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  • Imogen McKay

Technology Spotlight: An interview with Bedrock Energy


As part of BETA's mission to connect founders, innovators and key players that make up the fabric of our industry, our latest Technology Spotlight series highlights the successes of our incredible members and wider network.


In this first instalment, we speak with Michael Chien, Chief of Staff at Bedrock Energy.



Tell us about your organisation and your role...

Bedrock Energy is an early-stage start-up focused on developing technology to enable geothermal heating and cooling for buildings seeking decarbonisation. Our technologies improve the cost and speed of borehole construction for geothermal heat pump installation. Drawing inspiration from the oil and gas industry, especially our co-founder Silviu Livescu, who served as the chief pressure pumping scientist for Baker Hughes, we leverage oilfield technologies like coiled tubing for faster drilling and telemetry for data acquisition and design modelling.


Our approach designs and constructs optimally sized borefields for buildings, reducing payback periods for customers, and facilitating the widespread adoption of geothermal heating and cooling technologies. The goal is to capitalize on the efficiency of geothermal heat pumps and make them more accessible to a broader audience.


I transitioned to my role at Bedrock from a background in philanthropy where I specialised in strategic planning for funders. Intrigued by the commercial potential of Bedrock's technology, I made the shift to climate tech. Over the past six months, I've witnessed significant growth in our team, particularly in our field and construction capabilities. Engaging in tangible, physical work and observing its positive outcomes has been both exciting and fulfilling.

 

A little more about the technology... what problem does the tech solve and what really sets Bedrock Energy apart?

Our approach is quite interdisciplinary, involving both hardware and software components.


In essence, our technology addresses the industry's main roadblock—the high cost and inefficiency of construction and drilling.  We do this by enabling continuous drilling, minimising equipment swaps, and optimising space. Our unique selling point lies in our ability to design systems that cater precisely to the required heating and cooling loads, so there aren’t added costs driven by oversizing systems or incurring construction delays.


When discussing geothermal challenges, what you’ll hear most often is about drilling costs, dealing with drillers, and the hesitation to invest in borefields. We're here to fundamentally improve that experience and economic decisions for our customers.


How does Bedrock Energy approach collaboration with other industry players, governments, or organizations to drive positive change?

First, in terms of research and technology development, there’s a crucial need in climate for tech transfer. So even though geothermal wells are not as deep as hydrocarbon wells, we’ve hired talented individuals from companies like Halliburton, Schlumberger, and Chevron. Their knowledge base is invaluable in tackling issues like well construction and design, drilling operations, and equipment.


One other part of our approach towards collaboration is to engage with the public sector, particularly in response to policy dynamics. We actively seek broader demand-side support, looking for regions with substantial electrification mandates and incentives for decarbonisation initiatives, including the installation of geothermal systems. For example, the Inflation Reduction Act tax credit for geothermal systems is a significant boost for our industry. But we’ve had to work with industry organizations like Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) to clarify its interpretation so customer can take advantage of the incentive fully.


What do you find the most challenging about the talent market right now specific to your industry?

Yes, that's a great question. I find myself both encouraged and, at times, discouraged in navigating the talent market. On the optimistic side, our work taps into a wealth of knowledge and skills from various sectors while maintaining a focus on climate impact. We've successfully brought on former oil and gas workers who are genuinely enthusiastic about applying their expertise to decarbonisation. This shared mission makes the talent aspect a bit easier for us as a start-up with a clear purpose.


However, the challenge lies in the specialised nature of the equipment we work with. It often requires delving deep into specific networks, which may not be as extensive as we'd like. We heavily rely on our direct network and, in certain cases, engage recruiters to identify those unicorn candidates who possess the unique qualities we’re looking for.

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