Pasadena Start-Up Founded by Former JPLers Gets Equity Investment from Norwegian-Owned Oil and Gas Multinational

Published : Monday, September 10, 2018 | 5:16 AM

Image Courtesy SeekOps Inc. Website

Equinor Technology Ventures (ETV), the venture arm of Norwegian-owned international oil and gas explorer Equinor, has made equity investments in two California-based startups, including a Pasadena company founded by two former Jet Propulsion Laboratory employees that will bring high-tech components into its natural gas operations.

The Pasadena startup, SeekOps, uses drones as the platform for its methane-sensor technology which could accurately measure fugitive emissions at distances of up to 100 meters. SeekOps’ advanced gas detection system has roots in NASA’s famed Mars rover program managed by JPL.

The other startup, Upwing, based in Cerritos, is developing a novel gas-compression artificial lift system that works inside wellbores at depths ranging up to 12,000 ft. Upwing is a spinoff of variable speed drive manufacturer Calnetix Technologies, already an established supplier to Equinor.

The Journal of Petroleum Technology, a publication of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, said ETV had not disclosed the dollar-figure of its new stake in these companies. ETV’s typical investment range is between $1 million and $10 million, according to its website.

Equinor started work with JPL and SeekOps on drones mounted with laser methane sensors to detect methane emissions on their production sites. The technology, called OPLS (open-path laser spectroscopy), was initially designed by JPL to find methane on Mars and is now found on NASA’s Curiosity rover which has been looking for methane-producing microbes on the Red Planet since 2012.

SeekOps was founded last year by former JPL employees, Dr. Andrew Aubrey and Brendan Smith, who were critical in the development of the spectrometer.

Aubrey is CEO and Smith is COO of SeekOps, which prides itself in providing American-invented and made low-cost, accurate and efficient fugitive leak detection to oil and gas service providers and regulators around the world. The company maintains all operations in-house, from instrument manufacture to data acquisition or analysis.

Additionally, SeekOps sells handheld or vehicle-mounted analytical methane sensors that provide for in-house industry applications.

SeekOps says that the sensors they manufacture for drones are 100-times lighter and 1,000-times more sensitive than other comparable technologies.

“Reducing methane emissions is considered critical to the energy industry, and we are very excited about the investment in SeekOps to help address this issue as part of Equinor’s climate roadmap,” Kristin Aamodt, ETV Managing Director, said in a press statement.

To learn more about SeekOps, visit

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