Canada’s oil and gas industry throughout the years has seen many innovations help its industry keep pace with the global industry. Along the way, those innovations have helped Canada become one of the world’s leading oil and gas producers.
As the industry evolves and changes at rapid levels, mainly due to COVID-19, climate targets, and an increasing demand for energy, Canada and Alberta are well situated to handle those changes and evolutions. Along the way, investments from federal and provincial governments will be key in helping those advancements.
Canada, with a dearth of resources at its disposal, is well suited and prepared to continue its innovation evolution throughout the decades to come.
Investments such as $58 million announced for natural gas innovations worth $155 million in July 2020, which leverage artificial intelligence machine learning to better measure and locate methane emissions and prototyping new approaches to convert natural gas to hydrogen. Those are just two of 20 innovations receiving funding from the Alberta Government through Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA).
In March 2021, the Government of Canada invested in innovative clean technology at the University of Alberta. The government said they believe innovation and development of clean technologies will help drive Canada’s economy, lower emissions while creating jobs – a trifecta of important factors in economic recovery.
Also in March 2021, Suncor said they are investing in carbon capture technology company Savnte Inc., helping the company as they look for ways to reduce or offset GHG from its extensive oil and gas operations.
Advantage recently announced advanced Modular Carbon Capture and Storage (MMCS) technology, along with the first deployment of the technology that will occur at their Glacier Gas Plant, and expected to enter service by March 2022.
On InvestAlberta’s website, they mention other important technologies the sector is focusing on, such as multilateral drilling technologies, non-invasive drilling fluids, innovative pumping technologies, and geosteering of horizontal wells in real-time.
Multilateral drilling technologies have seen significant evolutions while facilitating greater flexibility in reservoir development. Non-invasive drilling fluids were proposed to solve problems of formation damage. The geosteering of horizontal wells in real-time can be regarded as another improving odds of success by being in the productive zone for longer durations of drilling.
The recent Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) Symposium hosted a panel on Technological Innovation: Lowering GHG Intensity and Improving Sustainability. Representatives from CNRL (Joy Romero), Cenovus (Rhona DelFrari), Imperial Oil (Sherri Evers), and Suncor (Jon Mitchell) all spoke on the panel, touched on existing and new technologies, and how they are helping the industry move forward.
“What sort of leadership can we take as a country and as a sector to make sure we have a portfolio of options and attractive policy environment in this country to attract investment to help the sector, deliver these technologies and make sure we’re meeting our overall objectives and getting the country on a path to net-zero?” Mitchell asked.
Mitchell said using the strengths of the sector will help deliver on those goals in the long run.
“We work together as companies. it’s not just the successes of any one company. We build on the collective successes of our companies together and we have so many, so many different mechanisms in the way in which we do that, and it’s the Canadian oil and gas industry that wins.
“What we do here is transferable to the globe. It’s also transferable to end-users to other sectors who can use our products. So, if they’re using greenhouse gases, for example, or they’re using methane, natural gas, they can make the same kind of reductions that Rhona was talking about. These technologies are not just for us to reduce our costs. They’re in essence for others, too, as well. So it’s the gift that keeps on giving,” Mitchell said.
The panel acknowledged that the oil and gas industry globally is under pressure and working together as an industry is important while ensuring Canada continues to be a leader in this space and focuses on the goals that the patents support and what Canada’s ambitions are. Working together on testing and deploying these technologies is important moving forward.
In 2019, Imperial and the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) announced a two-year agreement to collaborate on developing Imperial’s in-house machine learning capabilities, enabling AI projects. Those projects will help Imperial develop effective ways to recover oil and reduce environmental impacts. Imperial has also been using and applying solvent-based approaches to in situ.
Evers said “Imperial has reduced our carbon greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 20% since 2013, and we have a goal of an additional 10% reduction by 2023. A lot of that has been accomplished through technologies we have applied.
“We’ve used the autonomous haul trucks as one example, we’re deploying drones for vessel inspections to help improve not only the safety, but the cost aspects of going into vessels, both in the upstream as well the downstream. We’re also embracing digital and using different workforce visualization tools to help match the supply and demand of our workforce need. That alone has helped to save over $50 billion at Kearl. A number of the technologies we’ve deployed have helped improve the reliability of our operations as well and reliability. At Kearl, we’ve saved about $8 per barrel through the different technologies deployed at that facility. And in the downstream, that reliability of our operations helps to manage our emissions, and also to lower our costs and in 2020 we lowered our costs, 15% versus in 2019,” Evers said.
Evers also spoke on Imperial’s cogeneration work. “We’ve helped to improve the energy efficiency across our whole portfolio of assets, both in the upstream and the downstream, and recently implemented a new cogent facility at Strathcona last year that has the equivalent of removing 110,000 tons of emissions from the air. We’re about to be able to use about 75 to 80% of our power needs which will be generated through that cogent operation, and is equivalent to taking 25,000 cars off the road.”
Technology is and will be a major point for the industry to help achieve Canada’s net-zero goals. While that comes with an expense, collaboration is going to be required as the industry works on testing and rolling out new technologies, and leverages its expertise to further innovations.