By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2014, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Every industry has its Achilles’ heel.
For the oil and gas industry, it’s called severe service.
The exact definition of severe service varies, but the bottom line is that precision equipment out in the field — especially control valves — takes a whale of a beating.
Fluid cavitation, erosion and vibration are just some of the destructive factors that make frequent valve maintenance and replacement a significant cost for well owners and operators.
“When a well goes down, the meter runs negative,” said Mark Lobo, founder and managing director of Valve Systems International in Tulsa.
Lobo, a career engineer of industrial products including 25 years with control valve manufacturers, understands valve technology. He understands severe service conditions and customers’ pain.
Answer to big issue?
He also understands the mantra of all successful entrepreneurs: Identify a big problem in a healthy industry and create a solution that potential customers will buy.
Lobo has invented a more reliable severe service control valve. His proprietary design simplifies the liquid’s flow path through the valve, creating greater reliability. He has applied for a patent, used i2E venture advisory services to build a company around his concept, and presented his work at the 2014 Oklahoma Engineering Conference and a recent Oklahoma Venture Forum meeting.
Lobo’s industry knowledge and contacts, his technical solution, and his clear value proposition for the energy industry make Valve Systems International a very interesting deal.
Plus, there’s something more. Lobo, like other visionary Oklahoma innovators, is using new technologies created by others to achieve commercialization milestones at a lower cost, and thereby reduce startup risk.
“Today, a single engineer has tremendous computing power available,” Lobo said. “I created a virtual prototype of the valve and ran mechanical simulations in my computer workstation. Collaborating with Autodesk and the UberCloud Experiment, I ran more than 200 flow simulations in the cloud to ensure the design met performance goals. This development path did not exist five years ago.”
Lobo also engaged the Oklahoma State University Inventors Assistance Service to independently evaluate his design concept. His next step is to build valves for field test, employing 3D printing methods to produce castings of critical parts. Customers have lined up to validate performance and reliability that promises to exceed that of current control valves.
Lobo is out to answer the question, will it work? He believes it will.
Oklahoma is still a fairly young state. People came here with hopes and dreams — and to make things that worked.
We’ve always had a strong industrial base, especially firms that serve the oil and gas industry. It’s great to see startups join in to help improve the reliability and efficiency of key technologies for the energy industry, which is so critical to our state’s economy.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
Did You Know? Control valves are a $500 million industry in the U.S. alone.