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Climate Change Polarization? We have an App for that.

A state of polarization has stalemated our country regarding energy and fossil fuel development, summed up well by Annette Verschuren and Derek Evans (The Globe & Mail: “For unity’s sake, it’s time to bridge the gap between energy and climate”) earlier this month, “we can’t ignore climate change and we can’t just turn off the fossil fuel taps.”

If fossil fuels are going to remain an important part of the mix, it only makes sense that the energy required for our society to thrive is produced as efficiently and cleanly as possible. Using less energy to make energy, using less water to make energy, and generating less emissions and other waste products to make energy are all imperatives that are driving an increased focus on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) metrics for the industry. If the energy industry is to ever to find growth again, we can and must find ways to realize these environmental and social goals.

Annette’s and Derek’s thoughts are echoed in many other articles pertaining to this energy polarization that I’ve read in the news recently, each of which has given me pause. While I fully agree that the issue does indeed exist, none of these articles specifically address what industry should be doing about it. What if Canadian oil was undeniably the best, in terms of ESG, oil around? Acceleware’s RF XL technology, in my (very strong) opinion, can ensure Canada’s oil sands and heavy oil has the strongest ESG performance of any oil produced on earth. While the discussion around a need for a ‘silver bullet’ innovation may feel about as plausible as a quest for the holy grail to some, I strongly believe Acceleware has this silver bullet solution in hand (yes – you read that right). But in order for game-changing innovations like RF XL to break the stalemate, we need Canadian oil producers to support them by trying them now, not five or ten years from now. We also need governments at all levels to make it compelling for oil producers to take this risk through royalty, tax or other incentives.

Acceleware is passionate about our potential and the profound impact that a technology like ours could deliver. We have been exhaustively vetted and so thoroughly de-risked that at this point we are completely ready to get the full solution in the ground. Now our challenge is quickly becoming how to commercialize faster so that we can deliver better ESG performance now, not ten years from now (after we’ve missed the Paris agreement targets by a mile and Canadian oil operators are still struggling to secure market access and capital). As Heath Williamson wrote here last month, Canadian heavy oil is needed now not only for transportation, but also for petrochemicals, and a myriad of other value-added products, a reality that will hold true well into the future. Indeed, we can’t just turn off the taps. Millions of barrels of oil are produced every day, and will continue to be produced for at least 20 and perhaps 50 or more years. However, as an industry and a society, shouldn’t we be pushing hard for the cleanest possible way to produce this energy?

A technology like RF XL is ideally suited to play a significant role in the energy transition that is lurking on the horizon. It offers a near term path to zero water and much lower GHG production of heavy oil. Amazingly, we think we can do that at the same time as lowering both capital and operating costs by 40%. These are results that both ends of the polarization argument can appreciate. It doesn’t have to be an ‘either-or’ conversation. RF XL’s balance of economic and environmental performance offers a solution that creates a middle ground wide enough that most Canadians could support it comfortably.

Since we believe we have a ‘win-win’ in our hands, the question we ask ourselves every day at Acceleware is what can we do to make it happen sooner (like now!)? We continue to actively pursue oil sands partners to fast-track a commercial-scale test of RF XL. We have also provided clear feedback to Alberta government on how the TIER program can be structured to encourage near-term field trials of technology like RF XL.

In other initiatives to fast-track commercialization, we’ve been spending more time and effort as members of the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN) to find ways that collaboration and involvement might help us achieve our commercialization goals. In May of this year we were invited to join CRIN on a trip to Ottawa to showcase six companies driving innovation in energy and industry from across the country. Following that trip, we set in motion an AXE / CRIN breakthrough dialogue event in June where thought leaders from the industry gathered to discuss action plans that could address commercialization challenges. We had a packed room and came away with some real actionable ideas that need further work.

The rubber has now hit the road - earlier this month we kicked off two workgroups that evolved from the CRIN breakthrough dialogue session. The first group is creating ways to help accelerate transformative innovation testing and adoption. This is a generic goal for the heavy oil and oil sands space, though we hope our own experience at Acceleware can provide some context for the group. The goal of the second is to accelerate commercialization by developing ways to fast-track a large-scale field pilot of RF XL once we complete a successful single well pilot. Without a plan in place, it could take two or more years to obtain funding, secure an operating partner to host the test, and complete any financing required. This workgroup will look to pave the way to execution by lining up interest in advance from funders, investors, and operators. The group will also work to ensure the plans for the second test will meet the expectations of the industry for a commercial scale operation of a new recovery technology.

In our push towards commercialization we recognize the importance of communication and education. We are excited to have been asked to collaborate with JWN on a series of stories that will be published throughout the first quarter of 2020. The opportunity to deliver the story of RF XL in more depth is going to be a great way to start the new year.

We believe we have the holy grail for Canadian oil in our hands. Whether you are working in the oil industry, government, or just a concerned Canadian, help prove us right or help prove us wrong. Innovation can make a prosperous and clean energy industry a reality – so let’s figure out which innovations can actually work in the field and start using them. Wherever you can push for transformative change, where you can find a constructive way to support the commercialization of such innovations, let’s go for it. We all have a role to play in shaping the future of this industry and our economy – let’s make it happen. The opportunity is right here, right in front of us. It doesn’t get more exciting than that.

MIKE TOURIGNY VP Commercialization, RF Heating

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