Nanotech Startups to Have Big Oil's Back


Whether you believe that the world’s oil production has peaked yet or not, Big Oil is certainly looking for ways to extend the life of its current reserves. And a report out this morning from the folks at Lux Research says nanotechnology startups will be crucial to providing technology to help oil and gas firms find new reserves and get more out of existing ones.

Uh-oh. We’d advocate concentrating on switching away from fossil fuels first (you know, that whole climate change thing). It’s a shame that cutting edge nanotech will be deployed to perpetuate our oil dependency. But we’re realistic and we know the oil and gas companies will be looking to spend a lot of money stretching those reserves, and nanotech startups will be looking for the dollars when thinking about energy applications.

All in all, the report says there are 78 nanotech startups, including Integran Technologies and Intrinsiq Materials, that are focusing on oil and gas. In the release, Mark Bünger, Research Director at Lux Research, explains some of the ways nanotech can help oil and gas firms:

“Underground oil inhabits nanoscale pores; oil wells’ extreme temperatures and pressures benefit from nanostructured materials and coatings; and engineered nanocatalysts can upgrade heavy oils to lighter, more valuable ones.”

And the startups will be the ones to bring this cutting edge research to the market place, as the huge slow-moving oil companies are spending only 0.2 to 0.5 percent of revenue on R&D, according to the report. That is “50 to 100 times less than in other technology-dependent sectors like aerospace, biotech and information technology.”

The Lux analysts advocate more partnerships between the big oil firms, more collaboration with academia and more joint partnerships with–and acquisitions of–startups to help move this early stage nanotechnology into the oil firms. Yeah, that might help, but let’s figure out the oil alternatives first.

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