Test-driving new technology

Test-driving new technology

Alberta’s NGIF Emissions Testing Centre program, with funding partners including Natural Resources Canada, Tourmaline Oil, Perpetual Energy, and the University of Calgary are offering real-world testing for new emissions reduction technologies.

Testing Emissions Technologies

When you’re shopping for a vehicle, you can kick the tires but you won’t know how it handles until you drive it. The same is true when developing technologies – processes, and equipment – to help reduce emissions. A new idea might look good on paper, but the real proof is an actual test run.

To that end, in April 2021 through funding support from Natural Resources Canada, NGIF Capital (NGIF) launched the NGIF Emissions Testing Centre (ETC) program. Additional in-kind funding support was provided by the University of Calgary, Tourmaline Oil Corp. (Tourmaline), Perpetual Energy Ltd. (Perpetual) as host site contributors to the program. Part of the ETC simulates emissions testing at a lab scale at the University of Calgary while a live-test facility is located at the West Wolf Lake Gas Processing Plant, jointly owned by Tourmaline and Perpetual, near Edson. The plant is operated by Tourmaline.

What is the 'NGIF'?

NGIF is a Canadian firm offering grant and equity financing for cleantech startups with solutions for the gaseous energy sector. NGIF is unique as it brings Canada’s energy industry leadership to every investment taking startups and their ideas from concept to commercialization. NGIF operates Industry Grants (the original Natural Gas Innovation Fund), the ETC, and Cleantech Ventures, an equity fund for natural gas.

Tourmaline is Canada’s largest natural gas producer and has a remarkable emissions reduction record: since 2013, while Tourmaline’s production rose by 490%, emissions intensity was cut by 41%. With a corporate focus on significantly reducing emissions – primarily by addressing methane emissions – Tourmaline is an ideal host for the ETC.

The NGIF ETC program gives cleantech inventors and startups an opportunity to test their innovations in real industrial conditions at the gas plant, allowing improved understanding of how a given technology could be expected to perform at a commercial scale. In addition to working with engineering and other experts from Tourmaline, inventors also get support and guidance from highly qualified researchers at the University of Calgary. This is just one of Tourmaline’s many initiatives to reduce emissions.

Since the NGIF ETC started in 2021, more than 15 methane detection and monitoring technologies have been tested. Among them:

  • Altomaxx Technologies Inc. tested their drone-based methane sensors that detect leak locations along pipelines, at well sites, and at natural gas facilities. The ETC provides Newfoundland-based Altomaxx with a controlled environment to evaluate different drone flight patterns, the accuracy of the emissions sensors, and other data
  • Qube Technologies tested their continuous emissions monitoring technology. Calgary-based Qube is a leading provider of environmental monitoring technologies, especially continuous emissions monitoring capable of detecting methane leaks around the clock, every day.
  • Kinitics Automation has developed a valve actuator using their ‘Bundled Wire’ technology, which uses shape memory alloys (SMAs) to produce force and displacement. This technology has been tested both at the ETC lab (University of Calgary) and field host sites (Tourmaline).
  • Kuva Systems is testing a camera that uses non-thermal short wave infrared light (SWIR) to detect emissions of hydrocarbon gases at the ETC field site (Tourmaline/Perpetual gas plant).
  • Westgen Technologies is testing two EPOD instrument air and power units in the field (Tourmaline well site facilities) to evaluate the compressor’s reliability, emission reduction potential, and ability to operate using unprocessed fuel gas under field operating conditions.
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