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Can GE Make Fracking Safer?

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Posted on Thu, 30 May 2013 22:06 | 0

In three years, General Electric Co. has gone from only dabbling in oil and gas to investing a whopping $15 billion in the sector, with an eye for diversity and new technology—not drilling and producing.

The bottom line is that hydraulic fracking has opened a number of new doors for GE, so much so that GE Oil & Gas is becoming the company’s fastest-growing department.

What GE Oil & Gas seems to be taking advantage of is the opportunity here to improve fracking by adapting existing technology and creating new technology to make fracking more manageable and remove environmental concerns. It’s a strategy that attempts to capture a major share of the fracking market from all angles. 

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GE’s new fracking portfolio hopes to actually complement its renewable energy and nuclear energy portfolio. If Obama’s energy plan is “all of the above”, GE’s business strategy seems to mirror this—and investors like it.

Environmentalists also seem to like GE, and are particularly eyeing its newest investment plan to pour billions of dollars into a new research facility in Oklahoma that will further its agenda of leading the pack in cutting-edge energy science that seeks to dull some of the potentially harmful impacts of fracking.

For the environmentalists, what’s important here is GE’s ambition to improve fracking wastewater cleanup and reduce air pollution related to drilling.

In a recent interview with Fox News, Mark Little—a GE senior vice-president, described the company’s strategy as considering “minds and machines together”. By this he means that aided by GE technology, people can actually see what’s going on below the surface in a well in real time. So the trick to developing new technology is gathering more information and understanding that technology must be constantly improving with human benefit in mind.

In fact, GE’s Oklahoma facility is so attractive that it’s got the state’s energy secretary, Michael Ming, to announce in early May that he would step down from his position by the end of this month in order to take over the leadership of GE’s new oil-and-gas-focused Global Research Center.

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"The decision to locate this new, state of the art facility in Oklahoma is a huge victory for the state," Ming said in a statement. "GE's Global Research Center will spur economic growth and continue to enhance Oklahoma's reputation as a global hub for energy companies."

The Oklahoma center is the just latest to be added to the GE research portfolio: The company has seven other research centers and more than 50,000 scientists and engineers on its payroll. But this difference this time is that the Oklahoma center will focus specifically on oil and gas.

As GE delves into the oil and gas sector with a certain pioneering relentlessness, and an increasing penchant for major offshore oil and gas technology (think subsea), it is carving itself a niche that is forward-thinking and diverse enough to put investors at ease.

By. Jen Alic of Oilprice.com


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