Jasmine Leonas

Students tackle energy problems at GEFI Innov8x Challenge

Mines students provide Chevron, ConocoPhillips fresh perspectives and solutions
Energy for Life won the GEFI Innov8x Challenge

Associate Director Lia Franklin and Director Sid Saleh of the McNeill Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation presented the Energy for Life team with their $5,000 check for winning the GEFI Innov8x Challenge.

What do you do with produced water in the Permian Basin? What can be done to make heater treaters more efficient?

Colorado School of Mines student teams took on these questions as part of the 2023 Global Energy Future Initiative (GEFI) Innov8x Challenge. The teams presented their innovative solutions on Friday, Nov. 3, as part of the annual Mines Global Energy Future Innovation Forum.  

The challenges were presented by two energy companies: Chevron and ConocoPhillips. Chevron asked the teams to find creative ways to re-purpose produced water in the Permian Basin, while ConocoPhillips had teams envision ways to make a heater treater used in oil and gas operations more efficient and produce less emissions.

“In addition to providing students with real-world opportunities to innovate for the likes of Chevron and ConocoPhillips, companies gain fresh perspectives and practical, out-of-the-box solutions,” said Sid Saleh, director of the McNeil Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which hosts the Innov8x program. “Alumni come back and tell me ‘I wish I had been able to learn about innovation before going into the real world,’ and I’m happy to tell them that we’re providing current students with those opportunities while helping organizations address problems.”

The following teams were named winners of the challenge:

First place ($5,000): Energy for Life (Kaveh Amini, Raysan Alhamoud, Zenitha Aswal) – Plan to optimize separator configuration in heater treater and alternative heating process (for ConocoPhillips)

Second place ($2,000): Permian Measures (Nicol Pomalia) – Proposed extracting lithium from produced water and selling to international market, using 5 percent of profits to supply domestic water to zones affected by climate issues and re-using produced water for hydraulic fracturing (for Chevron)

Third place ($1,500): (Li)nnovators (Ashley Turnage, Mamie Hess, Alexis Johnson, Aidan Rosprim) – Proposal to harvest lithium from produced water and target the medical market, which has high demand for the element (for Chevron)

Creativity prize ($500): The X Factors (Collin Romero, Jalen Thomas, Myles Ruiz, Jazmine Cerezo, Ben Fuchs, Max Nwokeukwu) – Extracting sodium and chlorine from produced water and collecting salt for use on roads (for Chevron); incorporate heat from the sun to run heater treaters (for ConocoPhillips)

“The challenge brought an opportunity for the team to come together in a short period of time, allowing for interdisciplinary members to collaborate with diverse viewpoints,” said Amini, from the winning Energy for Life team. “This win is an aggregate of the work that we all put in with support from Mines faculty. Now, we can use this win as a validation step that green lights the development of our solution for real scenarios in the oil and gas industry.” Energy for Life was advised by Petroleum Engineering Professor Hossein Kazemi.

The Innov8x program hosts challenges throughout the year where Mines students compete to create innovative solutions to important business problems. Students partner with companies and pitch their proposals to judges who work in the industry.

The Mines Global Energy Future Initiative (GEFI) brings together global energy thought leaders and the world-class faculty at Mines through research, education, workshops, seminars and outreach. GEFI is developing solutions that will shape decision-making on the future of energy now and in the decades to come.

Energy companies, government agencies and non-profits are invited to submit problems to the Innov8x program at

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Jasmine Leonas

Public Information Specialist
About Mines
Colorado School of Mines is a public R1 research university focused on applied science and engineering, producing the talent, knowledge and innovations to serve industry and benefit society – all to create a more prosperous future.