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Murphy Re-Emerges With Atlantic Motor Labs

Having previously proposed developing pneumatic motors for lawn mowers, Braden Murphy is applying this technology to a range of products for the oil and gas industry.

Last year, Murphy was taking his Masters in Engineering at Dalhousie University when he was working on a company tentatively called Scotia Motors, which aimed to commercialize technology he had developed at the university. The plan was to use pneumatic motors in lawnmowers to reduce noise pollution, but Murphy and his supervisor, Assistant Professor Darrel Doman, found that the costs of attacking consumer markets were prohibitive, so Murphy examined other markets for the devices.

Pneumatic  engines operate on compressed gas rather than a fossil fuel, and are frequently used in industrial settings where any sort of spark could prove dangerous, such as the oil and gas industry. However, the engines have a tendency to be cumbersome or have lower versatility. Murphy’s team has produced a working prototype that is compact and produces surprisingly strong torque, even at low speeds.

What he came up with was a suite of three engines that could help to solve problems in the oil and gas industry. His new company, Atlantic Motor Labs Inc., is now developing the following products:

  • A Measurement While Drilling, or MWD, tool. This device is used extensively in the drill head in directional drilling operations. The tools require electricity to operate and communicate with the drilling rig at the surface, and they are usually powered by batteries, which generally wear out after 100 to 400 hours. That means the drills have to stop and be removed and the batteries replaced. Atlantic Motor is developing a small generator that produces electricity and is more resilient. Murphy said the goal is to get it running up to 1,000 hours.
  • Gas Venting in Oil and Gas Production. Oil and gas production produces about 20 percent of the world’s methane emissions, which costs the industry about $5 billion annually from lost production. Atlantic Motor can provide an economic means of conserving the so-called vented gas, which can then be used to power pneumatic controls, chemical pumps and other equipment.
  • The drill head motors, known as Mud Motors. These wear out with alarming frequency and the cost to the industry in replacements and lost time is about $1.5 billion on direct motor maintenance costs, and an additional $1.5 billion to $3.5 billion on lost operational time, said Murphy.

Murphy and partner Nick Murray expect to do a pilot program with the MWD tool next year, and to have a product on the market in 2015. Murphy has been spending a lot of his time in Alberta, courting the oil and gas industry.

Atlantic Motors, which has been financed so far through private investment and some grants, is now raising seed financing with a target of $500,000 to $750,000. Murphy said the company could seek investment from a strategic partners involved in servicing the industry.