Chevron Invests in Electric Motor Maker
by Matthew V. Veazey | Rigzone Staff
Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV) has invested in an Austin, Texas-based manufacturer of spark-proof electric motors that aims to disrupt the oil and gas and other industries, technology developer Infinitum Electric reported Thursday.
CTV invested in Infinitum through the firm’s latest round of financing, which raised $12.5 million and was spearheaded by Cottonwood Technology Fund (CTF), according to Infinitum, which plans to use the fresh capital to hire more employees and open a new headquarters and manufacturing facility in Austin.
Infinitum’s growth plans hinge on bringing to market its lightweight, printed circuit board stator technology-based electric motors. It contends the motors – to be marketed for various oil and gas, aerospace and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) applications – offer very high efficiency and durability and are Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled.
“Our patented motor technology will completely transform the electric motor market, a market that has changed very little since inception more than 100 years ago,” commented Ben Schuler, Infinitum’s CEO.
Schuler told Rigzone the technology’s IoT capability is particularly noteworthy.
“This completely changes the approach to motor maintenance,” he explained. “With predictive analytics, motor issues can be addressed before major problems occur, providing another layer of safety in the often hazardous oil and gas space.”
Infinitum will initially target the HVAC sector with motors boasting power ranges from 1 to 30 horsepower (HP), but it eventually plans to branch out to other industries with modularly configured motors that put out from 100 to 1,000 HP and beyond. The company remains in the research and development stage for tailoring its motors to oil and gas applications, but Schuler said he anticipates an oil and gas motor product line by the end of next year.
“Electric motors are used everywhere, upstream to downstream, from pumpjacks to fin fans to sub-sea pumping and more,” noted Schuler. “We will expand into oil and gas applications in 2020 and 2021. Like we’ve done in the HVAC market, we are in the process of working with many oil and gas companies to identify the most likely application for success.”
Schuler contends his firm’s motors dramatically reduce size and weight requirements by removing the iron core and copper windings traditionally used in motor components called stators. Traditional stators limit how small and light a motor can get, he pointed out. Additionally, he said the electric motor technology – specifically etching and insulating copper windings in a printed circuit board stator – provides a safety feature useful for complying with spark- or explosion-proof classifications and securing hazardous location certifications.
“By removing the iron core and copper windings in traditional stators, and etching our coil in a printed circuit board, we significantly increase efficiency while delivering on smaller size, lighter weight, increased durability, lower cost and, with built-in controls, IoT capabilities,” said Schuler. “With regard to disrupting the oil and gas electric motor market, our inherently spark-proof stators can achieve hazardous ratings at a fraction of the cost while maintaining high performance.”
Infinitum estimates the electric motors can decrease costs by up to 25 percent and weight by as much as 60 percent.
“Our patented printed circuit board-based stators open a path for much smaller, lighter and more affordable motors, all while significantly increasing efficiency,” said Schuler. “This is important in the oil and gas industry because, with the electrification of most industrial applications, the oil and gas industry is not only focused on electrifying new applications but also increasing efficiencies in existing electric applications.”
According to CTV President Barbara Burger, developing the electric motor technology corresponds with Chevron’s environmental aspirations.
“Infinitum’s mission aligns well with our goals for the Future Energy Fund,” Burger said in an Infinitum written statement. “The purpose of the Future Energy Fund is to invest in breakthrough energy technologies that reflect Chevron’s commitment to lower emission energy sources and that are integral to low-carbon and efficient value chains.”