Partnering with NASA: Chevron and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory join space technology with energy exploration

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Recently, Chevron announced an alliance with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The same scientists and engineers responsible for sending rovers to Mars and exploring the outer reaches of the universe will now work with Chevron to develop technologies for improving oil and natural gas production here on Earth.

The alliance with JPL supports Chevron’s commitment to developing promising technologies and applying existing technologies to create new avenues of innovation. That, in turn, can lead to significant commercial advances to help keep the company ahead of the pack.

“This alliance builds on our previous success with other national laboratories and research institutions,” said Matt Palmer, general manager of Strategic Planning at Chevron Energy Technology Co. (ETC), who oversees the alliance team. “We’re bridging some of the most prominent technical talent and researchers to help us meet the world’s energy needs in ways that are safer and more environmentally sensitive.”

Manny Gonzalez, alliance manager at ETC oversees relationships with government labs and universities. “If you focus too much on your own industry, you can miss out on some fantastic ideas that come from people with different backgrounds. This combination of brainpower and creative thinking available at JPL creates a huge potential for innovation.”

“NASA and JPL are highly acclaimed national treasures, and Chevron is proud to collaborate with them,” said John McDonald, Chevron’s vice president and chief technology officer. “This alliance is an opportunity to bridge public and private sector technology and research to discover oil and natural gas volumes buried in deep, remote reservoirs. In many ways, this research is akin to deep space exploration, making the missions of our two organizations highly complementary.”

To Dave Charlesworth, Chevron’s JPL alliance manager, two areas of investigation immediately come to mind. One is remote sensing devices developed by JPL to enable electronic communication over millions of miles in outer space. These devices could possibly be adaptable to deepwater energy exploration here on Earth, transmitting data from thousands of feet below the seafloor.

JPL advances in high-temperature electronics also have enormous potential, according to Charlesworth. “The probe to Venus was designed to perform in an environment where temperaturesroutinely reach 800 degrees F (425° C) and the atmosphere is a highly toxicmixture of sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Technology developed to survive in those extreme conditions might lead to a new generation of sensors for high-temperature wells in extremely harsh environments.”

“It is impossible to predict which new technologies will ultimately yield major economic benefits, but we can be sure of one thing,” said Gonzalez. “JPL’s commitment to innovation is enabling the development of technologies to help create a more secure energy future.”

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This article is written by Chevron and not by the Quartz editorial staff.