Bettering the Business of Bitumen Extraction: ISUT to Connect a Disjointed Industry

As the veil of the COVID-19 pandemic begins to fade, and rumblings of economic recovery begin to fill headlines,

Bettering the Business of Bitumen Extraction: ISUT to Connect a Disjointed Industry
Miranda Stahn
July 12, 2021

As the veil of the COVID-19 pandemic begins to fade, and rumblings of economic recovery begin to fill headlines, the Canadian government has its eyes set on tackling the next national crisis of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This intent was reflected in the most recent federal budget, which further cemented a previous call to action by the federal government for Canada to reduce its net greenhouse gases by 30% by 2030.

These statements have sparked innovation in the country's energy sector, which even prior to COVID was priming itself to be the receptor of innovative clean technologies that could help it maximize returns while continuing to act as a cornerstone of the Canadian economy generating an export revenue of $69 billion per year.

To an extent, the industry has been successful in this space, with overall emissions in the country dropping by 20% compared to 2009 levels. However, these values are questionable and may have reflected the societal impact of the pandemic versus actual decreases in demand. For instance, the European carbon energy market saw tremendous gains last fiscal quarter, with demand and pricing skyrocketing in early May. Overall, carbon was trading at $67 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent, which correlates to an increase in value of over 100% since December 2020.

It's also important to note that the recent modes of reducing emissions have been relatively disjointed, focusing on tackling GHG levels in isolated sections of the operation, site types (brownfield or greenfield) or within specific technology platforms such as steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). This could be likened to a doctor treating a patient's individual symptoms versus piecing them together to infer a complete diagnosis.

It's here where NanosTech can provide a holistic solution to the sector. In contrast to their competitors, In Situ Upgrading In Situ Upgrading Technology (ISUT) can be applied to brownfield and greenfield sites and entirely eliminates the emissions-heavy steps of surface upgrading for SAGD recovery. By converting oil sands bitumen into a lighter oil, ISUT reduces the need for costly diluents needed to transport the product to refineries, all while cutting GHG emissions by over 30%.

"The benefits of implementing ISUT technology are fourfold," says CEO Myles McGovern. "Not only does it help companies reduce their GHG emissions and enhance the oil recovery, but it translates to cost savings of $10-15bbl for end-users by the removal of costly diluents, and offers an opportunity to market the oil at the higher API price without further upgrading processes."

This highly modular technology and cost-saving technology, which has adapted SAGD sites with the addition of only a single skid, has placed the Calgary-based company on the global radar, resulting in a recent acquisition by clean-tech innovator Vorsana environmental Inc. As the attachment of the skid allows for the introduction of catalysts into the reservoir for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), Vorsana plans to incorporate NanosTech's ISUT technology into their one-of-a-kind catalytic-based Innovation Hub geared at enabling Canada to achieve its 2030 emission reduction goals.

What segregates Nanos from their peers is their comprehensive approach to GHG reduction, a multifaceted approach to bitumen extraction while significantly improving their customer's bottom line. Their capacity to connect the dots between practices and create a highly adaptable technology that could be employed across sites is setting key players up for the long-term sustainability it has been craving since the energy sector downturn in 2015. With many oilfield workers being laid off through the duration of the pandemic, this will be music to a lot of people's ears.