TheFutureEconomy.ca: How is the current context of depressed commodity prices, cost constraints, and growing environmental regulation a roadblock affecting the energy industry and the need to innovate?
Koleya Karringten: The energy industry is currently facing challenges on multiple fronts: environmental regulation, social licence, the costs of production, and a lack of efficiency in the field. All of this combined seems to be hitting the energy sector at the same time. It is made worse now that the carbon tax is doubling and people are pushing for renewables because they are not being properly educated on their dependence on the oil industry. It comes at a bad time when production costs are at an all-time high in Alberta, while the price per barrel is still very low. The combination of these factors has created the need for innovation but the reality of a depressed economy has removed the innovation budgets.
“The energy industry is currently facing challenges on multiple fronts: environmental regulation, social licence, the costs of production, and a lack of efficiency in the field.”
What are the main challenges faced by technology entrepreneurs today and how much does Canada do to support the development of innovative solutions for the energy segment?
The main challenge in my opinion is funding and technology adoption. There are many incredible and revolutionary technologies currently being developed, sadly they get halted in various stages of development. Either there is not enough funding to continue development, or the technology is in the commercialization phase and is unable to find a company willing to adopt it.
The Canadian Government has excellent programs in place to support companies to develop technologies such as Alberta Innovates, SR&ED, ERA, SDTC, NAIT, and IRAP, to name a few. These programs are designed to help develop technology as well as to commercialize it. Absolute Combustion has received an incredible amount of support from the municipal, provincial, and federal governments in terms of support and funding. However, while these programs support development of technology, they do not support the operational expenses a technological entrepreneur incurs. This area is where most companies will fail because they do not have a way, outside of friends, family, and angel investors to keep operational expense capital flowing.
How can established energy industry players, governments, and academia better collaborate with small technology companies to support innovation?
There is a need for government, academia, and industry to streamline their process and make it easier for companies to collaborate with them. I know of government and industry programs to support a small business to develop solutions for major industry players. The issue for the small business is getting a major player to agree to work with them; there are little to no avenues a small business has to approach a large company for collaboration. If an organization was formed that could work on behalf of government, industry, and academia, be a single point of entry for the major companies, and be simple for companies to work with, that would be a great opportunity.
“The Canadian Government has excellent programs in place to support companies to develop technologies such as Alberta Innovates, SR&ED, ERA, SDTC, NAIT, and IRAP, to name a few.”
Please describe Absolute Combustion’s technology and the benefits it offers to oil and gas companies.
Absolute Combustion has designed, produced and tested a completely revolutionary, near flameless burner technology that dramatically improves the key performance characteristics of industrial combustion systems. The ACI Absolute Extreme BurnerTM provides a clear and powerful value proposition for the oil and gas industry and other applications. This includes meeting increasing regulatory standards through lower emissions, reducing operational expenses, and increasing workplace safety.
The Absolute Extreme Burner (AEB) offers competitive advantages and benefits over the standard conventional burner in the market due to significant improvements in thermal efficiency, which means ACI is able to transfer heat 35% or better than existing draft combustion technologies. This results in significant reductions in fuel consumption or significant improvements in production of process materials. For example, if a barrel of oil is at $30 and while using a standard conventional burner is used, the company will be able to process 100 barrels of oil per day the revenue would be $3000. However, if the Absolute Extreme Burner improves the production of process by 35%, it will produce 135 barrels of oil per day. This would deliver revenues of $4050, an increase of $1050 per day. Alternatively, one 20MMTBU burner will create approximate 1 tonne of carbon dioxide per hour resulting in a tax of $480 per day, which would result in an annual carbon tax of $175,200 per burner. The AEB would reduce this carbon tax by 35%, which is a savings of $61,320 annually per burner. Add this to the 35% reduction in fuel cost and the return on investment starts to become attractive.
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What does the road to commercialization look like for ACI in Canada and beyond?
The road to commercialization for ACI has been a long one. After 8 years of being a pure research and development company, we are only now entering the commercialization phase. The road we are taking is in multiple directions; we are looking at oil and gas, aerospace, greenhouses, plastics densification, soil remediation and boilers at the same time in multiple countries. To do this we are vetting potential investors, prioritizing new staff hires, diligently refining our policies and procedures, all while field testing with multiple companies in various applications to garner as much industry support as possible.
“Big business has shifted its mindset out of the past and into the future where innovation and social responsibility are driving forces for change.”
With your technology as an example, what is needed for Canadian energy innovation and new sustainable technologies to be developed faster and exported internationally?
Funding and a brilliant idea are what is needed to develop a sustainable technology fast, and that can be exported both on a local and international level. What helped ACI on the funding side was the help of Alberta Innovates various funding programs. We were able to leverage our shareholder capital with grant funding to stretch it further and get the continued research we required. NAIT, University of Alberta, and IRAP all contributed to the funding as well as allowing us to work with brilliant people that helped the development of our technology.
What is your vision for the successful transition of Canada’s energy industry?
In a perfect world Canada’s energy industry would be a shinning example on the global stage for collaboration and innovation. In my vision big business has shifted its mindset out of the past and into the future where innovation and social responsibility are driving forces for change. Big business will be willing to try out new technologies and government will do more to fund energy innovation. All of this would require an incredible amount of collaboration, but if we could all share the goal for Canada to be a world leader in energy innovation, then this is a very possible reality.