An idea, a patent and now a CoLab project
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Katie Zimmerman
Business development manager in brownfield solutions
Patti Yoast
Offshore sector lead for process engineering

Wood employees, Katie Zimmerman and Patti Yoast sought ways in which to differentiate in their part of the business; to find solutions beyond commodity engineering. What started as a conversational idea is now a patented process that Wood is about to take through CoLab to explore commercialization. This is a circular solution from shale to mining.

They were two process engineers experienced in offshore engineering, working in the Americas oil and gas team, amid the U.S. shale boom. It was in an office in Houston one afternoon that the notion of Potashale was born.

Patti and Katie knew that produced water from shale operations was a growing concern and sought to explore a circular solution to this key customer challenge. At the time, Wood had a shared client in BHP who had both shale and mining assets. Patti and Katie engaged with Wood’s mining teams to understand what the water requirements of solution mining were and quickly realized that there was a geographic correlation between the shale reserves and potash mines in the U.S., and beyond.

Propelled by this realization, they developed a process whereby produced water from shale deposits, which typically goes to disposal wells where there is associated risk of induced seismicity, is treated and re-purposed for potash solution mining; creating a circular solution.

Passion, belief in their idea, determination, buckets of tenacity and a lot of internal networking and industry socialization, Patti and Katie approached leaders for funding to apply for a patent for their process. On August 27, 2019 they received a U.S. patent for what they have termed Potashale.

Patti said: “Shale produced water can be treated for potash solution mining using a patented process, creating a unique opportunity to provide an engineering solution for water in two key markets for Wood. Water is a concern in multiple industries and bringing together our expertise in water, shale and mining, we have an opportunity to provide a sustainable circular solution.”

Katie added: “Wood is well positioned to deliver this type of solution because of the breadth and depth of our business and our ability to collaborate between shale oil and gas operations and mining teams to deliver solutions to client’s cross sector, which is not commonplace.”

PotashaleThe Potashale story was recently presented to Wood’s ELT and board members as part of the opening of CoLab in Houston. Next steps are to bring together Wood’s operations services team in Asset Solutions Americas (ASA) with the mining teams from our Technical Consulting Solutions (TCS) business unit to explore commercialization, go to market strategies and opportunities beyond the known. This is the realization phase of CoLab.

Darren Martin, chief technology officer for Wood commented:

“It took Patti and Katie three years from idea, discussion, persuasion and patent. They got this far because of tenacity, commitment, unwavering energy and courage to keep pushing their idea through. CoLab means we can move the dial on ideas like this faster and better.

“We have some of the best industry minds and people born to innovate. CoLab is not just about technology, it’s about realizing the ideas and innovations developed by our people. Patti and Katie are testament to this and have effectively already completed the ‘challenge’ and ‘ingenuity’ phases of CoLab’s process, so we’ll move to the ‘realization’ phase and engage clients in both industries to explore how this solution can benefit both sectors and deliver enormous value to our clients.

“While we take this project to the final stage in CoLab’s process, it’s really the first step towards a promising opportunity to bring a global solution to shared customers problems across two sectors. CoLab enables us to fast track this type of ingenuity, in turn making innovation easy.”

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