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In the area of research, development and innovation, PGNIG S.A. has built solid foundations for stepping up its efforts and conducting R&D and innovation activities on a large scale and in a systemic manner. The development activity model which has been implemented and applied at PGNIG S.A. is one of the most comprehensive and modern R&D&I solutions in place at large Polish companies.

Relying on the open innovation concept, the Company has launched its own start-up incubator named InnVento to support startups working for the energy sector and to jointly look for new innovative solutions. The first initiative of its kind in the oil and gas sector in Poland, InnVento received interesting offers from nearly 90 startups already in its first year of operation. InnVento participated in external startup acceleration programmes. As part of the GeoMetan project, work commenced on a pilot project to extract natural gas from hard coal beds. In 2017, more than 24 research institutions submitted 96 new R&D proposals. From among those 96 proposals, 24 were chosen to sign agreements and launch R&D work worth in total PLN 18.2m. In addition, 17 new agreements for research projects were signed. The competences of the Group’s central measurement and research laboratory Centralne Laboratorium Pomiarowo – Badawcze PGNIG S.A. (CLPB) were expanded to enable the commercialisation of measurement systems for small-scale LNG terminals. The efforts related to launching, jointly with the National Centre for Research and Development (NCBR) and Gaz-System S.A., the INGA (Innovative Gas Industry) programme in 2018 – the largest research programme in the gas sector, with a total budget of PLN 400m – were finalised.

The most important achievements in the R&D&I area in 2017 included:

  • Opening of the InnVento incubator, whose mission is to support the development of energy sector startups, establish business cooperation with them and jointly search for new technological solutions. During the first six months of InnVento’s operation, we were approached by 87 startups, and 50 startups presented themselves in detail to the PGNiG Group during the Pitch Day. Five projects were accepted for pilot implementation;
  • Participation in the ‘Scale Up’ government programme (part of the ‘Start in Poland’ initiative), where PGNIG S.A. worked jointly with MIT Enterprise Forum Poland to identify startups for the acceleration programme in the Energy Path. As part of two acceleration rounds, seven pilot implementations were launched;
  • Execution of an agreement, on November 16th 2017, with the National Centre for Research and Development and with Gaz-System to implement the INGA (Innovative Gas Industry) programme, the largest research programme in the history of the PGNiG Group with a total value of PLN 400m, half of which will be financed by the National Centre for Research and Development. The programme covers most of the PGNiG Group’s business segments and focuses on research projects that may bring measurable economic benefits to the PGNiG Group. PGNiG’s financial contribution to the INGA programme may reach as much as PLN 133m in 2018-2022;
  • Completion of preparations to launch the GEOMETAN project, relating to pilot production of coalbed methane, one of strategic importance to PGNiG S.A. The main objective of the GEOMETAN project is to support the work on developing pre-commercial coalbed methane production technologies and to enhance production capabilities for methane as an important fuel for the heat and power sector. The work to be performed as part of the project will consist in extracting methane through directional boreholes drilled from the surface, with horizontal sections in coal seams made with the use of hydraulic fracturing. A feasibility study has been prepared for the project. Letters of intent will be signed with JSW, PGG and Tauron Polska Energia. As part of this project, demonstration methane production facilities will be constructed in three locations on the premises of Polish coal companies, capturing methane extracted through directional wells drilled from the surface in coal beds, and production tests will be carried out. If the results are positive, the project will lead to commercial production of methane from coalbeds identified within a selected area. The project’s estimated budget is PLN 200m;
  • In 2017, the International Centre of Excellence on Coal Mine Methane (ICE-CMM) was opened at the Chamber of the Natural Gas Industry. The Centre was formed and operates under the auspices of, and in close association with, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and its Group of Experts on Coal Mine Methane. Cooperation with ICE-CMM will open avenues for pursuing new technologies, improving the efficiency of coalbed methane drainage, and extracting methane from coalbeds.
  • Successful completion of the R&D stage relating to an innovative approach to billing measurements in small-scale LNG solutions (SMOK projects). The end of 2017 saw the completion of implementation of the SMOK project, aimed at commercial validation of flow meters for measuring the flow of liquefied gases in several dozen different types of fuel tankers. Still in 2017, the first in Poland fully measured on-site LNG transfer was performed, from a transport fuel tanker to stationary tanks, marking the beginning of a new approach to LNG billing measurements and opening up a viable path to expanding the portfolio of LNG customers;
  • Appointment of the Scientific Advisory Group of the second term. The Scientific Advisory Group is an interdisciplinary consultancy and advisory team of experts supporting PGNiG S.A. in research, development and innovation. The Scientific Advisory Group is composed of fifteen professors – prominent scholars from top Polish universities and research institutes;
  • Completion of the first stage of the FORESIGHT programme, which aimed to identify new development opportunities for PGNIG S.A. that could help build the Company’s competitive advantage and formulate its long-term strategy;
  • Closing of the third edition of the ‘Young Innovators for PGNiG’ competition. The competition was designed for young scientists as well as graduate and post-graduate students and focused on finding innovative R&D projects relevant to PGNiG’s business. In 2017, the awarded projects concerned gas purification with ashes from coal combustion, the use of a rocket engine for methane extraction and obtaining He3 (helium) isotope;
  • Establishment of the first pilot Council for the Innovation Area Portfolio at PGNiG to support the Innovation and Business Development Department in managing the portfolio and the strategic objectives of the area. The Council met three times in 2017 to evaluate innovation projects and recommended 15 projects for further implementation.
  • Receipt by PGNiG S.A. of the Innovation Laurel in the category of services and other innovative social and economic solutions for the InnVento startup incubator project.

Most of the research and development (R&D) activities related to the Exploration and Production segment.

The R&D&I activities planned for 2018 include:

  • Formal launch of the INGA (Innovative Gas Industry) programme and carrying out the full procedure for the first competition: call for and evaluation of proposals, selection of winners, and execution of the first contracts for project implementation. The INGA programme will be pursued in the following research areas: hydrocarbon exploration and production; production of gaseous fuels; coalbed methane recovery; gas network construction and operating materials; gas networks; LNG and CNG use, trading and new applications; hydrogen and gaseous fuel technologies; customer relation technologies; environmental protection;
  • Establishment of the R&D Area Portfolio Council within PGNIG S.A., responsible for the rules governing the R&D project qualification and management of the R&D project portfolio, as well as for coordinating the related activities within the Group;
  • Launch of hydrogen theory and technology projects to promote the acquisition of new competences and business opportunities in hydrogen production, storage and transport and to work towards increasing gas volumes in the Polish market;
  • Commencement of work on the technology for obtaining helium-3 from liquid helium – the helium-3 isotope is a highly sought material which finds application in safety systems, medical diagnostics and nuclear power engineering;
  • Commercialisation of the LNG billing systems based on the newly developed dynamic direct measurement methods and SMOK methods for LNG fuel bunkering, both in the Baltic Sea region and on inland waters;
  • Commercialisation of mobile LNG sampling systems designed for use at regasification stations – the ‘LNG Sampling’ project, which will help further improve the accuracy of LNG related billings for LNG systems of all sizes;
  • Development and implementation of a model for the protection of R&D-related intellectual property rights i.e. a comprehensive set of formal rules and guidelines (such as good practice) to comprehensively regulate intellectual property protection and management in research and development. This model will also be used for the innovation area at PGNIG S.A.;
  • Successive launch of new R&D&I projects, both proprietary and procured through tender invitations;
  • Completion of some earlier launched R&D&I projects (including a low-power turbo-expander and the small diameter drilling technology with the use of water) and launch of further stages of their implementation with a view to reaching the commercialization stage;
  • Preparation of appropriate recommendations for directing project financing streams in research, development and innovation on the basis of expert surveys carried out at the Company to assess the principal and most promising R&D&I areas of interest to the Company (FORESIGHT);
  • Further cooperation with MIT Enterprise Forum Poland in subsequent acceleration rounds in the area of collaboration with startups;
  • Participation in ‘Poland Prize’, a part of the ‘Start in Poland’ programme, implemented by the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development. The objective of the programme is to enable foreign startups to launch their operations in Poland and to position Poland as the country of first choice for doing business in Central and Eastern Europe;
  • Preparation of the ‘Early-startup’ project concept to allow cooperation with startups that offer projects characterised by low technology readiness levels (TRL), with Polish academic and research institutions engaged in the collaboration and incubation process;
  • Defining the commercialisation path and model for the R&D&I area.