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Summary and resources from the webinar presented by CRIN's Novel Hydrocarbon Extraction technology theme area on March 25, 2021.

Key take-aways from presentations and panel discussion

  • Standard technology development methods are too slow to meet today’s urgent need for solutions to economic and environmental challenges in Canada’s oil industry.
  • New tools, new rules: new approaches and mindset through methods like agile and lean are helping to reduce risk, cost and cycle time.
  • Next steps: Continue to educate, share knowledge and experiences with these new methods, and support more effective partnerships between researchers, technology developers and oil and gas producers.

Event Summary

It’s not easy to develop and deploy novel hydrocarbon recovery methods – the risks are real and substantial. And there is greater urgency now than ever before to address economic and environmental challenges through innovation. Can Canada rise to the challenge?

Many in Canada’s oil industry recognize they’re slow to adopt new technology. Trials in field are capital intensive and require a lot of time; there is risk of damage to existing production and even future reserve; there is no incentive/recognition of reserves by enhanced oil recovery (EOR) regulators; and volatile commodity prices make for an uncertain investment environment.

Addressing the speed, cost and risk challenges is key if Canada is to be the global leader in producing clean hydrocarbon energy from source to end use.

“There needs to be urgency around this,” says Petro Nakutnyy, Director of Operations, EOR Processes and Development, Saskatchewan Research Council, and webinar organizer. “Twenty-year development cycles, like with SAGD, are not an option.”

Technology development at its very core is iterative. Rarely is the first try successful, yet the oil and gas industry still plans and executes technology development projects linearly, and with one outcome in mind.

Methods like agile and lean, which have emerged out of software development and manufacturing are beginning to influence the industry’s approach to innovation.

“Agile engineering plans for iterations and a number of early failures, which requires a change of mindset,” says Ian Buchanan, Chief Technical Officer, Exergy Solutions. “Clients are starting to be comfortable with this if the steps are defined up front and they understand the value of the process.”

Planning to fail fast – by testing hypotheses early and often, accepting that some will fail, allows teams to identify and evolve the best ideas rapidly. Admittedly that requires additional education to help shift a risk-averse industry to accept the value of ‘failure.’

The solution, panelists felt, is closer collaboration between tech developers and producers who are the end users.

“We work with early adopter clients to define the goal or outcomes, then develop the technology to address the solution by testing up front how it could work and how it could fail,” says Stuart Kinnear, Interface Fluidics. “This critical thinking and testing can be done in days or weeks which really brings the cost down.”

Using iterative processes and tools like scalable models and 3D printing, project teams (including producer representatives) are able to make better decisions. “These methods and tools allow us to test in safe, low-cost environments so the big decisions, like moving into a field test, can be made with confidence,” says Fred Wassmuth, Senior Team Lead, InnoTech Alberta.

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Join the conversation

It’s exciting to see these agile methods catching on! Share your experience (successes and challenges) or questions about agile engineering and other tools with your peers in CRIN’s LinkedIn Group for novel hydrocarbon extraction technology theme members. (Not a member? Join CRIN today.)

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