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Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1504

This week on Oklahoma Horizon, we look at innovation’s role in our economy.
Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1504

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1504

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i2e – Innovation to Enterprise

Oklahoma Innovation Institute



General Electric

Oklahoma Historical Society

Show Details

Show 1504: Oklahoma Horizon TV
Air Date: January 25, 2015



Rob McClendon: Here’s what’s coming up on your “Horizon.” Well, it’s been said innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity rather than a threat. And that is our theme this week – innovation’s role in our economy.

Gov. Mary Fallin: Innovation is important to the state of Oklahoma because it helps create that entrepreneur spirit.

Rob: Alisa Hines takes us to a Tulsa-based company that is turning trash into treasure.

Matthew Newman: Energy from waste is a high-tech process that utilizes everyday household garbage and converts it into clean energy.

Rob: I sit down with the Oklahoman leading the charge to make one of our nation’s most established companies an energy innovator in oil and gas. And we’ll remember an Oklahoman who made it her life’s work to change how the state looks at race. Stay with us for “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Male Announcer: “Oklahoma Horizon” is made possible by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

Female Announcer: Oklahoma’s investment in CareerTech provides more than nationally recognized technology education and training. It produces solid financial returns for the state’s economic future. Oklahoma CareerTech, elevating our economy.

Male Announcer: And the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, helping good people grow good things. And now, from the CareerTech studios in Stillwater, here’s your host, Rob McClendon.

Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” Well, no one has ever said that innovation is easy. For every great success, there are plenty of failures. Yet when a great idea turns into reality, it can change everything. Joining me now is our Andy Barth.

Andy Barth: Well, Rob, Oklahoma was founded on innovation. And from our oil and gas industry to being one of only seven aerospace hubs in the nation, innovation certainly runs deep, which is why industry and state leaders gathered for an innovation forum, to discuss new ways of furthering the Sooner State.

Andy: Innovation -- it’s what keeps our world moving forward, which is why Gov. Mary Fallin held a forum to bring together some of Oklahoma’s greatest minds.

Gov. Mary Fallin: Innovation is important to the state of Oklahoma because it helps create that entrepreneur spirit and ideas and bringing them to the marketplace. It’s what creates small businesses; it creates new jobs. And having a regional summit like this on innovation helps bring all the people together to work together in collaboration and cooperation so we can create the very best climate for innovation to occur in the state of Oklahoma.

Andy: And for Secretary of Science and Technology Stephen McKeever, innovative thinking is a key factor in his industry.

Stephen McKeever: Innovation is the lifeblood of science and technology companies. Those companies need to be on the cutting edge all the while in order to maintain competitiveness.

Andy: A competitiveness that may be key in Oklahoma’s energy industry. Prices plunged at the end of 2014 for oil and gas. And economist Russell Evans says innovation is key for an oil and gas rebound.

Russell Evans: Today’s oil and gas industry, really the energy industry, you look at from wind to oil to gas, it’s very technologically complex. It really is a technology industry these days. It’s not as simple as drilling a well and relying on some, you know, age-old laws of physics. It is very much a technology intensive industry that’s going to require innovation to, to make tomorrow’s oil and gas place economically feasible.

Andy: Yet innovative thinking must be nurtured, which is where education comes in. Oklahoma Department of CareerTech’s Marcie Mack.

Marcie Mack: Innovation to the workforce and education in Oklahoma is substantial for us to always continue to move forward. There will be jobs out there in the next few years that we haven’t even thought of yet. And we need to be prepared in the education sector to be able to prepare our workforce for the companies that we have currently in Oklahoma and more companies we hope to bring to Oklahoma.

Andy: Which is important for a state like Oklahoma.

Mack: For a state as small as we are -- we’re only three and half million people -- we’re very competitive. So we’re hitting above our weight, as it were.

Andy: An accomplishment thanks in part to a successful education setup.

Mack: We are in a perfect area to be able to utilize all of our resources and collaborate together of all of our educational institutions because at the end of the day what we provide for students is vital and how we help prepare them to be successful and wealth generating for the state of Oklahoma – that’s what we’re here for.

Andy: Embracing the future for a better workforce and a stronger Oklahoma.

Andy: Well, now, according to a new study, Oklahoma’s innovation has room to grow. In the 2014 State New Economy Index, Oklahoma actually ranks 48th in the country in terms of innovation, certainly leaving the state with a lot of room for improvement.

Rob: So any thoughts on why Oklahoma faired so poorly on this survey?

Andy: Well, Rob, historically, states that are at the bottom of the list, they focus on things like manufacturing and tourism and natural resources instead of innovation to grow. And with Oklahoma being the energy state that we are, it’s no reason that we’re third from last on the list.

Rob: All right. Thank you so much, Andy.

Andy: You’re welcome, Rob.

Rob: Now, when we return, we’ll look at an innovative Oklahoma company breaking that mold by turning trash into energy.

Male Announcer: You’re watching “Oklahoma Horizon,” featuring some of the good things that are happening in the great state of Oklahoma.

Rob McClendon: Well, normally, people don’t put the words innovation and trash into the same sentence. But for one company in Tulsa, those two actually go together. Joining me now is our Alisa Hines.

Alisa Hines: That’s right, Rob. You’ve heard the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and for Covanta Energy Corporation in Tulsa, that treasure is being turned into energy.

Alisa: Trash, trash and more trash -- a thousand tons a day to be exact, and it just keeps coming. Covanta’s Matthew Newman says they’re happy to take it and transform it.

Matthew Newman: Energy from waste is a high-tech process that utilizes everyday household garbage and converts it into clean energy. And as we know, there’s plenty of household garbage available, so it’s a renewable fuel source for all of our facilities. And what Covanta does is, we take the household garbage that remains after the recycling process and combust it in specially designed boilers to produce high-temperature, high-pressure steam.

Alisa: Everything from nature’s trash to man-made materials.

Newman: Approximately 70 percent of the trash, the postrecycled trash that is delivered to an energy from waste plant is from the earth -- it’s biogenic, so it’s things like coffee grinds and coffee filters, egg shells, and in the process we actually recover energy from those products -- and about 30 percent or so is made by man. So Ziploc bags, those nonrecyclable plastic bags that you see, we can actually use those and capture the energy out of those plastic products with very, very little impact to the environment. At this facility, just this facility alone, even though we receive postrecycled waste streams, this facility will recover and recycle over 10,000 tons of metal every year.

Alisa: All nonhazardous of course. Covanta is helping the Tulsa area with the EPA’s four R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle and recover.

Newman: What we do is in our processes actually offsets, for every ton we process, it offsets one ton of greenhouse gas. So we provide an alternative to landfilling for the municipalities, for the citizens in this area, as well as large commercial and industrial clients that want to attain zero landfill initiatives.

Alisa: With very low emissions from Covanta, just water vapor.

Newman: With the backend air emission control devices that are installed at our facilities, the actual emissions from this process are very, very small. What you see at the top of the stack, usually in the wintertime, is a white plume, and that’s actually water condensing in the cool atmosphere. If you look right at the top of the stack, you see nothing. Our air pollution control devices are doing their job.

Alisa: Producing clean steam that helps fuel homes and businesses in the area.

Newman: About two-thirds of the steam is delivered across the street to Holly Frontier, which offsets their need to use fossil fuel to make steam for the processes in the refinery, and about a third of the steam is utilized in our turbine generator. We make clean, renewable electricity that’s delivered to the grid and used in area homes.

Alisa: And according to refinery manager Tony Conetta, Holly Frontier’s production of 125,000 barrels of oil a day would be much more expensive if it wasn’t for Covanta.

Tony Conetta: We have kind of a unique partnership with Covanta trash to energy plant across the street. Here in our west plant, we purchase steam back from Covanta that supplies 50 percent of the steam that we use in the plant. Of course, we use steam for intermediate processes such as heating products up, keeping tanks warm for winterization, steam tracing that we have on pipes and also to power turbines in our plant. And with Covanta, we look for all opportunities for us to send over our trash to Covanta, they turn it into steam, and then they bring it back into our facility, and once again it supplies about 40 percent or a little bit more of the steam that we use in our west facility.

Alisa: Now, every year, Covanta processes 415,000 tons of metal across the U.S. To put that into perspective, Covanta could build five Golden Gate Bridges and over a billion soda cans every year.

Rob: Well, certainly a lot of metal, and I would think that would have a fairly substantial environmental impact.

Alisa: It does, Rob. For every ton of trash a Covanta facility processes, it offsets one ton of greenhouse gas. And for every ton of trash they process, they also offset about a barrel of oil and a quarter ton of coal. For instance just at the Tulsa facility, they offset the need for about 300,000 barrels of oil and about 75,000 tons of coal. Add that up between the 45 facilities Covanta has globally, and the savings are astronomical.

Rob: And on the flip side, keeps a lot of trash out of our landfills.

Alisa: It does. And when you stop to think about all the greenhouse gas that just one landfill produces, turning the trash into energy just seems like the right thing to do.

Rob: Now, I understand Covanta takes their mission of helping the community one step further by helping the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.

Alisa: That’s right. When they began their prescription take-back program to get the drugs off the streets, the bureau wasn’t sure how to dispose of them. But according to director Darrell Weaver, Covanta stepped up with a solution.

Darrell Weaver: They said, “Listen, we believe we can take these unused, unwanted prescriptions back and dispose of ’em in an environmentally safe way and it not cost you anything.” And obviously we went into that partnership, and it has been just a marvelous, amazing relationship with Covanta.

Matthew Newman: Director Weaver and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics heroes in uniform bring that material to Covanta. We put it directly into the hopper. There’s no impact to the environment, we actually recover the energy from those pills and don’t put medicine, prescription medication, down the sink or down the toilet. It does not get processed through the wastewater system and it ends up in our river. So we benefit in removing the drugs from our youth’s hands, we keep it out of our waterways, and this one is a public service. We do this for Oklahoma for free. We started this program and this partnership with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics July of 2011, and to date through today, we have accepted, destroyed and recovered energy from almost 95,000 pounds of prescription medication.

Alisa: Success in taking our trash and turning it into energy, all the while protecting our environment.

Female Announcer: Still to come on “Oklahoma Horizon,” remembering an Oklahoma civil rights pioneer. But first, innovative ideas for Oklahoma oil and gas.

Rob McClendon: Well, founded in 1892 by Thomas Edison, General Electric has become one of the world’s most successful companies.

Michael Ming: This is happening today. This is no longer a vision about the future. It’s no longer a PowerPoint chart. This is really where the world’s going.

Rob: From its financial services to the manufacturing of a myriad of appliances, GE touches all our lives in multiple ways. But it’s the company’s continuing efforts to power our lives that is behind the opening of a new oil and gas research center in downtown Oklahoma City. Former Oklahoma energy secretary Michael Ming is heading up the venture, and I sat down with him in his temporary office overlooking the construction of the new GE facility.

Rob: So, Michael, how much has development in technology changed the global energy markets?

Ming: Well, let’s just look at last year, in 2013, the single highest year of new oil growth in U.S. history. It’s all been a technology play over the last 15 years. It’s completely altered the energy supply in North America. It will alter the energy supply for the whole globe in time. But it’s uh, it’s been a true disruptive technology revolution that’s made it all happen.

Rob: So this disruptive technology, as it seemingly opened a door to a tremendous amount of innovation, and that’s why the facility’s here in Oklahoma City, correct?

Ming: It is. And so, our location here is kind of a handful of key issues – central location’s important, but proximity to universities that have expertise in oil and gas, proximity to customers, proximity to a skilled workforce and, and a business friendly climate – so all of those. So looking out of our window we will be looking at our customers, the customers that led the technology revolution.

Rob: What can General Electric, GE, bring to the table that maybe someone else can’t? It’s one of our nation’s, one of the world’s largest companies – I’m assuming you have a lot of research capability.

Ming: Yeah, so it’s a great question. It’s at the core of why we’ve been successful in this, and we call it adjacencies, but it’s really technology adjacencies, so whether it’s technology from our aircraft business around data that comes from engines that you can use for condition-based maintenance instead of integral-based maintenance. Or it’s technology from the health care industry on how you scan and image materials. The same technology that is an MRI in a hospital is an MRI that you can use on metal or pipelines or reservoir rock or something like that. Or technology from materials, for example, that we can apply from other industries that could go into the harsh conditions to find and produce oil and gas.

Rob: And the research that’s gonna be done here and the research that’s done up in New York, how will that collaborate together?

Ming: So the lab in New York is more gonna be on the basic science side of things. OK, so you’d take a concept and prove that on paper and on a bench scale. You then take that technology, and we would take it at the bench-scale level and size it up, scale it up to a prototype, prove it in the field, and once we’ve proved the effectiveness and the cost-effectiveness of the technology, we would then hand it off to our business to do the design engineering and the manufacturing and the cost and things like that. So we’re, we’re kind of the in-between, between basic research and commercialization, so we call it applied research.

Rob: When the hiring here really begins, what type of workforce are you going to need?

Ming: So the hiring here has begun. So we’re up, we’re probably almost half of what we’re gonna hire now. So we’re hiring about five per month right now. About two-thirds of our hires are either master’s level or Ph.D. level researchers, OK. So they’ll be in basic oil and gas skill sets like reservoir engineering or design engineering or geoscience or things like that. But we’ll address the core competencies in oil and gas: how you drill and complete a well, how you produce oil, where you get the water to drill a well and what you do with the water when you’re done, where we could apply carbon dioxide or CO2 to well operation and then in general, how energy is used in the system – gaseous fuels, power generation, distributed power. So we’ll have expertise in all of those areas.

Rob: You take the broad lens look at workforce here. I’m assuming that you want not only a highly educated workforce but also a diverse workforce when you come in, and you’re talking about starting new things because you want variety of thought.

Ming: We do. We very much embrace diversity. Not just gender diversity, but ethnic diversity. So as of today, we’ve recruited in the United States from 12 different states. We’ve recruited from six different countries. So we have researchers here from Asia, from the Middle East, from South America. And then we have a big importance on gender diversity. We’re under 25 percent on gender diversity. We would very much like to have more females in the workforce, but that’s a challenge today. Female numbers in engineering, for example, are going the wrong direction in our eyes. And we’d like to do everything we can to reverse that trend because the broad diversity of thought here is a good thing for us.

Rob: What about location, right here in the middle of oil and gas country. How important is that?

Ming: It’s critical to what we do. So out of our vista of our windows we’re looking literally at the companies that started it all. And so being here next to the customer, walk across the street, being able to interact with the customer, hear what their problems are so we can help develop solutions for their problem, we can’t do that from afar, we have to do it up close and personal.

Rob: Now, I’m looking out your window right now at the new location. You’re right here in the heart of downtown Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City’s really become an oil and gas hub, has it not?

Ming: It is, and whereas years ago, Texas was our, or Tulsa was the oil capitol of the world and then it kind of transferred to Texas, really Houston – today, in the unconventional disruptive space for unconventional resources, Oklahoma City is really kind of emerged over the last 10 years as a hub of that activity.

Rob: And I’ve heard you say the word disruptive a couple of different times. And it sounds like you’re really embracing that there is a disruptive technology going on, and it’s a benefit. It’s not a hindrance.

Ming: It is very much a benefit. We actually had sort of an internal strategy session last month out in California, and we were talking about disruptive technologies, and the typical suspects are electric cars or mobile phones or the information age. And all of those were linear to exponential where things really caught on and exceeded all expectations. Actually, if you just take natural gas, for example, it completely matches the criteria of a disruptive technology between horizontal drilling, multistage hydraulic fracturing, seismic imaging, data capture, other technologies. We have 10 times as much natural gas as we thought we had 30 years ago, so it’s changed the dynamics in all regards. From advanced technologies now, we’re really just getting started. So we’re nowhere close to where, you know, we may be in 10 years from now from really understanding how these rocks produce, how much we can get out of the rocks, the recovery factors, as we say. We think there’s just lots of running room in that space right now.

Rob: Michael Ming, thank you so much.

Ming: All right.

Rob McClendon: Want to share something you’ve seen here today? Well, all of our episodes are streaming on our YouTube channel at OklahomaHorizonTV, or you can subscribe to our weekly free podcast on iTunes.

Rob McClendon: Well, this past week our nation pauses to honor Dr. Martin Luther King. Yet few people know that Dr. King was almost an Oklahoman. Straight out of the seminary, he came to Oklahoma City in view of a call to preach at a local Baptist church. And while church deacons recognized his potential, they believed he was just too young to guide their congregation. It wasn’t long before Dr. King went on to guide the civil rights movement, while here in Oklahoma, another civil rights leader emerged by the name of Clara Luper. We had the honor to visit with this true Oklahoma icon at the Oklahoma History Center before her passing in 2011.

Rob: For the young people behind these paper plates, something as simple as eating at a lunch counter was once impossible in Oklahoma because of the color of their skin. But by using nonviolent methods, a young Clara Luper accomplished something even the courts couldn’t. All after a simple bus trip with a group of students to an NAACP rally in New York.

Clara Luper: My young people had the opportunity to ride on a bus, to go into restaurants, cafes, and eat, which is really a big thing because they had been part of the Jim Crow programs of their own state. Then we came back to my beloved South, where we could not eat in any restaurants. We would have to find a grocery store and get some baloney and crackers or something. But when we got to Oklahoma City, these young people decided that they would take on a project. And they said, , “Well, we have enjoyed eating in public places. Let’s take on public accommodations,” and this we did.

Rob: So on Aug. 19, 1958, Ms. Luper and her students marched to Katz Drug Store and started what became known as the longest nonviolent sit-in movement in the history of the country.

Luper: We’ve come a long ways, believe me. We’ve come from the back of the buses to the front of the buses to drivers to owners. When you start behind in a race, you have to run twice as fast as other people in order to catch up. What kept me moving? I had to move. I came from a family that believed in something that was bigger than themselves. My family believed in a sun when it didn’t shine and in the rain when it didn’t fall. They believed in a God that they had never seen, and they believed that some day we would be able to stand and stand strong.

Rob: Making the African American story not just one of obstacles overcome and battles won, but a message of hope that still lives on in Clara Luper.

Singer: We shall overcome someday.

Rob McClendon: Oklahoma City schools is the largest school district in the state. Next time on Oklahoma Horizon, we examine some of their unique challenges with Superintendant Rob Neu.

Rob Neu: We start by making our students partners in their education. For too long, forever, we’ve worked on kids or for them – we have to work with ‘em. We have to give students voice. We have to know who they are. We have to know their name. That’s important to ‘em.

Rob McClendon: Education and our economy, on Oklahoma’s show for the heartland, “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Rob: Well, a big thanks for including us as part of your day. I’m Rob McClendon. We appreciate you watching. See you back here next week.

Male Announcer: “Horizon” is made possible by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, helping good people grow good things. Thank you for watching “Oklahoma Horizon.”