The facility has two underground test wells—one more than 400 feet deep and the other 60 feet deep—for testing technologies such as the new pumps with the jet engine coatings. The center also has a “flow loop” where engineers can simulate oil and gas production environments and test how newly designed parts can handle them. The place also has 3D printing machines that can quickly print new part designs to speed up prototyping and testing.
Abate’s and Simonelli’s teams are also using software to connect energy sites to Predix, GE’s cloud-based operating system for the Industrial Internet, and gather and analyze data to make them more efficient. For example, one group of engineers is developing drones that can inspect rigs and pipelines located hundreds of miles away.
Today, field engineers carry out inspections manually by driving to a site and using a camera to capture an image to, say, assess emissions. They need to return to the office to document the findings. The process can take hours, if not days. GE’s prototype drone operates differently. It can see, analyze and autogenerate a report in the field all at once by using Predix application programming interfaces (APIs). “The drone technology we are piloting is a great example of how physical is meeting digital in oil field environments,” Abate said. “With the cloud-connected drone, we can remotely inspect well sites or emissions more quickly, accurately and cheaply.”
Abate says the new center has been designed to foster open innovation and allow engineers to work closely with customers. “What you have is a facility built for collaboration and equipped with tools and resources to rapidly develop, iterate and test new technologies and concepts,” says Mike Ming, general manager of the new center.
“We have planted innovation roots here in Oklahoma to be closer to our customers and to work side by side with them in delivering new technology solutions to the marketplace faster,” Ming said. “We’re excited about the work ahead and the potential of what can be accomplished.”