A sharp decrease in oil prices combined with recent federal regulations related to the environment have disrupted the status quo in the energy industry. Companies once focused on producing energy as quickly as possible now must produce energy as efficiently as possible. From this lean economic environment, unprecedented opportunity for innovation has been born.
Utah has an abundance of fossil fuel types that provide cheap reliable energy. Outreach efforts in this industry are focused on commercializing the technologies needed to clean these fuel sources. One such technology is NanoAir, a device that eliminates ozone-causing pollution from routine oil and gas operations. NanoAir was created by Bobby Mohanty at the University of Utah and is undergoing product validation led by USTAR East student director, Rete Browning, in conjunction with Uintah Basin Air Quality expert Seth Lyman.
In Utah County, significant progress is being made by RodMax, a small business that has developed a smart pump jack capable of eliminating distributed emissions from oil pumps while simultaneously increasing production. This company is currently finalizing its business model under USTAR East business lead, Emily Bernath, and has acquired a letter of support from a major American oil company.
Along with having an abundance of high quality oil, gas, and coal, Utah has some of the most promising wind, solar, and geothermal resources in the nation. Because solar and wind energy are inherently variable, it is equally important to learn what technologies are available to store this energy. USTAR East is currently assisting the creation of the first industry/university cooperative research center for bio-batteries. This center, located in Salt Lake City, will bring together researchers at the University of Utah and Utah State University with industry partners to steer projects aimed at developing a new type of battery that creates clean, continuous energy from fuel sources ranging from jet fuel to sugar.
Of equal importance to cheap, clean, sustainable energy is cheap, clean, sustainable water. As the global environment changes, water management is coming into the spotlight as a top priority. USTAR East is actively providing business development support to researchers at the University of Utah who are developing a sensor and software that provides real-time soil moisture data to farmers. As agriculture represents roughly one-third of all water consumption in the US, even small improvements could realize huge savings.
Along with the projects mentioned above, USTAR East Director Andrew Sweeney is coordinating nine projects under the Utah Energy Research Triangle (ERT), a competitive grant program aimed at creating products to solve Utah’s pressing energy issues, as well as developing the next generation of energy researchers. The products being developed by this year’s cohort address CO2 to chemicals, bioenergy from produced water, electricity from waste heat, solar to chemical energy, high-efficiency solar cells, electrification of roadways, and high-efficiency fuel cells.
USTAR East is excited to support the above projects along the commercialization pipeline and looks forward to continuing support for a multitude of other truly cutting edge technologies, each with immense commercial potential. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact USTAR East director, Andrew Sweeney, at firstname.lastname@example.org.