​The best in oilpatch cleantech innovation and research

Exceptional field of cleantech finalists bodes well for future of low-impact development

Image: GHGSat

Cleantech has a bright future in the oilpatch. Easily the largest collection of candidates for the inaugural Energy Excellence Awards came in the cleantech category — with advanced technologies covering a wide swath of industry challenges, from water treatment and energy efficiency to tackling greenhouse gas emissions monitoring and reduction.

Finalists leveraged their cutting-edge technologies to thrive in a challenging marketplace, developing creative new solutions and in some cases transforming their companies in the process of gaining market acceptance. Utilizing digital technologies and creating new business models and revenue streams also distinguished the companies that outshined the competition.


Cleaning CO2 emissions

Big dollars are being invested today to find new uses for carbon dioxide emissions — technologies that would be particularly helpful for Alberta’s high-emissions oilsands producers looking to decrease their environmental footprint. Under the radar, a Calgary startup has already created a small-scale solution that could have big scale-up potential.

CleanO2 Carbon Capture Technologies is a finalist in the cleantech category for its development of a technology that can, among other things, produce hand soap from captured CO2. Its aggregated commercial carbon capture device, CARBiNX, which is about the size of a residential air conditioner, can be fitted to natural gas-powered boilers to reduce both energy use (up to 10 per cent) and greenhouse gas emissions (10 to 20 per cent).

CARBiNX is the world’s first decentralized commercial product capable of carbon capture while reducing energy demands through heat recovery. It aims to put a dent in GHG emissions in the heating industry, which accounts for 22 per cent of Canada’s GHG output.

Typically placed in commercial buildings — though residential homes could also be targeted — the CARBiNX unit takes a portion of waste flue gas and runs it through a reaction chamber where it reacts with a carbon-reduction chemical. Waste heat is used to preheat the water.

Captured carbon dioxide was originally converted to sodium carbonate, also know as soda ash, a versatile mineral used to make pharmaceuticals and manufacture glass as well as detergent. According to CleanO2, the carbon capture process allows customers to reduce up to 13 tonnes of carbon emissions, while creating up to 6.7 tonnes of soda ash, per unit per year. The system has a payout period estimated at four years.

Recently, potassium carbonate (potash) has replaced sodium carbonate (soda ash) as its output chemical. The company intends to maintain its position as the only company in the world able to make carbon capture soaps and detergents, but the change in the output also allows it to enter the commercial fertilizer industry as well.

The company estimates that for every four-litre container of its biodegradable liquid hand soap, it is able to recycle 1.2 kilograms of carbon dioxide, with a price point on par with similar soaps on the market.

CleanO2, which has received support from Innovate Calgary, Alberta Innovates and Calgary Technologies Inc., has a customers list that includes FortisBC Energy Inc., Pacific Northern Gas, ATCO Gas, Enbridge Gas, Union Gas Limited and CenterPoint Energy Inc.

FortisBC has been installing the units in British Columbia, where organizations like Cadillac Fairview Richmond Centre, LUSH Cosmetics and Baptist Housing Corporation have units installed. Other sites, (due to be put into service this year) include Simon Fraser University and the Richmond District School Board.

Jaeson Cardiff, CleanO2 chief executive officer, said there could be a large market for the technology if the pilots pan out. He is aiming to have it commercialized in at least three other countries in the next five years. "Technologies like carbon capture are the way of the future in terms of reducing emissions and saving energy," he said.


Space age meets methane leaks at GHGSat

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and methane emissions in particular, have emerged as a major challenge to the oil and gas industry as climate change moves to the top of the agenda. In many cases, GHGs are difficult to measure, particularly in an industry characterized by countless pieces of equipment located at tens of thousands of sites in remote and infrequently visited locations.

Cleantech finalist GHGSat may have the ultimate monitoring solution to that problem. The Montreal-based company, with an office in Calgary, has developed a high-resolution satellite system that can detect and quantify emissions from industrial sites anywhere in the world.

Its first satellite, GHGSat-D, nicknamed “Claire”, launched in 2016 was designed to measure carbon dioxide and methane with up to 100 times higher spatial resolution than NASA and other national space agency satellites at a fraction of the cost.

The underlying science for these measurements has been proven for decades. GHGSat’s innovation was to invent a new type of sensor that can take these measurements from a small satellite, about the size of a microwave oven, to create the world’s first business offering GHG monitoring services from space.

Soaring at an altitude of approximately 500 kilometres, with a site revisit period of about 14 days, Claire is able to measure carbon dioxide and methane in a field of view of approximately 12-by-12 kilometres and spatial resolution of less than 50 metres.

The company developed a proprietary multi-platform system for collecting emissions data, combined with unique algorithms ingesting both GHGSat and third-party data, to generate valuable operational, environmental and regulatory insights, as well as market and government intelligence.

In 2016 GHGSat began working with Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), a research organization that counts the largest oilsands producers as members, to evaluate the use of satellite technology to provide more accurate and frequent measurements of fugitive emissions from tailings ponds and mine faces, where existing methods are costly and imprecise.

In the oilsands, satellite monitoring can reduce operating costs by more than 50 per cent while offering 12 times more measurements per year, the company estimates. In shale plays, its solution can reduce operating costs by more than 20 per cent while offering three times more measurements per year.

As initial trials with Clair were inconclusive, the COSIA project has been extended for two years to enable additional measurements with GHGSat’s new satellite, GHGSat-C1, scheduled for launch in summer 2019. More satellites, measuring more pollutants, are planned in future years.

Currently, GHG monitoring relies on a patchwork of different technologies with varying degrees of accuracy. Using the same measurement technique, from orbit, for any site in the world provides a fair, transparent, precise and low-cost data-set that enables industrial operators to better manage their own emissions while helping regulators to measure the effectiveness of their policies, resulting in reduced emissions worldwide, according to GHGSat.


AutoBond a company changer for Keymay

Finalist Keymay Industries exemplifies a company’s ability to seize opportunity from an industry challenge — while benefiting the environment.

Leading a company with a foundation in engineering buoyance control products, Keymay president Don Gunn saw an opportunity to improve upon the manual approach to pipeline coating that had remained virtually unchanged for decades. Five years ago, he shifted the business from a product-driven business to a service-orientated, technology-focused one — upending the company’s business model in a potentially risky change in direction.

From inception of its research and development program, the Sherwood Park, Alberta-based company was supported by 3M Canada, leveraging that company’s over 50 years experience applying fusion bond epoxy to pipelines. 3M identified Keymay’s emerging technology as a potential game changer and worked to provide access to their laboratories to test prototypes and verify the quality of the applied coatings.

The R&D investment proved timely, coinciding with the downturn in 2014-2015 and proving to be a significant advantage for the company in weathering the tough economic conditions. The result of the R&D was the AutoBondFusion Bond Epoxy (FBE) Joint Coating System, an automated field joint coating system for pipeline construction projects that provides quick and precise FBE application.

Using custom software and assisted by a specially designed application head, the system makes it possible to achieve a superior level of corrosion protection to the field joint with a quick and easy application not previously available.

“There are several benefits of automating a process as critical as protective joint coating. First, we improve the long-term outcome for the pipeline by ensuring the coating is as close to a ‘factory-finish’ as possible — something which has always been hugely challenging in the sorts of environment and terrain our pipelines are built in, said general manager Chelsey Reschke.

The reduction of repairs caused by human error provides immediate financial benefits as repair rates drop to close to zero, she said. “Anytime we can reduce rework and repair we also decrease the overall exposure hours of the project because there are less people required to attain the final acceptable product — our clients have been particularly keen about this aspect.”

Additionally, operators in the field are removed from immediate contact with coating chemicals because the process is contained by specialty vacuum collection equipment, leaving an exceptionally clean work site along the lengths of farmers’ fields, forest and wetlands in which the pipeline is being constructed.

“Safety of our workers is paramount, and removing them from having to directly interact with the corrosion coatings makes for a more enjoyable and safe work experience for our staff,” Reschke said. “We noticed a huge improvement in our retention rates as a result of the cleanliness and safety of the process, plus our crews feel proud to be involved in a product as innovative as the one we are offering.”

The technology provides the protection needed to ensure the longevity of the pipeline in some of the world’s harshest environments — with a dramatically reduced footprint. By the company’s calculations, the reduction in waste generated from single-use items on a 300-kilometre project saves 53,000 paint brushes, 13,300 paint containers, 2,400 paint suits and 1,800 industrial sized bags of garbage from going into the landfill.

The business has gained credibility and recognition as an innovator such that it was called upon by government to contribute its story at a recent Standing Committee on Natural Resources Clean Tech Industry Report.

And the overall results were metamorphic for the company — shifting it from one that did not have a coating business just five years ago to one in which the coating division is now the largest division in Keymay, surpassing the annual revenue of its top two previous divisions for the last three years in a row.


AMGAS makes sour fluids safe

Highly toxic sour gas and fluids have been the bane of oil and gas production in parts of western Canada throughout the industry’s history. The extremely poisonous, highly corrosive and explosive nature of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) makes it a troublesome problem to deal with. And with more wells being drilled in North America in H2S prone unconventional reservoirs, producing more sour gas and crude oil than ever, it has become an expensive one too.

It’s a problem AMGAS Services Inc. has gone a long way toward solving with the development of AMGAS CLEAR, a process that allows for the safe and efficient removal of H2S from sour crude oil, condensate and water without introducing any chemical into the liquids.

The process is ideal for high and variable H2S concentrations, according to the company, resulting in no converted sulphides remaining in the fluid. It is designed to prevent any chemical overtreatment or under-treatment, improving operational efficiency and minimizing costs. As a result of its use, CLEAR has saved million of liters of fresh water from being lost from the water cycle.

The technology has also provided substantial economic savings for producers by eliminating many costs associated with transportation and disposal of sour fluid. Given the known risks of transporting sour pressurized fluid, the CLEAR system can provide an alternative to needing to transport on highways and through rural communities. It provides producers the opportunity to safely deal with H2S on their own locations with trained personal, lowering risks and impact on the public.

Its development was timely, helping the Calgary-based company, which was launched as a family business in 1989, to weather the recessionary period the industry is only now emerging from.

The environmental benefits of the CLEAR system have been substantial and have surpassed all original expectations and considerations, said AMGAS. In a cost-conscious, competitive marketplace there have been substantial gains for its clients as they look to institute solutions that are safe and efficient, while providing cost savings, the company said.


The Energy Excellence Awards will be presented at a reception on May 2, 2019 at Devonian Gardens in Calgary. Click here to buy tickets!