Tag Archives: Oil


oil well T2by John Jonelis

What if you can make oil out of water?  What if, you also end up with more water?  A discovery like that will benefit our country and the world.

The technology now exists.  Commercialization is beginning.

The story starts here in Chicago.  Len Bland, mild-mannered local businessman, creates Business Network Chicago — a forum for presenting early stage ventures to the entrepreneurial community.  Over the years, he sees hundreds of startup companies and occasionally grapples with some very good ideas.

Once in a while, a surprise technology comes along that’s practical, profitable, and good for society. When that happens, it’s time to get involved personally and help them along.  That’s just what Len does.  This is a story about that company.


Social Entrepreneurship

Nano Gas Technologies is a company that grows out of the discovery that very small gas bubbles remain in liquid a very long time—much longer than had previously been thought in scientific circles.  If you saturate a substance with oxygen or some other gas and it remains in situ for a very long time, a whole range of possibilities opens up.  One ramification of this discovery is to solve the fresh water dilemma.  That’s huge.

Next to the air we breathe, there is nothing more important to life than water.  And our fresh water is drying up.  There are two ways to provide more water to the world:

  • Find more
  • Waste less

Nano Gas starts along the first path and ends up solving the second.

oil well

Find More

Clean drinking water is the first market the company tests—until the real blockbuster application turns up.  Let’s briefly explore this first path because it’s an important one that will benefit humanity.  The company can return to it at any time, and given its importance to society, they probably will.

Fresh water is processed in municipal wastewater treatment facilities.  These facilities are incredibly inefficient.  Turns out, by injecting nano-bubbles into the sludge, a whole lot more pure water can be reclaimed.  Simple.  The best discoveries are simple.

This is hugely exciting news because the benefits extend far beyond relieving the stench in and around the neighborhood of these plants.  We are looking at the potential solution to water shortage in the industrialized world.  Beyond that, the process can provide drinking water to third world nations by extracting purified water from swamps and polluted rivers.  This is social entrepreneurship at its best!

clarification steps

Politics has a funny way of throwing roadblocks in front of good causes.  It turns out that cracking the municipal market is a slow and painstaking undertaking because there are so many cities and towns and each of them takes a long time to make a decision. Wastewater treatment is a good and important application for the technology, but it’s not a market suited for a new company raising significant capital for rapid growth.  In other words, the time horizon for the served market and the time horizon for the capital market don’t match.

Again, I believe the company will return to this market once it achieves maturity.  Meanwhile a much more profitable opportunity has come to light—one that can propel the company to significant growth on a timetable attractive to venture capital.


Waste Less

Let me tell you about the change that captured my interest in the company:

Domestic oil wells use a lot of water.  Not just fracking operations, but ordinary wells too.  Many of these run out of water before the lunch whistle blows and operations cease for the day.  That means more tankers of oil get shipped from unfriendly places in the world.

At these domestic wells, once the water is used, it comes back as a contaminated slurry.  The standard method to gain value from the slurry is gravity–settling ponds.  Given time, valuable minerals sink to the bottom or rise to the top.  This is slow, messy, and doesn’t do a complete job of cleaning the water.  The reclaimed water is not fit to drink.  It’s not even fit for recovering oil because it clogs up the machinery.  The industry doesn’t know how to deal with the water that remains.

oil well in Rockies

Believe it or not, this water gets entirely wasted.  Drillers truck it to special facilities called disposal wells that pump it back into the ground just to get rid of it.  This reduces the amount of water available for drinking and for industry.

So we’re wasting too much water and pumping too little oil.  Enter Nano Gas Technologies.  They use their profoundly simple nano-bubble discovery to clean wastewater for oil wells.  This is huge because, once purified, oil wells can re-use their water.  That’s right, instead of wasting more and more water and pumping the contaminated residue into the ground, the same water can now be cleaned and used over and over.

That means oil wells no longer cease operations early in the day.  America gets a whole lot more domestic oil and wastes a whole lot less water.  And the company is dealing with the free market rather than multiple bureaucracies.  Everybody wins.


Big Money

This is a social benefit with $35B market in a very short span of time.  It’s profitable for oil wells, disposal wells, and of course, for the company.  An additional 18 barrels of oil can be reclaimed from 3000 barrels of wastewater.  Dirty water is no longer a nuisance—it’s so valuable that Nano Gas Technologies proposes to pay the well owners for the water and sell the oil they reclaim from it!  Now, there’s a revolutionary idea!  Rapid industry-wide adoption is anticipated once the technology is demonstrated.

Here’s a diagram of the process logistics:

Nano Gas Process

Residual oil reclamation plan – Nano Gas Technologies

Fair Disclosure:  I’m impressed and invested.  Who wouldn’t invest in more oil and more water?




Nano Gas Technologies, Inc. –

BNC – Business Network Chicago


This article appeared in News From Heartland 

Photo Credits – Nano Gas Technologies

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STORY – A Three Part Series

Newt on the Wright BrothersJohn Jonelis

What do Newt Gingrich, Simon Sinek & Esther Choy have in common? 

In the first installment, Newt Gingrich treats us to an illuminating and inspiring story about entrepreneurship.  That’s right, a Story. Then in the same article you’ll see a riveting TED video by Simon Sinek, who makes exactly the same point with exactly the same Story but from a completely different perspective.  Part 2 shows how Esther Choy teaches Story to business execs.  In part 3, I tell a Story as a public speaker and end up playing the role of Walter Mitty – not a pretty sight.

We meet Gingrich at a little airport around the corner from my office and crowd together in a beautiful hangar with modern and vintage airplanes.  I stand, surrounded by press photographers.  The secret service accosts me twice (I must look suspicious) but I seem to get along with these guys and they don’t throw me out on my ear. 

I’ve transcribed Newt’s story as I heard it, in his quiet, plain-spoken language.


Making a Point

Using Story – jaj

VERBATIM – Speaker Gingrich:

“This is a great example of American ingenuity and inventiveness.  You can imagine we land a lot, which also means we take off a lot—I always say the Wright Brothers succeeded again.

If you look back here at these wonderful planes,” he turns to indicate a vintage Stearman and Piper Cub, “they represent the evolution of American invention.

I can see he’s got the crowd’s attention.  He goes on:  “The Wright Brothers were two bicycle mechanics in Dayton Ohio who set out to discover how to fly.  Now, being bicycle mechanics back then was a relatively high-end job.  But they spent time.  They studied birds.  They built their own wind tunnel.  And they spent years.  And they knew something really important that bureaucrats don’t seem to get.  THEY DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO FLY—SO EVERYTHING THEY WERE DOING WAS AN EXPERIMENT.

Vintage Stearman and Piper Cub

Vintage Stearman and Piper Cub – jaj

“One thing the US Government did to help them:  When they wrote the weather service they said, where is the best place in the United States to get an updraft—so you have a continuous wind coming up?  Because that makes it easier for the airplane to get lift.  Turns out to be Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, which around 1900 is a really empty, barren place.

“And so to get there from Dayton they have to take a train.  So every summer they load the train with extra wood.  Now, the reason they’re taking extra wood is THEY KNOW THEY DON’T KNOW HOW TO FLY.

“They go down.  They get up in the morning.  They live very inexpensively.  They have no government grants.  They haven’t applied for anything.  This is all on their own money.  And so they live very frugally in a little shack.  They get up in the morning, fix coffee.  They go out and they crash.  And they stop and try to figure out what went wrong.  They fix the plane and they try again.  And they crash.


Newt tells the story of the Wright Brothers while in an aircraft hangar – jaj

“Callista and I were very fortunate.  We were at Orville Wright’s home a couple weeks ago.  The curator said to us: The best estimate is that they had 500 experiments that failed.  And you can imagine the congressional hearings…”

The crowd breaks into laughter.

“…because frankly, the modern political governmental system—and I’m going to use a very strong word—is just plain stupid.”

A man in the crowd blurts out: ‘That’s right.’  And face it—everybody knows it’s true.  But Newt takes a lot of heat for comments like that.  It’s not PC.  It’s the reason so many hate him.  And it’s the reason many find him so appealing at a personal level.  I recall Tom Clancy’s portrayal of his hero Jack Ryan when he ascends to the White House.  In that novel, his advisors cringe when he speaks because he doesn’t follow the teleprompter and the things he says seem politically wrong.  Then Clancy reveals the reaction of political leaders around the world.  For example, the Indian Prime Minister thinks he shows weakness but the Japanese say, ‘He is Samurai.’

The Press

The Press – jaj

Newt goes on:  “And I’ve been trying to figure out for the last several months how to get this across clearly to the American people.  You need visionaries.  Without vision, the people perish.  You need somebody who understands that you get to these aircraft by starting.  And you start somewhere with something that doesn’t look very big and isn’t very effective.

“The Wright Brothers keep trying and on December 17th, 1903 they crash four times.  The fifth time, they fly for 53 seconds.  The first powered flight in human history.  Two Americans from Ohio in North Carolina.

“By the way, the first flight was shorter than the wingspan of a Boing 747 and slow enough that the one brother ran along next to the wing of the plane to make sure it didn’t flip over and kill his brother.”

That draws a lot of mirth from the audience.

Newt raises his voice.  “Now here’s what makes this a miracle.  Because they’ve now discovered the principle, by 1907 they fly around the island of Manhattan and one and one-half million people see an airplane for the first time.  Three and a half years—that’s how fast they changed—BECAUSE THEY’D BROKEN THROUGH.”

He taps the podium with a finger.  “Here’s what makes it a fascinating story: The Wright Brothers knew that they had to build a very light engine because they had to build a very light plane.  And so they actually invented an engine.  They had a number of patents.  And these were very smart people working very hard.  This is their hobby—this is not how they’re earning a living.

“By the way, the estimate by the curator at Orville Wright’s house is that their total spending was $500.  Now, that’s back when money was a lot more valuable than it is today, so let’s say they spent a half a million—but in them-year-dollars they spent $500.

Crowded Hangar

Crowded Hangar – jaj

“The Smithsonian—the greatest scientific center in the United States at that time—gave a $50,000 grant.  The Smithsonian had really smart scientists who didn’t know the number-one thing that the Wright Brothers knew.  THE WRIGHT BROTHERS KNEW THEY DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO FLY.  THE SMITHSONIAN THOUGHT THEY DID.

“And so the Smithsonian went out to Germans for metallurgy and built a really powerful engine.  Now the problem with a very powerful engine is that it’s heavy.  And that means that you have to have a real heavy airplane.  And they didn’t want to go all the way to Kitty Hawk.  They were in Washington DC.  It was very inconvenient to go to Kitty Hawk.  So they tried to find a new innovative way to get wind speed.  And they invented something we still use—the catapult.  Exactly like the nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

“Now there’s a problem because if you’re gonna have a catapult on a boat, you’re gonna launch over water.  So they decided they’d launch over the Potomac.

“Now there’s a double problem:  If you land in water, the impact of the water will break the plane up.  Furthermore, the current of the river will break the plane up.  And when it gets to the bottom and you try to lift it, the process of lifting it will break the plane up.  So you won’t be able to figure out what didn’t work because by the time you get the plane back, nothing will work.

“But they’re very confident because they’re very smart and they have a $50,000 grant and they’ve got lots of degrees.  So they go out and actually invite the press to their very first effort.  Now remember, the Wright Brothers have failed 499 times, but the Smithsonian is so cocky, they’re convinced they’re gonna fly the first time.  And exactly what most of you—I can tell by the look on your faces, you know what’s coming, right?  They get up in the morning; the sun burns the mist off the river.  They get the engine started.  They launch the catapult.  The plane goes straight down the length of the boat and straight into the river.”

The crowd erupts.

“Now they’ve invited the press so you can imagine the press coverage:




Newt gets quiet again.  “A little bit later, the Wright Brothers fly for the first time.  It’s covered by one Associated Press reporter in a real small story.  The Smithsonian is so angry that these guys who don’t have any degrees—they don’t have any government grants—they don’t get any money from the Congress—and they’ve invented flying?  Their relationship is so chilly that the Wright Brothers will not give them the original plane for 37 years.”

The audience busts out in laughter and Newt is grinning.  “It’s now at the Air and Space Museum in Washington.”

He pauses.


Newt tells a story  – jaj

“Here’s why I’m telling you this story,” he gestures around the hangar, “because these planes just inspired it.  I want to get back to this innovation point ’cause this is what nobody in Washington and nobody in the elite media seems to get.  The great need in America is for a visionary political leader who understands science and technology applied with conservative principles of constitutional government.  Liberating the American people to discover and invent the future allows us to become more prosperous, more productive, more successful, and safer than any possible bureaucratic system!  And that’s just a fact!” 

The crowd bursts into deafening applause.

“…the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford—these people invented the modern world without bureaucracy!”

Newt waits for the crowd to calm down.

“In that setting, let me tell you about innovation in energy.  Over the last decade, new systems have been developed that enable us to get oil and gas out of rock we couldn’t get oil and gas out of.  Now, with natural gas, if you asked in 2000, they’d have said we have a 7-year supply and we’re gonna have to import liquefied natural gas from the Middle East.  With the new breakthroughs and new innovation, we now have a 125 year supply, and we’re about to start exporting liquefied natural gas to China. …natural gas will add 600,000 jobs in the next decade.

“Now it turns out that the same capabilities apply to oil in North Dakota, where it’s on private land…has led to the following development:  Fifteen years ago, we thought we had 150 million barrels of recoverable oil in North Dakota.  Up until the middle of last week, I said we now had discovered something like 4 billion barrels of recoverable oil.  Now we believe we have something on the order of 24 billion barrels of recoverable oil.

“Here’s the real kicker.  They believe that with two more generations of technology, there are 500 billion barrels of oil.  They’re very deep, so we don’t currently have the technology to get ‘em.

“I’m describing North Dakota.”

He pauses again and I think about the magnitude of those numbers—in a single state.

Newt raises his voice.  “They talk about releasing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and this is nonsense.  We have two strategic petroleum reserves in the Unites States.  One is the ingenuity of the American people and the other is called Alaska!”  The crowd breaks into applause. 

After the pandemonium subsides, he shifts gears.

“By the way, in North Dakota—for those of you who care about the economy—their current unemployment rate is 3.5%.” 

His speech continues to build on that story and highlight specific political objectives.  That’s a subject for a different journal than this one.  You can find that in any newspaper–they stress politics and only politics.  My goal here is to bring out the broader insights about entrepreneurship and demonstrate his use of STORY.

After he concludes his remarks, Newt and his wife, Callista greet the visitors.  They each pose with me for a personal photo.  Nice.  I hang around and talk politics with friends.


Associated Press photographer – jaj

A reporter from the Northwest Herald interviews me at length and I give him everything I can.  A sweet schoolteacher proudly tells the reporter that she taught my son and I feel mellow and happy.  That March 16th newspaper article sticks to the political side of the speech and uses only a few of my comments.  You can find it at http://www.nwherald.com/2012/03/15/gingrich-talks-gas-prices-jobs-at-lith-rally/ar6mc4u/?page=1 

And I’m struck by the bold frankness of this candidate.  Not your typical politician.  I can see why he makes so many people angry.  He’s highly intelligent.  He says what he believes—bold and clear.  And whatever your political leanings, whether you like him or not—admit it—you admire that in a man. 

In his simple story he’s made everybody in this airplane hangar understand what really makes entrepreneurship and this country work.  I know a lot of venture capitalists and I respect what they do, but who is that other candidate that trumpets speculation as if it were macroeconomic wisdom?  Today’s story brings out deeper, more fundamental truths than that.  I’m left with a very specific and uplifting view of what is possible—within our reach if we can muster the will to grab it.  And I heard all that in an aircraft hangar, in the suburbs of Chicago, the new, growing center for thought leadership.

And I find this job has it’s perks.

Newt and Callista Gingrich with John Jonelis

Newt and Callista Gingrich with John Jonelis




Comments on the Gingrich article started to get shrill until one turned me onto this:  I’ve appended a TED video of thought leader Simon Sinek that makes exactly the same point about the Wright Brother’s  but comes at it from an entirely different persepective.  In this video, he makes the same concepts stick with Dr. Martin Luther King and Apple Computer.  The video is absolutely riveting.   Kick back and enjoy!

Simon Sinek is the author of “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,”  He writes for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Business Week and others.  He joined the Rand Corporation in 2010.


View TED video–Simon Sinek – How Great Leaders Inspire Action


Simon Sinek






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Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.

© 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved.


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