Inside Baker Hughes’ Energy Innovation Center

By Kaitlin Milliken |  August 6, 2018

In Oklahoma, reserves of natural gas and oil are plentiful — as is talent working in the energy industry.

Four years ago, Baker Hughes opened up its Oil & Gas Technology Center in Oklahoma City— a place they call the “Silicon Valley of the Shale Revolution.” This July, the company reinvented the facility, unveiling the Energy Innovation Center (EIC).

Baker Hughes is a provider of oil and gas products, services, and software. The company has over 2,200 employees in Oklahoma who work in over 30 facilities throughout the state. (Baker Hughes was acquired by GE in 2017, but the industrial giant is now seeking to sell off the unit.)

[Oklahoma City] is truly an energy ecosystem,” says Taylor Shinn, Baker Hughes’ director of ventures and growth. “It’s got deep roots in the oil and gas [sector]. A lot of the pioneers of the unconventional revolution on gas were in Oklahoma City and came from the Oklahoma City area.”

While the Oil & Gas Technology Center employed traditional research and development methods, the revamped Energy Innovation Center has an slightly different mission: taking new technologies from concept to commercialization. The EIC will run incubators and build internal startups with the goal of bringing new products and services to market.

Despite the changes, the EIC remains committed to oil and gas, Shinn says, as well as the city the facility calls home.

In Oklahoma City: America’s Energy Capital

Shinn calls Oklahoma City’s rich natural resources and talent “serendipitous” for the EIC. Oklahoma City is a hub for the United States’ energy industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that over 1,400 mining, quarrying, oil, and gas businesses operate in the Greater Oklahoma City area. That presents an opportunity for collaboration, a central principle of the EIC.

The facility brings together experts from the technology sector, academia, and the investment community. “From a physical location, we’re going to continue to bring more team members together even if they’re not Baker [Hughes] employees so…we can continue to shape that ecosystem moving forward,” Shinn says.

Augmented Reality and Machine Learning

Currently, teams at the EIC work with machine learning to increase production and with other new technologies to create lower cost, more sustainable oil and gas recovery solutions. The EIC is also exploring the use of augmented and virtual reality, especially at unmanned oil and gas operations, and ways to better extract oil and gas from unconventional reservoirs.

Shinn says co-creation in on the horizon at the EIC.

“Customers are in our office, our labs, everyday saying, ‘I have a challenge. We need a solution. Can you develop a solution?'” he says. “We have the means, the ability, and the architecture to get into those systems quickly.”

Another objective for the EIC is helping to develop small-scale ideas that may not fit into Baker Hughes’ existing product portfolio to flourish in another setting. Shin says that Baker Hughes boasts a “natural overflow” of technological innovations.

Our technology pipeline as a company will always be more than we have the ability to quickly commercialize,” he says. “The EIC allows those other technologies that may not be a direct fit … to still provide that solution to the customer.”

Focusing on Speed

A new product within Baker Hughes often requires two to three years of development before it can be used on-site, according to Derek Mathieson, the company’s Chief Marketing & Technology Officer. He says the EIC has been repositioned in order to “dramatically accelerate technology development.”

Shinn says the EIC’s resources will also help the company’s internally-cultivated startups scale their ideas quickly. The center provides its teams with financial backing from Baker Hughes, as well as outside funding from venture capital firms. He says the EIC seeks to blend the best of the startup and corporate worlds.

“We need the ability to focus and to have small teams that can move and have all the benefits of a startup with all the benefits of a big company as well,” Shinn says.

The Energy Innovation Center is one of ten Baker Hughes technology centers around the globe.