Long Wei: “Phoenix” Flying to Shenzhen
The Research Institute of Tsinghua University in Shenzhen (RITUS) is a new type of research institution, the first in Shenzhen, jointly established by a university and local government. Over the last two decades, it has incubated more than 1,500 enterprises, including 21 listed companies.
Long Wei is a key member of iCore Group Inc. under RITUS and serves as both director of the RITUS Intelligent Oil and Gas Research and Development Center, and general manager of iCore Group Inc. “We are both a company and a research institute,” Long explains. “Only in Shenzhen will you find such fusions.”
Long Wei graduated with a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from Tsinghua University in 1996. He then headed to Johns Hopkins University in the United States where he received a Ph.D. in energy resources. After graduation, he was hired by BP, one of the world’s top oil and gas companies.
Over the last few years, he has concentrated on researching gene detection of oil and gas and exploring reserves of oil and gas including unconventional combustible ice through rock scanning and analogue simulation.
This technology has been applied by the environmental protection industry to detect the content of PM10/PM2.5 pollutants in the soil and atmosphere and their three-dimensional spatial distribution, evaluate the impact of the environment on health and establish a digital soil gene pool, which can guide project design of a precise soil remediation scheme.
In technical terms, the advantage of this technology is to face down world-class challenges in accurately simulating the role of solid/liquid interfaces in a real and complex micro-channel network and reduce the simulation calculation error from more than 100 percent to less than 15 percent to meet the industrial practical application standards.
The self-developed geotechnical genetic digitization testing and big data intelligent decision-making system can help lower costs and increase efficiency of project operations and has been widely applied commercially.
Using this technique to analyze rock and soil has become more economical. In the past, tens of millions of yuan were required to lift tons of big rocks from the seabed to explore for oil. Today, however, oil can be detected with several kilograms of crushed stones from drilling.
This innovation also makes it possible to quickly establish a large database of geotechnical genes, reduce technical decision-making cycles from several months to several days and implement digital and intelligent testing and analysis processes to help reduce engineering costs and improve efficiency while preventing accidents.
The global oil and gas industry has a market of 100 billion yuan annually. The wide application of such a technology in oil and gas exploration and production could bring huge economic benefits, significantly improve drilling efficiency and prevent anomalies.
The smart precision drilling demonstration project jointly conducted by iCore Group Inc. and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) on the South China Sea can reduce investment costs by up to 3 billion yuan annually. Moreover, this technology can provide early warning before potential operational malfunctions and avoid major disasters.
Foreseeing the prospects of this technology, RITUS sought out the research team of the technology and advised them to apply for the “Phoenix Program” launched by the Shenzhen municipal government in 2010 to bring more high-tech talent to the city.
In 2015, the team members were approved by the program, and at the end of 2016, five Ph.D. researchers with study experience abroad, including Long Wei and Jiu Cheng, returned to China and settled in Shenzhen to contribute to the development of China’s energy, marine and environmental protection industries.
The first visit to Shenzhen gave the team a good impression. During presentations, judges expressed concerns about whether they had sole rights to the intellectual property. They were also asked how they would protect their intellectual property going forward if they returned to China to start a business. For the team, the more the emphasis placed on intellectual property protection, the stronger the motivation to innovate.
Shenzhen’s talent funding program has proven highly attractive and its funds are generous. For example, the “Phoenix Program” provides a special subsidy of up to 80 million yuan for a selected world-class team, and comprehensively supports high-level overseas researchers who decide to launch a startup or a research project in Shenzhen by providing preferential policies.
People benefiting from the program can enjoy incentive subsidies of 800,000 to 1.5 million yuan in addition to other supporting policies for settlement, children’s education, employment of spouses and medical insurance.
Of course, the entrepreneurial team must be able to bring benefits to the city and increase its GDP. They can’t solely focus on research and development, but must also contribute to industrialization.
The arrival of Long Wei’s team filled RITUS’s voids in the fields of energy security and ocean research.
“The top ten of the Global 500 companies are almost all oil companies,” Long noted. “International oil companies invest up to 10 billion U.S. dollars in R&D every year.”
Many of China’s traditional terrestrial oil exploration companies such as Daqing Oilfield in Heilongjiang Province and Tarim Oilfield in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, as well as Australia’s Roc Oil Co., Ltd. and many U.S. universities and mining enterprises, have shown great interest in the team’s projects and technologies and have begun extensive cooperation.
“Seventy percent of China’s crude oil is imported,” Long said. “To become less dependent, we must develop our own oilfields. Energy is very important. We also want to make a difference in helping our country gain a greater voice in the energy sector.”
Like many returned graduates who have studied abroad, the team came back with a strong sense of mission.
Considering the technological monopoly wielded by developed countries, the team members are very open-minded and confident. “China is now paying greater attention to protecting intellectual property rights,” Long said. “This further boosts people’s willingness to innovate. The United States has done a good job in this area, as has Shenzhen.”
Long Wei lived in the United States for nearly 20 years. When he arrived in Shenzhen, it didn’t feel much different from the United States. To him, Shenzhen is an innovative, inclusive, open-minded and internationalized city.
“The building of the Shenzhen municipal government is called the Civic Center, which has impressed me deeply. It is a service-oriented government. Many private enterprises in China like BYD, Tencent and Huawei are all supported by the Shenzhen government.”
Shi Lei, head of the General Office of RITUS, remarked: “Why does Shenzhen attract so many people? Because it is a beacon of hope. These talented people are attracted not by money but by the career prospects the city affords. This city offers more opportunities than the United States. It provides greater job satisfaction. Shenzhen would hardly have become what it is today without the introduction of such a large pool of talent. It owes its great industrial transformation to the great progress it made in science and technology. We are confident.”