A Q&A with Bridger Photonics’ Business Development Manager Matt Richards
At Bridger Photonics, our Business Development Managers are often the first point of contact for our clients—they work with operators to understand their needs for emissions reductions and develop a plan for how Bridger Photonics can help.
To learn more about what it's like to be a Business Development Manager at Bridger Photonics and hear some industry insights, we sat down with Matt Richards.
Q: Can you share what you do as a Business Development Manager at Bridger Photonics?
Richards: As one of the Business Development Managers at Bridger Photonics (Bridger), my role revolves around exploring new opportunities and building strong relationships across the entire oil and gas value chain. I have the privilege of working closely with our incredible team of scientists, engineers, and policy experts to connect our innovative solutions with the right audience. This role is truly exciting, allowing me to contribute not only to Bridger's growth but also to maintain partnerships with many industry friends and colleagues, working together to make our industry cleaner, safer, and more efficient.
Q: Tell us a bit about your background.
Richards: After graduating from Montana State University with a degree in Environmental Science, I have been fortunate enough to work with several incredible oil and gas companies and learn from some amazing people in the industry. My career started in the Bakken where I had the opportunity to learn that “Freezin’ was the reason” in Minot, ND while commuting to Stanley, ND to work for EOG Resources. There I began my journey in air quality compliance.
I was advised early on in my career that air quality was one of the most dynamic, challenging, and rewarding paths in the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) part of the industry, and I am so grateful for the mentors who encouraged me to stay on this path because every bit of that has been true.
Fast forward through a stint with a small midstream company in Houston, TX, which exposed me to new regulations, industry processes, and great people. I was lucky enough to join another amazing team with Kinder Morgan in beautiful Colorado Springs. With Kinder Morgan, I helped support the compliance programs for compressor stations across numerous states. This experience helped me continue to develop my understanding of compliance requirements within the gathering and transmission side of the industry and the importance of moving natural gas safely and cleanly across the country. It was also during my tenure with Kinder that I was exposed to the methane puzzle and the myriad of solutions that were becoming available on the market to help detect and reduce emissions.
Q: What inspired you to move into an external-facing role in the oil and gas industry?
Richards: While my work within the industry allowed me to gain invaluable insight and experience, I began to see a common thread among my experiences: I really enjoyed the people. My favorite part had always been interacting with people and developing relationships. Whether in the field or the office, I believe the oil and gas industry has some of the smartest, funniest, salt of the earth people you will meet. The industry is full of hard-working people who come in to work every day, no matter the weather, to provide clean, affordable, and reliable energy to not only our country but the world.
When I learned about Bridger and how their mission and values aligned with mine, I realized this was an opportunity to stay connected with my industry community, and use my air quality experience while bringing a solution forward that would help alleviate many pain points for emissions reduction.
Q: What are the biggest barriers for oil and gas operators for methane detection?
Richards: There are several significant barriers to methane detection, but three key challenges stand out.
The first challenge involves the abundance of technology options in this field, each with its own terminology and approach to leak detection. Each technology has its benefits and drawbacks, and the right choice often depends on the needs of the operator. The complexity of the issue means that there's no single “silver bullet” solution, leading to decision paralysis.
The second barrier centers around personnel. Operators are often committed to environmental stewardship but face unique challenges with methane detection. Many operations are expansive and situated in remote locations, making it difficult for field personnel to efficiently access and operate methane detection equipment. The shortage of skilled personnel for data management, analysis, and compliance recordkeeping further compounds these challenges.
The third significant barrier involves complex policy and regulatory hurdles. Developing and implementing effective energy policies is a daunting task, often hindered by political considerations and inconsistencies in policies. Regulatory agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) are working to establish best practices, but until clear guidelines are in place, there will be continued uncertainty about how to advance methane mitigation programs.
Q: In your view, what trends or developments for methane detection should clients be aware of?
Richards: As a relatively new industry, there are a lot of developments happening quickly, so it can be hard to sift through all of the information. First, it's important to pay attention to the terminology used in different technologies. Phrases like "minimum detection limit” (MDL) can be misleading and don't provide meaningful insights into sensitivity. MDL often represents an unlikely scenario, where very rarely a detection down to a given emission rate is found, in ideal conditions (say 1 in 100 or worse). To illustrate, consider a special tool designed to uncover hidden treasure. This tool may claim it can detect something as small as a tiny coin, but it frequently misses many coins for each one it finds. This isn't very helpful, right? What's even trickier is that the more you use this tool, the more accurate it appears, even though it isn't actually improving. It's essentially winning a game of chance. The success of any given tool should rely on the tool's actual performance, not just its frequency of use. The use of MDL can be confusing and misleading to both operators and regulators. On the other hand, an emission rate detection sensitivity should be used and paired with a "probability of detection” (PoD), which takes into account the probabilistic nature of methane detection, demonstrating the statistical frequency that a detection of a certain size is found (e.g. 3 kg/hr with a 90% PoD, meaning 9 out of 10 times an emission rate of that size will be detected).
Understanding the distinction between MDL and an emission rate detection sensitivity with a PoD leads us to the second development, which involves assessing performance-based sensitivity on controlled release testing versus real-world field performance. Controlled releases are conducted under highly controlled, often "ideal" conditions that don't accurately represent your typical operational environment. We've observed that results from controlled releases can deviate substantially from field performance. I recommend inquiring with technology companies about their ability to determine site-specific and auditable detection sensitivity, enabling you to validate and trust the performance of their detection in real-world settings.
Additionally, there is a lot happening in terms of regulatory developments. The DOT and the EPA are working on rules for pipelines and production facilities, respectively, that will likely change the landscape for the use of advanced detection technologies and the frequency at which those technologies will required to be used to achieve compliance. We have a webpage dedicated to Regulations you can check out for more information.
Q: What’s your favorite part about working at Bridger?
Richards: Working at Bridger is incredibly rewarding, so it‘s really hard to nail it down to one thing. It could be the cutting-edge technology, which produces data unlike anything else in the methane detection space. It might also be our mission to enable clean, safe, and streamlined oil and gas operations by providing actionable data for methane emission reductions. Or maybe it's the fact that, despite working remotely, I'm associated with a company located in a place that holds a special place in my heart—beautiful Bozeman, MT.
While it's tempting to choose any of these factors, my favorite aspect must be the team here at Bridger. The individuals who have made Bridger their professional home are some of the most intelligent, creative, hard-working, and humble people I've had the pleasure of working with. Bridger exudes a “work hard, play hard” mindset, and when the team isn't busy simplifying methane detection, you can find them embracing all the outdoors has to offer. Be it skiing, biking, climbing, fishing, hunting, hiking, or simply soaking in the breathtaking views of the Gallatin region. It is this kind of team that makes even Mondays worth looking forward to!
Matt received his degree in Environmental Science from Montana State University - Bozeman before starting his career in the oil and gas industry where he worked in North Dakota, Texas, and Colorado and gained experience across the exploration, production, midstream, and transmission segments.
Interested in learning more about working at Bridger Photonics?
Check out our open listings on our careers page.