Start-Up Challenge: New invention gives oil or gas field workers automated control

Matt Kull, owner of Simple Injection, poses next to his automatic injection machine at his workshop outside of Casper on Wednesday morning. The device connects to an app which allows operators to custom control the oilfield injection unit from anywhere. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Being able to monitor and optimize the use of additives in oil or gas wells from an office perhaps a hundred miles away is the objective of one finalist in the third annual Casper Start-Up Challenge.

Entrepreneur Matt Kull, owner of Simple Injection, has invented a unique pump controller to inject chemical additives into oil and gas wells, and into pipelines.

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“My controller will control that chemical pump and allow you to change settings from your phone or your office instead of having to go out and physically be at the pump,” he said. “The controller will basically turn the pump on and off when needed.”

The controller can regulate the use of such chemicals agents as methanol to prevent pipelines from freezing, corrosion inhibitors, and agents to remove hydrogen sulfide. The wireless system, which relies on satellite signals, will work with an app on an iPhone or Android device, or from a computer.

Matt Kull holds a smartphone with his app mirroring the control panel on his injection machine. The app can control the machine from anywhere, as well as keep an ongoing record of the machine’s performance. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The controller also will issue alerts. For example, it will indicate if a unit’s solar batteries are low, a chemical tank is empty, or if there are problems with the pump.

“You can really do it from anywhere in the world as long as you have an Internet connection,” Matt said. In theory, a company in Casper could monitor a well at the North Pole.

There is nothing like this controller unit on the market, Matt noted. “What I’m creating is a stand-alone unit that you can install on your pump, or on one of the pumps I sell as a package, and it works out of the box.”

At his day job, Matt sells chemical pumps to oil and gas operators. In the course of that work, he noticed that producers will install a pump with one chemical injection rate but not have a good way to monitor the rate on a continuing basis. His controller would allow operators to monitor wells around the clock.

Simple Injection is in a developmental stage. Matt has built a prototype, including the electronic components, and tested it in his shop. “I have a pump set up to inject based on this controller, simulating the same conditions as a pump in the field, and it’s working great,” he said.

The Simple Injection device runs off batteries charged by a large solar panel. The tank at left is filled with water for testing, but can be filled with any chemical used in the oilfield. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The next step will be to build a custom electronic controller then thoroughly test the device in the field.

One often-discussed way to diversify Wyoming’s economy is to develop products, like Simple Injection, that are related to the state’s major industries. Oil and gas extraction accounted 6.2 percent of Wyoming’s Gross Domestic Product in 2016, compared to just 0.9 percent in the U.S. overall, according to Principal Economist Jim Robinson of the state’s Economic Analysis Division.

Support for further development of Matt’s device could come via this year’s Start-Up Challenge. Simple Injection is one of five finalists in this year’s event. The three eventual winners will each receive $5,000, one year of free rent at the Wyoming Technology Business Center, a chance to apply for a share in a $50,000 seed fund, and business counseling from WTBC staff to help grow their businesses.

As part of the Start-Up Challenge, Matt participated in a “boot camp” presented by the WTBC and Casper Area Economic Development Alliance/Forward Casper where he received useful start-up information.

“I thought it was excellent,” he said. “It was a great overview. It opened my eyes to a lot of things I hadn’t thought about.”

Matt is now looking forward to “Pitch Day” on Nov. 15, when he and the four other finalists will make 20-minute presentations before a panel of judges. The event will be held at The Lyric in downtown Casper at 4 p.m. and is open to the public.

The Casper Start-Up Challenge is administered through the WTBC, a part of the University of Wyoming. It is made possible thanks to sponsorships from CAEDA/Forward Casper, the John P. Ellbogen Foundation, Oil City News, First Interstate Bank, and WIDC Frontier CDC.

The aim of the program is “to catalyze Wyoming start-up businesses and provide the opportunity to apply for seed money to take the business past concept stage and into real-world first article builds and initial sales,” according to the Start-Up Challenge website.

WTBC assistance throughout the year

The many ways in which the WTBC can help start-up or fledgling businesses isn’t limited to the Casper Start-Up Challenge. For more information about how the WTBC might be able to assist you with a new business or a start-up idea, contact Jerad Stack at 307-315-6401, or email jstack@uwyo.edu.