Entrepreneurs and technology providers with advanced methane emissions reduction products — at a pre-commercial but field-ready stage — now have an extraordinary opportunity to move forward into eventual commercialization of their efforts, thanks to a major industry development.
In what the NGIF Capital Corporation’s President and CEO, and NGIF Cleantech Ventures Managing Partner John Adams is calling an industry “game-changer,” NGIF has signed an agreement with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) to create an Emissions Testing Centre (ETC) — led by Technical Director Dr. Jonathan Bryan — designed to accelerate development of technologies that cut methane emissions in the oil and gas sector.
Simulated emissions testing at the University of Calgary Research Centre labs and live testing at Tourmaline Oil’s West Wolf Gas Processing Plant in Alberta should provide cleantech solutions which can be deployed quickly across Canada and around the world — providing global leadership at a critical time in the industry.“Together with our NGIF ETC industry partners, we have created unprecedented opportunities for substantial reductions in methane emissions,” said Adams. “Building a platform for plug and play testing by multiple cleantech start-ups at a single live gas site has never been done before, and will provide the collective expertise required to move forward with creative solutions.”
“Together with our NGIF ETC industry partners, we have created unprecedented opportunities for substantial reductions in methane emissions.”
Up until now, potential clients may have been cautious about testing entrepreneurial products in the field because there was no data to give them confidence, explained the NGIF ETC’s Dr. Bryan.
“As a result, promising technologies can stall,” he said. “And communication from siloed field tests is very limited, so even if the tests are conducted and successful, it is difficult for entrepreneurs and technology providers to advance further and get to the commercial stage.”
NGIF ETC tackles both challenges
The NGIF ETC tackles both challenges. The technologies can now be tested in a world-class operating environment, while results from ETC tests are shared openly with all interested shareholders, making information from trial results much more accessible.
“These two key factors will allow for an acceleration of emissions reduction technologies testing and adoption in upstream gas operations,” said Dr. Bryan.
Products at lower Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) that would benefit from testing in a more contained environment could initially use the University of Calgary labs, explained Dr. Ian Gates, Director of the University of Calgary’s Canada First Research Excellence Fund program, the Global Research Initiative (GRI) for Sustainable Low Carbon Unconventional Resources.
“The tests can provide data which allows these companies to either further refine their tools or prove their systems can be tested in the field.”
Other lower TRL products that require testing and/or calibration may still be able to make use of the NGIF’s ETC laboratory, he said.
“As part of all this, the University of Calgary is providing a data portal system to provide information sharing among researchers, and two dedicated laboratory workspaces dedicated to NGIF ETC simulated emissions testing,” Gates added. “Our facilities are world-class, and we are excited to make a difference in Canadian research efforts.”
“Meanwhile, the focus at the Tourmaline Oil facility — a light, sweet liquids-rich facility — will be threefold,” said Scott Volk, Technology & Innovation Lead for the company.
“Our efforts at the West Wolf plant will include fugitive methane emissions monitoring, flaring emissions monitoring and reduction, and emissions measurement and reduction from liquid storage tanks,” Volk said.
Tourmaline’s work with the NGIF ETC furthers the company’s stellar reputation in environmental stewardship.
For example, Tourmaline has reduced its CO2 emissions intensity by 46 per cent while increasing production 254 per cent since 2013. The organization has committed as well to reduce methane emissions 25 per cent by the end of 2023, based on 2018 figures.
“We’re ready now to share our years of in-house experience and world-class testing facilities with entrepreneurial innovators through NGIF ETC,” added Volk. “It’s a real breakthrough for the natural gas industry as a whole.”
Minimal costs for utilizing ETC testing
Utilizing NGIF ETC facilities will come at minimal costs.
Organizations will be expected to provide direct or “in-kind” support, through their time and effort running and interpreting tests, and small costs associated with bringing their technologies to the field.
There may potentially be some minor costs for specialized tie-ins of equipment, however the labs will provide the space and personnel.
The labs were operational at press time, while it was anticipated that the Tourmaline field testing site would be instrumented and operational by the end of June.
Ways to Apply
There are two ways for technology providers and entrepreneurs to access ETC testing facilities.
One is to apply for project funding approval through NGIF or their trusted partners including NRCan and Alberta Innovates. Initiatives approved for funding could allow these organizations to potentially access the NGIF ETC at a later time. The other way is to contact NGIF directly and apply to use the test centre.
NRCan’s funding of $5.1 million for the ETC from the Canadian Reductions Innovation Emissions Network (CERIN) initiative is part of a larger $12 million worth of support by CERIN co-founders NRCan and Alberta Innovates.
Canada has introduced regulations to cut methane emissions 40 to 45 per cent by 2025, from a 2012 baseline. Methane emissions account for 13 per cent of Canada’s total emissions, with 43 per cent of that coming from the oil and gas sector.
Last year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the establishment of a CAD $750 million Emissions Reduction Fund to focus on methane mitigation, to help preserve and create jobs.
“While methane tends to receive less attention than CO2, reducing methane emissions will be critical to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” said the International Energy Agency (IEA) in a 2020 report.
Canada poised to become industry leader
And that is exactly why the NGIF ETC is such an important development — one that could make Canada the benchmark country a leader in cutting methane emissions worldwide.
“Natural gas is already the cleanest of fossil fuels, and it will continue to play a critical role in the ongoing evolution of the energy system and the growing efforts to reduce emissions,” said Adams.
“We have tremendous innovators in this country who have nevertheless heard the messaging about methane’s climate impact, some of whom have only needed a lifeline to bring their ideas to commercial readiness.”
“And that is exactly why the NGIF ETC is such an important development — one that could make Canada the benchmark country a leader in cutting methane emissions worldwide.”
“The NGIF ETC will offer that final level of support, and we firmly believe it will indeed play a pivotal role in the vast reduction of methane emissions and a significant boost to overall worldwide efforts.”
NGIF Capital Corporation also operates NGIF Industry Grants (formerly the Natural Gas Innovation Fund), and NGIF Cleantech Ventures. Both entities are industry-led and funded to accelerate cleantech innovation in the production, pipeline transmission and end-use of natural gas and renewable gases.
In 2020 NGIF was named co-champion — along with Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) — in Project Execution Excellence as part of the Daily Oil Bulletin’s second annual Energy Excellence Awards.
A year earlier, it won the Collaborative Trendsetter award as part of the Global Petroleum Show — an award recognizing entities and operators that are refining industry-level performance and driving technology innovation performance and collaboration within the oil and gas industry.
Dennis Lanthier is an award-winning writer and corporate communications specialist with almost two decades of experience in oil and gas. He earned an International Association of Business Communicator’s Gold Quill in 2011 for the creation of a magazine distributed to TransCanada Pipeline’s employees and retirees. Dennis is now a freelance writer working with several oil and gas associations in the energy sector