NERA Fostering Innovative SMEs

18 April 2017

NERA (National Energy Resources Australia) has awarded $200,000 to inspiring and ground breaking small businesses looking to innovate within the energy resources sector.

Under the inaugural NERA Innovation Voucher program, 10 Australian small to medium sized businesses have each been awarded a $20,000 grant which will allow them to deliver an innovative solution to a technical challenge which had limited their customer’s ability to maximise their business operations.

NERA was established in 2016 as an independent, not for profit company for the energy resources sector, specifically oil and gas, uranium and coal. Its role is to maximise value to the Australian economy by having a globally competitive energy resources industry that is sustainable, innovative and diverse.

NERA chief executive Miranda Taylor said it was vital Australian SMEs were given the opportunity to showcase their skills to the broader industry. She said it was clear from the impressive cross section of Innovation Voucher applicants that Australian SMEs were world class in innovating for the energy resources sector.

“Technology is rapidly changing Australia’s energy resources sector from a pipeline business model based on long term contracts and small numbers of Tier One contractors to a portfolio model based on a different approach to the management of risk and multiple partners driving innovation and productivity,” Ms Taylor said.

"The ground-breaking innovations we've seen through our program show that Australia can use innovation to respond to higher energy costs, a lower emissions environment and a societal move towards renewable energy sources and clean technologies.

“Partnering early in the development phase provides businesses and entrepreneurs with a clearer pathway to adoption as the end-users have been engaged in the development phase.”

The recipients of the inaugural Innovation Vouchers have proposed solutions for safer operations, digital solutions for personnel mobility as well as applications for drone technology.

The full recipient list is detailed below:

Exploration Drill Rigs Pty Ltd – Power Drill (QLD)

Issue: Under significant upward pressure in onshore oil and gas wells, current workover techniques require two pieces of large additional plant to conduct “snubbing” (downward force on the drill string). This significantly increase the cost of well servicing.

Solution: The Power Drill is an easily transportable module that is connected to existing rigs, setup in 30 minutes and provides the additional drilling support.

Imagine Intelligent Materials Pty Ltd & Duromer Products Pty Ltd - Smart Screens (NSW)

Issue: Screen reliability and ongoing maintenance causes significant productivity losses and increased operating costs.

Solution: As a result of innovative polymer composite technology, new screens made of graphene-enhanced, fibre-reinforced polymer composites with sensing capabilities are under development. These screens would provide a higher level of structural health monitoring, improved equipment reliability and less downtime through improved maintenance rates.

Kinetic Group Worldwide – Hydrate Membrane Gel (QLD)

Issue: Fine tailings content for coal mines tends to stay suspended in tailings water making dewatering a challenge.

Solution: Using a hydrate membrane gel has shown potential to capture fine clays and suspended particles from a water stream. This low-cost solution has the potential to significantly improve the efficiency of dewatering coal mine tailings.

Kinyun Australia – Wearable Sensor for Tracking Personnel in Underground Mines (NSW)

Issue: Tracking personnel in underground mines is a workplace health and safety challenge.

Solution: Using current wearable equipment, RFID’s will be fitted to the wearable equipment. The challenge will be to achieve reliable communication within a reasonable range in an underground environment, provide an accurate compliance to WLAN standards to ensure real time location information and overcome space for circuitry and low power consumption.

Project Match Australia Pty Ltd – MyPass (NSW)

Issue: Mobilising experienced personnel across businesses and states continues to be an expensive challenge.

Solution: The MyPass system allows workers to upload their personal and compliance information once only (until change or expiry). MyPass removes the administrative burden and system cost for companies requiring access to worker information by synchronising the data in a centralised, secure web-based portal.

Soter Analytics – Wearable Sensor for Back & Muscular Skeletal Injuries (WA)

Issue: Workplace safety challenges, specifically back and muscular-skeletal injuries account for more than 50 per cent of all injuries.

Solution: The low-cost wearable sensor records at risk body posture movements, compares this to activity levels, and can also measure other environmental risks such as temperature and noise. This information is then fed back to the worker via their own smart device.

Tensa Equipment – Active Heave Compensated Pedestal (WA)

Issue: Helicopters are recognized as a less safe and more costly means of transporting personnel to offshore facilities than vessels. If helicopters are replaced by vessels, transferring personnel from one vessel to another presents a workforce health and safety challenge in larger seastates.

Solution: The Active Heave Compensated Pedestal provides a means to actively heave compensate a lightweight gangway such that it is suitable for deployment on small high speed vessels. The Pedestal virtually eliminates the relative motion between vessels by enabling the gangway on the smaller vessel to match the motion of the larger vessel.

Tensa Equipment – Roborigger (WA)

Issue: Moving and orientating heavy equipment can be a workplace health and safety challenge.

Solution: The Roborigger is a battery powered wireless device which uses gyroscopic and inertial forces to accurately rotate and orient loads. This device has a multitude of applications. For example, it eliminates the need for personnel to land and unhook heavy loads, can hold wind turbine blades stationery when they are being attached to the hub of a wind turbine, and assists with pipelaying vessels as pipes are moved across from one vessel to another.

Verterra Ecological Engineering – Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS) for seed dispersal and establishment monitoring on problematic mine rehabilitation areas (QLD)

Issue: Achieving consistent positive rehabilitation outcomes on problematic areas of mine sites.

Solution: Using RPAS fitted with a seed and fertiliser spreader along with vegetation assessment cameras will enable seeding and follow up establishment monitoring in traditionally challenging mine rehabilitation areas. These might include areas of steeply sloping ground and where helicopters are prohibited or the risk profile presents a challenge to safety.

Pictured: Matthew Hart & Alexey Pavlenko, Soter Analytics