Supporting innovation in the shale gas energy industry



How do you find emerging technological innovations across a large state like Pennsylvania? The Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center created a contest.

“Clearly, we needed them to find us, so we invented the Shale Gas Innovation contest,” William Hall, the center’s executive director said in a statement. “The first year we offered $50,000 in prizes to two winners, and we just concluded our third annual contest with a May 15 award ceremony at the Hilton Garden Inn in Southpointe. This year the contest has grown to $100,000, with four $25,000 prizes, 17 industrial sponsors, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners.”

The contest gives businesses the chance to win funding for their shale-oriented ideas but it is not the only thing Mr. Hall’s center does for the natural gas community. The center operates as a statewide resource for Ben Franklin Technology Partners and identifies, encourages and supports investments in the shale gas energy space.

“This year we received a grant from the Discovered and Developed in PA program administered by the state Department of Community and Economic Development. This allows us to provide grants to small companies with innovative technology solutions, helping them gain traction in the shale gas market,” Mr. Hall said. “It also allows us to fund white paper studies on critical topics.”

Before founding the center in March 2011, Mr. Hall worked with hydroelectrics in the Dominican Republic and served as chief operating officer of the environmental consulting firm, the Dunn Corp. He also started a pipeline services group for Severn Trent Services, a wastewater utility company, and spent 18 months as the president of Bioengineering Group, a small business in Massachusetts that worked in New Orleans doing flood control restoration post-Hurricane Katrina.

Q: Do you think the new EPA regulations placed on coal will influence more energy companies to make the shift over into natural gas? How do you feel about the regulations?

A: Yes, many conversions are under way now, with more new facilities to open, as well. Regulations are very complex and we try to work with them as they develop.

Q: What does “energy” mean to you?

A: Energy means power. The power to be self-sustaining as a nation and not lean on others to provide the energy we need to meet the demands of our society.

Q: If you had the chance to go back in time and meet Ben Franklin, what would you say to him?

A: What does he think about the role of shale gas in the Commonwealth’s energy future?

Q: Tell me about the time when you first realized you had the power to do something meaningful.

A: I knew within a month of taking this job that it would be special. We are in the midst of an energy revolution.

Gas and oil from tight rock formations are changing the geopolitical landscape of the globe. Being in the middle of it and watching it unfold is delightful. Having an opportunity to help innovators in Pennsylvania create new jobs and new wealth in the Commonwealth is very rewarding.

Q: What is the first thing you notice about someone?

A: Their smile or lack of one, and their personal energy.

Madasyn Czebiniak: mczebiniak@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1269. Twitter: @PG_Czebiniak

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