Canadian Manufacturing

GE, Calgary tech firm team up on ‘game changing’ oilsands cleantech project

Acceleware says its radio frequency heating technology could replace steam-assisted extraction and drastically cut costs in Canada's oilsands



Steam generators at Cenovus' forest Creek facility. PHOTO: Cenovus Energy Inc

An alternative to conventional steam generators, Acceleware Ltd. says its radio frequency heating technology could create significant cost and environmental savings for Canada’s oilsands. PHOTO: Cenovus Energy Inc

CALGARY—Acceleware Ltd. is forging ahead with plans to commercialize a cleantech oil and gas process that could shake up the way oilsands firms extract heavy crude from reserves in Western Canada.

The Calgary-based company, which works on seismic imaging for the oil and gas industry as well as the new patent-pending radio frequency heating technology (RF XL), announced earlier this week it is teaming up with GE to launch a pilot test project for the technology.

Similar to the way a microwave heats food, Acceleware’s technology would use radio waves instead of steam to heat bitumen and allow it to be pumped out of a well. The company says the process could drastically cut both costs and the environmental impact of production in Canada’s oilsands.

According to Mike Tourigny, the company’s vice-president in charge of commercializing the radio frequency process, the technology could deliver operational cost savings of as much as 50 per cent compared to the steam-assisted gravity drainage process currently used in Alberta’s oilsands.

“We also see potential for capital cost reductions on the order of 66 per cent when compared to the industry average for SAGD,” Tourigny said. “In addition to compelling economic benefits, this technology requires no external water, uses no solvents or chemicals, and should reduce GHG emissions by 50 per cent or more.”

Partnering with GE on the project, Acceleware said it expects to deploy the technology for field testing at an oilsands site next year. Along with its significant industry reputation, GE will provide its proprietary high-efficiency silicon-carbide (SiC) power electronics for the project.

“We are enthusiastic about contributing to the development of game changing oil sands recovery technologies that have the potential to dramatically lower the environmental footprint associated with upstream oil sands operations,“ Brian Gregg, manager for GE Global Research in Canada, said.

“The collaboration with Acceleware will give us yet another application to demonstrate the capability of our unique power electronics technology,” he added.

If successfully tested, Acceleware said it anticipates having the technology ready for wide-scale deployment within five years.

Optimistic about the partnership, investors sent shares of the small, publicly-traded Calgary company soaring earlier this week. Acceleware shares skyrocketed nearly 800 per cent in trading Tuesday.

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