, IoT for oilfields, pot-driven water tech and a nuclear quagmire.

Mining and Metals: Embracing Renewables

Mining companies have been making steady investments in renewable energy for their operations. Canada’s gold miners are no exception. Mining companies are deviating from gas and diesel vehicles as battery and electric alternatives, and renewable energy becomes the preferred source. Lower ore grades and climate change legislation are helping drive this change. Goldcorp and Barrick Gold are some of the players making these investments.

Advanced Energy: Microgrids on the Rise

The steady downward march of prices for solar panels and battery storage is making microgrids a viable alternative for companies looking for onsite backup power, renewable energy investments or insulation from peak electricity prices. As Greentech Media reports, companies like Panasonic have begun testing microgrids in unique partnerships with utilities. The technology is still in the early stages, so interested companies should watch these early developments closely.

Fossil Fuels: Baker Hughes Bets on Industrial IoT

Baker Hughes’s upcoming partnership with General Electric (GE) will give it access to GE’s Predix Internet of Things (IoT) platform for its oilfield operations. As industrial IoT expands to new sectors, and as GE’s platform remains a market leader, expect more headlines like this in oil and gas. Drillers hope that putting more sensors on rigs, and having a data platform that can talk to those sensors, will help them predict when rigs need maintenance, saving money and hopefully helping prevent blowouts.

Water: Could Legal Weed Drive Water Innovations?

As recreational and medicinal marijuana growers gain legal rights in the United States and, more slowly, other parts of the world, they are coming under the same growing restrictions as other agricultural companies. Notably, growers face limits on water consumption, particularly in California, where they do not have access to water rights available to other agriculture. This could spur innovations in everything from indoor vertical growing to IoT-like water sensors to novel membranes for effluent treatment and water recycling.

Nuclear: Slow Growth for New Technology

The nuclear industry had another challenging year, with only a handful of new plants coming online in 2016, including one that was on the books for 43 years. This belied heavy growth in Asia, especially China, where prospects for new technologies are highest. The United States announced only $82 million additional support for nuclear R&D last year, while Brexit is complicating the future of nuclear in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Overall, the growth in renewables dominated the headlines this past month, opening up new possibilities for companies as diverse as electronics manufacturers and miners, while dampening the attractiveness of nuclear energy. Still, all sectors are looking towards innovations to boost their businesses. One high-interest level is Industrial IoT a common thread. Stay tuned for a deeper dive later this month as we explore one technology shaping natural resources.

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