Leaders in the oil and gas sector are competing for who can develop the “cleanest barrel”. Getting there means, among other things, cleaning up the extraction process. The traditional industry practice for recovering deep oil reserves is to pump steam through underground pipes. That uses a lot of energy and water, and accounts for significant greenhouse (GHG) emissions that contribute to climate change.
Enter Calgary-based NSolv and its more environmentally-efficient way of recovering these reserves. Its technology safely deploys solvents like propane and butane instead of water-based steam. The result is oil recovery with zero water consumed and 80% fewer emissions.
In 2014, Nsolv opened a pilot facility at Suncor’s Dover test site north of Fort McMurray. Since then, the company has produced more than 200,000 barrels of oil. Now Nsolv is looking to scale-up with a commercial facility that can show that its innovation is industry ready.
Getting to this point took a solid mix of public financing and major capital investments, including $10 million in funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada. It also secured $10 million from Emissions Reduction Alberta which was then leveraged into another $44 million of private financing from industry players like Suncor.
Some of NSolv’s success can also be attributed to increasingly stringent regulations in the oil and gas industry, which is pushing producers to find cleaner ways of doing business and creating a market for technologies like NSolv’s.
By adopting technologies like NSolv’s process, Canada can ensure that its oil and gas sector remains environmentally and economically competitive as we transition to a low-carbon future.