The president's blog

Submitted Oct 31, 2017

Alberta's Oil Sands Needs a Game-Changing Technology

A few recent and upcoming events are prompting me to finally write a new blog post. I recently gave a talk about RF XL at the Canadian Heavy Oil Association’s fall conference, where there was a lot of buzz about making Alberta’s bitumen and heavy oil more competitive. Along with partial upgrading and reducing diluent requirements (a necessity with constrained pipeline capacity), oil sands and heavy oil producers are obsessed with operating costs — with good reason. A lot has been said recently about the competitiveness of oil sands and heavy oil, particularly from a Canadian perspective. There have been many articles on the subject in the press including an excellent one by Jesse Snyder of the Financial Post. The general theme of these articles is that the Canadian oil sands and heavy oil industry has a rich history of technological innovation. This innovation capability has been and will continue to be applied to existing oil sands mining, steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) and other production methods to drive down operating costs. Mr. Snyder reports that some oil sands producers already enjoy operating breakeven at West Texas Intermediate (WTI) prices below US$40 per barrel (bbl). These are levels unheard of as recently as 2014, and they are a real testament to the sector’s capacity to innovate. While oil sands producers have benefitted from lower natural gas fuel costs, they have also significantly reduced non-fuel costs as well. Producers have responded to the downturn by reducing both internal labour costs and external supplier costs.  However, mining and SAGD have an inherently high labour component to their operations. One has to wonder then what happens when the oil sands labour and service market gets tight again — whether through increased oil prices driving demand up, or through participants leaving the industry and constraining supply. To truly meet the competitiveness challenge, oil sands producers need a production method that is inherently lower in energy requirement, shielded from natural gas price swings, and less labour intensive. RF XL meets these requirements. Acceleware estimates that the best performing oil sands producers have operating costs in the US$7.25 per bbl this year.  By taking advantage of the structure of Alberta’s electricity market, and with its inherent low labour content, we believe RF XL’s operating costs are less than US$6 per bbl. As natural gas, labour, and electricity input costs rise in the future, we expect RF XL’s cost advantage over the best SAGD operations to grow from US$1.25 per bbl today to nearly US$6 per bbl in ten years.

However, one thing is missing here – operating expenses are only one component of competitiveness. In order to grow the market share for our oil sands, new capital investment is required. To achieve the operating breakevens mentioned above, multi-billion-dollar investments in facilities are required. Once we add the capital expenditure and the associated cost of that capital, often in the order of $15 - $20 per bbl, we still see that oil prices have to rise significantly before new oil sands facilities become a reality. This is why It has proven so difficult for producers to raise capital over the past three years — and it’s leaving a significant resource undeveloped. In order to achieve rapid growth, a new production method is required that not only has a low capital cost per barrel, but is also scalable from a 1000 bbls per day to 100,000 bbls per day — RF XL is designed to provide precisely that. RF XL is designed to allow new oil sands operations to commence with a modest capital investment of under $100 million, compared to over $1 billion required by state of the art SAGD and mining operations. RF XL is designed to be scalable with mobile capital investment.

To put this undeveloped resource in perspective, let’s look at how much bitumen in Alberta’s oil sands will not get produced unless new facilities are built.  Currently Canada has 173 billion bbls of proven oil reserves - 97% of which are found within Alberta’s oil sands. Yet this is only a fraction of the total oil in place. Alberta contains 1,928 billion bbls of oil resources in place. The reason that only a small portion of the total oil in place is considered to be reserves is based on current technological and economic conditions. Today’s conditions suggest that the oil sands contain 165 billion bbls of established reserves, split between SAGD and other in situ (133 billion bbls) and mining (32 billion bbls) recovery methods. What if a new technology came along that dramatically changed the economic reality of bitumen?

We believe Acceleware’s RF XL technology can be applied to Alberta’s oil resources that are not yet considered reserves due to its ability to safely, cleanly, and efficiently produce deposits that are either too shallow, too deep, or too thin to be produced using existing technologies. RF XL not only has the ability to produce oil within the existing 165 billion bbls of reserves being recovered by surface mining and in-situ techniques today, it also has the potential to unlock an additional 1 trillion or more bbls of in place bitumen. If RF XL is successfully commercialized, it could increase Canada’s remaining oil reserves significantly, potentially moving the country into the top position globally.

The freedom that RF XL can offer oil sands and heavy oil producers is staggering. You might be thinking “oh great, more oil to depress prices.” However, the impact is not just about adding more oil to the market, but giving operators the freedom to choose to produce from resource pools that offer better economic returns and environmental performance. By increasing the size of the ‘oil sand box’ we can help ensure Alberta oil sands can be globally competitive, both in terms of the cost of production and carbon footprint.

Acceleware is commercializing RF XL to address known issues with existing oil sands production techniques. Surface mining has significant environmental impacts due to water use, usage of tailings ponds, and surface land disturbance. Mining also has a break-even oil price in the US$65-US$70 WTI per bbl range. While mining represents 32 billion bbls of total proven reserves, industry experts do not anticipate any new mining operations will be approved or even proposed, which could leave the majority of those proven reserves untapped. RF XL can eliminate the use of water and tailings ponds, shrink the surface land disturbance significantly, and can offer break even prices below US$40 WTI while potentially unlocking more 'mineable' resource than has been possible to date.

While SAGD has been a powerful technology for the development of the oil sands for over 20 years, it has operational and economic limitations that have required operators to accept lower quality reserves over time as the best assets have already been identified and are in production. RF XL opens up a significant new base of in situ resource for operators to explore and develop where economic returns and environmental performance can be globally competitive.

So, while RF XL may certainly be a game changer in altering the competitiveness of Alberta bitumen from an economic perspective – what if RF XL could actually help brand Alberta oil sands as “Green Oil?” Don Pittis recently examined this concept in an article on the CBC website. Producing oil using RF XL would provide a clear path to “Green Oil” — no external water use, no tailings ponds, no solvents and a clear road to zero carbon emissions. If Canada and Alberta are serious about value added branding for commodities such as oil, then game-changing innovation, not just incremental innovation is required. Industry and governments at all levels must come together to seize this opportunity and make it happen.

Acceleware continues to do our part — develop the technology and extend the base of intellectual property surrounding the RF XL technology. Research and development work continues to focus on increasing the efficiency and reach of the technology to allow it to efficiently produce oil from a wider range of resources, increasing the choice and opportunity for operators to develop resources in the oil sands. The company has filed six patents to date and expects to file five more relating to RF XL in 2017. The most recent patent Acceleware has filed expands the range of antennas available to address the needs of different reservoirs with a system that self-forms in the formation, and is constructed with standard materials used in the oilfield.

Beyond intellectual property development, Acceleware has continued to work on practical and operational aspects of the commercialization process. In order to ensure that the technology is designed for success not only in the planned commercial scale test, but also for commercial deployment, Acceleware is building partnerships with oil and gas service companies. These partnerships will serve to continue to evolve and refine RF XL to make it simple to deploy using standard oil field processes, maximize its efficiency, and ensure it is robust and able to operate despite the challenges of deployment into oil bearing formations.

Next week I will participate in a panel discussion at Spark 2017, a conference hosted by Emissions Reduction Alberta and Alberta Innovates. We will be discussing Accessing Investments to Scale Up Technology in Canada’s Oil Sands. A topic we have first-hand knowledge of as we assemble a consortium of partners to conduct a commercial-scale test of RF XL in the Alberta oil sands through 2018 and 2019. The commercial-scale test will build on the success of our 1/20th scale field test completed this year where we were able to prove that RF XL can deliver power as designed and heat the sub-surface as predicted. With those results in hand we are now in position to move ahead as we continue to work with GE and round out a consortium of other partners to complete the commercial-scale test.

On the seismic software front we recently attended SEG 2017 in Houston, Texas. SEG is the primary trade show and conference for geoscientists in North America. I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout and optimism compared to recent years. We had an excellent response to new features such as elastic modelling in AxWAVE, and enabling cloud capability across our seismic fleet. Enabling cloud is a real benefit for oil and gas companies and seismic service providers as it provides them with a low capital investment way to scale up seismic processing capability during the recovery. We had many good conversations with old and new customers, and it was great to see how Houston was recovering phenomenally well after hurricane Harvey.

Stay tuned, I’ll try my best to update this blog more frequently.



This blog post contains “forward-looking information” within the meaning of Canadian securities legislation. Forward-looking information generally means information about an issuer’s business, capital, or operations that is prospective in nature, and includes disclosure about the issuer’s prospective financial performance or financial position.

The forward-looking information in this blog post includes information about the market size of its RF XL technology, the operating and capital cost expectations for RF XL, the expectations for future intellectual property development, and developing commercial partnerships with oil and gas service companies to complete a commercial-scale field test of RF XL. Acceleware assumes that the methodology used to quantify and classify the Alberta oil sands resource base is reasonable given the characteristics expected of the RF XL technology, that its current economic, electro-magnetic and reservoir simulations underpinning its commercial cost structure estimates are reasonable,  that current research and development effort will result in future patent filings, and that the Corporation will eventually succeed in developing the partnerships required to test and  commercialize RF XL.

Actual results may vary from the forward-looking information in this blog post due to certain material risk factors. These risk factors are described in detail in Acceleware’s continuous disclosure documents, which are filed on SEDAR at

Acceleware assumes no obligation to update or revise the forward-looking information in this blog post, unless it is required to do so under Canadian securities legislation.




Submitted Mar 04, 2016

Finding opportunity, and success, despite oil prices…

It has been a while since the last blog post, and I’ll dispense with the usual excuses. Suffice it to say we have been extremely busy, and I am quite enthusiastic about our recent successes, despite the persistent low oil prices. Since my last blog entry, we have been quite successful landing and fulfilling software contracts with clients such as Repsol and other major oil companies, and service providers such as Thrust Belt Imaging which has kept the seismic software team busy through the end of 2015 and into the first quarter of 2016. We’ve also been getting significant interest in our full waveform inversion (FWI) software and I believe it will be leading our growth in the seismic imaging software space for the coming years. AxRTM and AxWave also had significant sales to end of 2015, showing we have become a player in this space. The fact that we have seen continued success with seismic software has me hopeful that oil companies and service providers will continue to invest in seismic data in this low oil price environment. My theory is that seismic data processing (and reprocessing) to find hydrocarbons or characterize existing reserves is a relatively low cost way (compared to drilling wells, especially deep water wells) to be ready for the price rebound. In the same vein oil sands and heavy oil producers are sitting on extensive known reserves looking for better economics. While the price is low, companies can invest in research and development with the goal of improving economics for when a rebound (even if it’s a slow rebound) occurs. We spent a lot of time in 2015 developing our proprietary RF heating technology in the hopes we could use the technology to help producers drive down costs and improve their economics. Starting this year we see significant interest and growth potential from our RF heating business based on technical advancements we made in 2015, and I’ll focus most of the post today on our progress in that space.

It is clear that many R&D budgets in the oil and gas sector were eliminated or significantly reduced in 2015, and we did see some prospects defer research or pilot programs pending a rebound in oil prices. However, we have also seen a number of clients continue to pursue and advance RF heating work in spite of the low price environment because they believe that RF heating is a game changer. RF heating offers the oil industry a compelling combination of meaningful environmental benefits as well as significantly reduced production costs.

Our approach in the RF heating space has been to focus on developing technology and intellectual property that can be productized and readily adopted by the industry. While oil sands are a high-profile target given all the negative media attention on how ‘dirty’ they are (we can save that argument for another day) from a water use and greenhouse gas perspective, we have also been cognizant that our technology is applicable to any heavy oil deposit, and that it can create significant value in creating profitable production alternatives where steam is not viable.

As we worked with our clients and partners, it has become apparent to us that there are limitations to the use of what I’ll refer to here as ‘traditional’ RF heating or RF 1.0 that will make it challenging if not impossible to see it replace SAGD on a meaningful scale. RF 1.0 is technology that has been adapted from high power communications systems, utilizing traditional RF generators, transmission lines and antennas. The limitations of RF 1.0 include:

  • Power transmission losses for deep wells reduce cost advantages
  • Need to use complex materials and sophisticated cooling systems
  • Custom antenna designs and non-standard components significantly increase the cost of deployment and the risk of failure downhole

In my blog post of June 2015, I mentioned our team has diligently attacked those barriers, and we have created new technology that we believe could address and eliminate all of these barriers for RF heating. We are very pleased that we have been successful in filing a patent for this new technology and are in the process of filing several additional related patents to further protect this valuable IP – so called RF 2.0. Also last year, we were able to successfully test critical components of RF 2.0 in a bench scale test. Further lab development and testing is on-going now.

Below are a few pictures from our early tests that show the testing tank – filled with wet sand and our antenna assembly inside.  The tank is insulated and instrumented with thermometers to monitor temperatures at different locations within the sand and the antenna.

At this point we are beginning to increase our focus on commercializing the technology while we continue to refine and develop additional IP.  To that end, we have reorganized our executive team.  Michael Tourigny, our CMO since January 2014, will now take on the role of VP Commercialization, RF Heating to lead our work in positioning Acceleware as the pioneer and leader in cost effective, deployable and commercial RF heating solutions. Eric Trouillot will continue to lead sales and marketing efforts for seismic imaging software and oil and gas HPC services, while the marketing function will now report directly to me.

Mike’s top priority will be generating additional support from industry to continue to develop these technologies and see them through to commercial product stage. He will also be working hard to secure government funding and grants where possible to help us accelerate our commercialization efforts.  In addition to the IRAP grant we received in 2015 the team has been pursuing several other sources of government supported funding for the development and commercialization of clean technologies such as RF.  Our goal is to secure and complete one or more field tests of our technologies in 2016/2017 and then transition to larger scale production tests in late 2017 to 2018. Now that we have filed for patent protection and completed proof of concept testing for our technology, look for Mike to spearhead an effort to increase the public profile of our activities in this area.  Mike will be attending the Propel Energy Technology forum in Calgary on March 16th and 17th to meet with industry leaders and increase our exposure to technology innovators within the industry.

In other business, we announced our latest version of AxFWI at the EAGE show in Madrid in June 2015 and have continued to develop and refine the platform since then. At this point while budgets are strained in oil and gas, we are seeing growing interest in the product and solid validation of our modular, flexible design for full waveform inversion software. Our solution allows clients to adjust and customize the platform to meet their specific needs and approaches to the science behind this powerful tool. This technology has great potential to give users much better models of the sub-surface, which in turn leads to better images and better drilling decisions. At this point we have several IOC’s and service companies interested in or evaluating this leading edge platform. We continue to be the only source for a fully-functional commercial FWI product in the market, and will continue to improve the product and solidify our leadership position with marquee clients.

As always, stay tuned!



Submitted Jun 02, 2015

About That Oil Price

First off, apologies for the long interval between blog postings, I really have no excuse other than these are interesting times for a small oil and gas technology company. Thanks to those of you thoughtful enough to remind me, repeatedly in some cases, of my lapse.

Anyway, the price of oil. I don’t pretend to understand the reasons behind the recent collapse in the price of oil, I naively suspect it is a result of overproduction of expensive oil in the face of slowing demand growth. Having said that, I often wonder why certain day to day price movements occur – why does a framework for a nuclear deal with Iran (which threatens to increase supply) result in a price increase? As I write this there is active debate about whether the API can accurately forecast US crude inventory levels, causing major fluctuations in the price of WTI. I am comfortable with the notion that eventually demand will increase, supporting a higher price and therefore making more expensive production economic again. When? I wish I could tell. The good news for Acceleware is that our technologies can make expensive to produce oil cheaper. It is said that the most expensive to produce oil resources are shale oil, oil sands, and deep water. Acceleware has solutions for at least two categories. Our seismic products reduce the cost of exploration in deep water by reducing the risk of drilling expensive dry wells. This is exactly why the largest companies continue to invest in cutting edge seismic imaging. Included in this group are Turkish Petroleum and Repsol, who have already invested in Acceleware RTM technology in 2015. Our RF heating technology may dramatically reduce the cost of producing oil from oil sands. Not to mention the environment impact – a recent report compiled by the Council of Canadian Academics and commissioned by Natural Resources Canada concludes that the application of technologies such as RF heating can and should be used to reduce the environmental footprint of oil sands development. A summary of the report’s key findings were reported by the Globe and Mail last week. So in the long term I like where we are. In the short term, it’s going to be challenging.

The collapse in the price of oil has not been positive for Acceleware in the short term, that’s clear. But how negative it will be is less clear. Over the first few months of 2015, we have seen a wait-and-see attitude with seismic customers – The Repsol agreement suggests this is selectively turning around. The question will be whether the broader delay turns semi-permanent. Our customers for RF heating are re-evaluating research and development budgets, so we have seen delays there, too. However, recent events suggest both geophysical (seismic) and R&D (RF heating) spend is largely intact for 2015, at least among our biggest customers. So we will focus on making our products and services appealing to cost conscious oil and gas companies, opportunistically diversify beyond oil and gas, rationalize our cost structure, and find innovative ways to finance the development of our technology.

As we announced late last year at SEG 2014, we have developed and released AxFWI – an innovative, modular full waveform inversion application. We already have an initial customer for AxFWI and are seeing a lot of interest. AxFWI allows oil companies to make the most out of its geophysical resources by automating a currently manual process while improving the quality of the output.  In time for EAGE 15 in Madrid we will release a new improved version of AxFWI.

The RF heating team has been very busy over the last nine months. In the second half of last year we started developing proprietary RF heating technology to go along with our AxHEAT simulation software and services. We received funding from National Research Council – Industrial Research Assistance Program to address technical issues that we feel may limit the applicability of RF heating technology. That R&D effort has been successful to the point where we have begun working on related development with a major oil and gas technology. Another client is planning a field test of an RF heating prototype this summer.  In addition, we designed and constructed a bench-scale prototype of an RF heating system to test the effect of RF heating on various media. We presented a paper on Electromagnetic Heating: A SAGD Alternative Strategy to Exploit Heavy Oil Reservoirs at the World Heavy Oil Congress in Edmonton this spring.

In 2015 we intend to design, construct and test a prototype of our proprietary technology – hopefully with the assistance of industry and government partners. As always our partners are intrigued with the promise of RF heating – lower cost production, very little external water use and therefore water treatment requirement, and the ability to use renewable sources of electricity to dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of oil sands production.

So, despite the challenging times, Acceleware is moving forward on all fronts, and we should be well positioned once the oil price does rebound. Hopefully it’s sooner rather than later. In the meantime I’ll try to keep you posted more often.


Submitted Jul 10, 2014

Oil and gas companies will spend about US$723-billion on exploration and production (E&P) in 2014, an increase of 6.1% from 2013 according to Barclays Bank.

These rising costs, combined with the ongoing pressure for oil and gas companies to deliver higher returns for shareholders, will spark the adoption of newer technologies. While they are going to be spending more, every dollar will need to earn a return as hydrocarbons become harder to find and harder still to produce. Good news, Acceleware has some answers.

At Acceleware we are beginning to see the second tier of E&P companies embrace more advanced seismic imaging and modeling software. They’re doing this to have access to better images and more accurate information before making critical drilling decisions. Continued increases in acquisition costs and investment in deepwater drilling programs provide support for the increased adoption of RTM in the industry. Wood Mackenzie has forecast the volume of deepwater wells to more than double in the coming 10 years with close to 10% annual growth in this category alone. Any E&P company operating in complex geology knows that money invested in accurate seismic imaging will result in reduced drilling costs. With AxRTM, Acceleware’s reverse time migration software, accurate seismic imaging now has a favourable return on investment, whether they take on the imaging themselves (see Ecopetrol S.A. and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. below) or rely on contractors such as Dolphin Geophysical.

Our sales of AxRTM reflect this trend with Ecopetrol, Colombia’s primary petroleum company, selecting the application to help develop a sophisticated internal seismic imaging team, allowing the company to better manage and enhance the results they receive from seismic contractors.

Australia's largest independent oil and gas company, Woodside Petroleum, is also following suit, adopting AxWave, Acceleware’s high performance seismic modeling software, to simulate data acquisition in complex geological areas.

Earlier this month we signed a reseller agreement with Open Geophysical Inc., Houston based seismic software company, to integrate and resell AxRTM within their software. Under the agreement Dolphin Geophysical ASA, a marine acquisition company, will be the initial customer. The Norwegian based company has identified reverse time migration as a crucial component for their processing and imaging services.

On the RF Heating side of the business we are continuing to see a growing demand for this emerging technology as the major E&P companies invest in R&D to combat rising production costs and unlock stranded resources. Our work to commercialize our expertise in this field is continuing as we get ready to launch AxHeat, a new software application that helps heavy oil producers model and manage the use of RF Heating in their reservoirs. Currently in beta release, we are working with several initial customers who will license the software and we have had positive feedback from the leading reservoir simulation software provider, whose software is integrated with AxHeat. This year we will be increasingly active in industry groups and events for the heavy oil and oil sands sectors as we build awareness and adoption of RF Heating.

Looking forward the next couple of months will be a busy few for the team as we attend, sponsor and present at a number of key industry events including NVIDIAs GPU Technology Conference (GTC) and the Oil and Gas High Performance Computing Workshop held in Houston at Rice University.

Held in San Jose, March 17-27, GTC is the world’s largest GPU developer’s conference. The event showcases the latest GPU advancements and applications and offers face-to-face interaction with industry experts. It is a key event for promoting Acceleware’s CUDA training and consulting services. As per last year, Acceleware will be teaching a number of programmer tutorials.

Relocated to new venue with a larger capacity, the Oil and Gas High Performance Computing Workshop is becoming a standard fixture in our event calendar. Acceleware’s professional services and seismic software will have an increased presence at the workshop this year with an exhibit and a technology pitch.

Well it’s back to work for me. Stayed tuned for the next update.

Submitted Jul 10, 2014

I am excited to introduce you to the latest addition to the Acceleware family, AxHeat! Officially released June 5, AxHeat is a modeling application that enables heavy oil producers to accurately simulate the impact of using radio frequency (RF) heating to mobilize in situ heavy oil reserves. The product is the first of its kind, specifically built for simulating the RF heating process within a reservoir. We have seen growing interest from oil companies researching this emerging technology and we believe AxHeat will play an important role in the commercialization of RF heating. The application integrates Computer Modelling Group Ltd.'s STARS reservoir simulation platform with Acceleware's electromagnetic simulator to accurately model the heating process within a reservoir. AxHeat tracks both the petrophysical and electromagnetic properties of the reservoir as they evolve over time, dynamically adjusting heating patterns, fluid temperatures, pressures, viscosities, etc. in response to electromagnetic radiation. For more information on RF heating download the whitepaper here

On the seismic side of the family, the product line is continuing to gain attention as the applications mature. Most notable has been the growth of AxWave, Acceleware’s 3D finite difference seismic modeling application. It took center stage at the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers (EAGE) 76th annual conference and exhibition held in Amsterdam June 16-19, 2014. The AxWave presentations were packed and we even ran out of brochures!  We see good growth potential for AxWave as it is of interest to a broader target market than our AxRTM and gives us a new group to target who are interested in better tools to help them design and optimize seismic surveys.

AxRTM, Acceleware’s reverse time migration (RTM) application, continues to gain popularity, with Houston based geophysical software provider GeoTomo recently signing a reseller agreement. The agreement allows GeoTomo to integrate AxRTM into the GeoThrust seismic data processing system. One person at EAGE commented “wow, you guys are everywhere now.”

The development team continues to work on the next seismic product, Full Waveform Inversion (FWI). FWI is truly a killer app for seismic processing - it has the potential to fully automate the painstakingly iterative process of manual earth model building. It will allow oil and gas producers to dramatically reduce their “where to drill” decision time and expense. 

Submitted Aug 22, 2013

The lazy days of summer are coming to an end and fall is fast approaching. I hope you all enjoyed the summer and I’m glad to get back at my blog. Things are really heating up at Acceleware! In my last post, I promised to elaborate on why we are so excited about the prospect of heating heavy oil and bitumen reservoirs using radio frequency electrical energy (what we call RF heating). Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that unconventional oil production, most notably Alberta’s oil sands, face some perceived and some very real environmental challenges. The Globe and Mail reports that a barrel of Alberta’s oil sands crude emits 14 to 20 per cent more green house gasses (GHG) than other crudes measured on a well to wheel basis. However, it may be surprising for some people to learn that even the in-situ steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) production method of Alberta’s oil sands does not emit as much GHG as the heavy oil extracted in California.

Then there’s the water. CAPP estimates that Alberta oil sands production used 170 million m3 of fresh water in 2011, almost half of what the City of Toronto uses in one year. It should be noted that water consumption drops dramatically with the shift from mining type oil sands extraction (3.1 barrels of water per barrel of oil) to the increasingly more common SAGD extraction (0.4 barrels of water per barrel of oil), and as of 2013 it is estimated that in-situ production has surpassed mining production.

Without a doubt, unconventional oil production, whether it is Alberta oil sands or other heavy oil deposits, uses water and energy in the extraction process. It is in everyone’s best interests to reduce these footprints. This is where RF heating comes in. What if you could reduce or eliminate the use of water in in-situ extraction of bitumen or heavy oil? What if you could use a more efficient way of heating those reservoirs to raise the viscosity of the oil so that it can be produced? What if you could produce oil from reservoirs that have no other production method? RF heating has the potential to do all these things. Instead of using steam to heat the reservoir (which uses water and emits GHG) RF heating uses electrical energy to heat the reservoir. Early estimates suggest that RF heating could be substantially more efficient than steam, so even if the electricity is produced using fossil fuel, it will emit less GHG. Not to mention that the electrical energy for RF heating could be generated from renewable sources – solar, wind or hydro.

Acceleware is helping several companies determine if RF heating is viable in a number of different applications – from oil sands to heavy oil, in Alberta and around the world. We have developed unique skills and software to analyze the effectiveness of RF heating in these applications. In addition, we are developing unique antenna designs, as we believe each application requires an optimized design. Soon we will be participating in pilot tests which will further demonstrate the effectiveness of this technology. The technology is still in its infancy, but if RF heating works it could be the biggest innovation in unconventional oil production in decades. A quick web search will show that several organizations are interested and actively working on RF heating. To name a few, Companies such as Suncor, Nexen, PDVSA, CononcoPhillips, Laricina, and ENI are studying, and in some cases testing the technology. Acceleware can participate in the RF heating space in a number of ways. We already provide simulation, antenna design and production monitoring expertise to our customers. We have coupled our electromagnetic simulation software with the industry leading reservoir simulation software to provide an end-to-end simulation solution. RF heating simulation requires a perfect synergy of expertise in electromagnetics, subsurface geophysics and reservoir knowledge and high performance computing – precisely Acceleware’s strengths. In the future, we could also participate in system integration including antenna and power system manufacturing. I’ll keep you posted of our progress in this exciting development.

Submitted Jun 07, 2013

Wow time flies, I’ve been promising this blog entry for a while so here goes. Exciting things are happening at Acceleware and as we move through 2013 Acceleware is more and more focused on oil and gas solutions and services. The Acceleware team continues to blend our in-house expertise in HPC, Geophysics and Electromagnetics to offer the energy industry technology solutions that are unique and compelling.

We started the year in Q1 with a strategic move to exit the medical imaging market via the licensing of AxRecon™ to SCANCO Medical of Zürich. This transaction marks another step in our ongoing strategy to focus on the Oil and Gas industry. Acceleware will retain the IP rights to the technology and we wish SCANCO success in expanding the use of AxRecon in the medical market.

In my last blog entry I discussed the difficulties facing oil and gas companies as they explore for harder to find petroleum reservoirs. Acceleware’s seismic imaging products such as reverse time migration (RTM), are helping to solve these challenges with state of the art algorithms and computational performance. RTM has become a standard imaging technique for complex offshore geologies such as the sub-salt challenges presented in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

RTM can also be used for challenging geologies on-shore. Land based RTM is an emerging market and an exciting opportunity for Acceleware. The land based RTM market requires lower operating costs meaning it has to be faster while using less hardware. Acceleware’s AxRTM™ is designed to run on a variety of platforms, and we are continuously improving the performance of the product. In 2012, utilizing the latest NVIDIA Kepler GPUs and enhanced software engineering we increased AxRTM performance by over 300%. In 2013, our developers are working hard to provide even better improvements. Acceleware’s seismic software partners are excited about the opportunity of using faster RTM for land exploration.

June is a big trade show month at Acceleware and on the 10th, Acceleware will be heading to London, UK to exhibit at the 75th European Association of GeoScientists and Engineers (EAGE) Conference. It will be stimulating to interact again with the market including potential and existing customers and our partners. Look for some exciting product announcements as well.

The following week will see the Acceleware team in Leipzig, Germany for the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) show. With HPC being such a key component to our value proposition for Oil and Gas, ISC is another opportunity to stay relevant and informed in this market.

Soon I will post another entry describing our recent involvement in a promising enhanced oil production technology called radio frequency heating. In the meantime, please review the presentation I gave at the Annual General Meeting of Acceleware shareholders.

Submitted Aug 31, 2012

I think it may be a good idea to explain why Acceleware is so excited about our seismic imaging roadmap. It is a truism in the petroleum industry that “all the easy oil has been found.” New meaningful reserves will only be discovered using innovative technology and techniques. Acceleware is assisting the world’s largest oil & gas players find new oil with its seismic imaging products. So how exactly does this work?

Seismic data acquisition and processing play a key role in oil & gas exploration. The aim is to use seismic data to provide a greater understanding of sub-surface geological structures and, hence, to determine their suitability for trapping valuable hydrocarbon reservoirs. Essentially, it’s used to decide where to drill wells. The cost (and risk) of drilling dry holes particularly off-shore is becoming astronomical. Add that to the fact that we are now searching for “hard” oil leads to the requirement for advanced seismic processing.

For the entire history of seismic processing, the ability to model the Earth physics has been limited by the computational power available at the time. Until relatively recently, seismic processing techniques were rather simplistic, necessarily relying on gross simplifying approximations purely because anything more complex was beyond the scope of existing computational resources. In the days of easy oil, conventional seismic processing was sufficient. However, the “hard” oil is now in complex geological formations (sub-salt, shale, sub-basalt, etc). Places where conventional seismic techniques have been challenged to successfully image. But now, advances in computer architecture over the last few years - particularly GPU computing, combined with improved algorithmic techniques have made it possible to process seismic data in much more accurate and realistic ways, honouring the physics of seismic wave transmission and reflection to unprecedented degrees. This is how the “hard” oil is going to be found.

How will Acceleware help? First we need to understand how oil & gas companies use seismic data. At the risk of oversimplifying the process, here is how it works. Someone determines that a particular geological formation is a candidate for exploration, but in order to determine where to drill a well an accurate 3D geological model is required. A decision is made to “shoot some seismic” – that is design a seismic acquisition program (a survey) that will provide clues to the underlying geology. Once the seismic survey is designed, the data is acquired in the field and then processed. At first the data is processed in a fairly conventional sense to produce a seismic image. Processing requires that the geophysicist already has a model of the earth. Usually the initial models are crude approximations, so processing is performed iteratively with the model being updated each time. At some point a decision is made that more advanced processing is required to refine the model in an area of interest. One such advanced method is Reverse Time Migration (RTM). Once an accurate image is produced a geophysicist must interpret the image and build a full 3D geological model which can be used to pick an exploration target and drill a well. The results of the well are used to confirm the 3D model at that point. The company may then decide to produce the well, acquire more data, drill more wells, or abandon the prospect. Acceleware assists oil & gas companies by developing advanced seismic imaging methods and techniques that reduce the time invested in this inherently iterative process.

At the core of any new advanced seismic processing method is accurate modeling of seismic wave propagation through the Earth. Thus, whereas many of the older methods rely on viewing seismic energy travelling along discrete rays (very often in straight lines), the newer methods use detailed physics to accurately model propagation of a full 3D seismic wavefield, accounting for propagation in all directions, as well as proper representation of reflection and refraction of the wavefield through the varying rock properties of the sub-surface.

Such detailed physics-based wavefield propagation modelling is at the center of Acceleware’s industry-leading Reverse Time Migration product (AxRTM™) and its derivatives. At its core, the AxRTM library is a high performance wave propagation engine. That engine can be used to generate highly accurate simulations of seismic field experiments (forward modelling), perform RTM imaging, and will soon provide Full Waveform Inversion (FWI) capabilities. RTM is very much the current state-of-the-art in seismic imaging, overcoming many of the limitations of simpler imaging techniques, providing the clearest possible image of even the most complex geological environment. The standalone forward modelling mode of AxRTM is very useful in seismic survey design, understanding the interaction of the wavefield with complex geology, and in interpretation of seismic data.

The current roadmap for Acceleware seismic products will further enhance the company’s position at the leading edge of new seismic imaging technologies by building on AxRTM in two different directions. The first direction will be to include modeling of full elastic wavefields. Almost all seismic imaging done today assumes that seismic waves are purely compressional, i.e. they behave like acoustic, or sound waves. However, full seismic wavefields also include so-called shear waves, which may carry additional valuable information, for example the fluid content of the geology. Analysis of these shear waves requires full elastic modeling, which is set to become a huge growth area within the seismic industry over the next few years. While full elastic RTM is still some way off within the industry, Acceleware is well on the way towards taking the first step, by including a full elastic modeling capability in the AxRTM family of products. The first version of the elastic modeling product is scheduled for release later this year.

The second new AxRTM derivative product on the roadmap is Full Waveform Inversion (FWI). This is pretty much the Holy Grail in the exploration seismic industry. The ultimate aim is to have a computational tool which takes only recorded seismic data as input and automatically generates a detailed and accurate model of the Earth. This is very different to the current workflow, which requires a lot of manual input (e.g. from geophysical interpreters) over a long iterative cycle, usually involving many different computational tools, and in the end only results in an image of limited quality. With FWI it is imperative to have a high-performance wave propagation engine, such as that in AxRTM. Research on FWI is already at an advanced stage within Acceleware and is showing some great results. The current roadmap envisages release of a first FWI product in 2013. Interest from potential customers is already intense! Well, that’s all I have for now on this fascinating subject – I hope you find it useful.

Submitted Jul 18, 2012

New Offices

At the beginning of June Acceleware moved into a new office space. We are excited about the new location as it is closer to downtown, offers excellent coffee and ice cream nearby, and is a block away from the Calgary Stampede, which celebrated its 100th anniversary this year! The new office also has an upgraded server room, and better training facilities. A nice upgrade!


We recently exhibited at the European Association of Geoscientists & Engineers (EAGE) annual show in Copenhagen Denmark. The show provided many excellent opportunities to speak with customers and partners about our future seismic and CSEM imaging product road map. Judging from what we saw and heard at EAGE, Acceleware is at the forefront of Reverse Time Migration (RTM) technology and our roadmap is exactly what the market needs. Look for some new product introductions soon.

Acceleware also exhibited at the International Supercomputing Show (ISC 2012) in Hamburg, Germany in mid-June. Our focus at this show is on our core high performance computing capabilities with GPUs, multi-core CPUs and our training workshops. Customers and partners were keen to see the latest features we are working on in our industry leading FDTD electro-magnetic simulation library and the RTM roadmap we unveiled in Copenhagen.

New Hardware

This year NVIDIA has released a new GPU, the Kepler. One version of the Kepler designed for compute applications is the K10 and at first blush it appears very well suited to seismic imaging applications like RTM. We are currently updating our AxRTM library to talk advantage of all that K10 has to offer. Preliminary tests show that AxRTM runs up to 80% faster on a K10 than NVIDIA’s previous M2090 GPU. In addition to Kepler, Intel is also developing a new HPC platform called MIC (Many Integrated Core). We are currently evaluating how MIC will fit into our product plans.

New Training

2012 has seen an expansion in the schedule of our CUDA and OpenCL parallel programming training courses. The new addition to the 2012 roster is a course in C++ AMP, a parallel programming language developed by Microsoft and supported by NVIDIA and AMD. Our C++ AMP courses are presented in partnership with Microsoft and benefit from the software giant’s marketing support.

New Synergies

Ever since Acceleware starting developing seismic applications in 2008, we have been looking for ways we can develop synergies with our existing software and skills. While Acceleware’s RTM seismic imaging software uses the same core finite difference propagator as our FDTD electro-magnetic simulation library, we are seeing bigger intersections in 2012. One such area is in Controlled Source Electro-Magnetics (CSEM). CSEM uses EM radiation to illuminate subsurface hydrocarbon reservoirs. We are currently developing an FDTD based CSEM library which we believe will dramatically cut CSEM data processing time. A second area is the emerging technology of RF heating of heavy oil and oil sands reservoirs. Many companies are involved in developing enhanced oil production techniques using radio frequency radiation. We are providing consulting and simulation services to some of these companies in this exciting new field.

Website Refresh

As you can see we have totally revamped our website, with the aim of organizing content to appeal to out multiple stakeholders: customers, shareholders, and potential investors. Let the marketing department know what you think.


Acceleware will be exhibiting at SC 2012 in Salt Lake City, and we will be exhibiting and presenting a paper at SEG 2012 in Las Vegas in the fall of 2012. So we are looking forward to continued interesting times! Check back here for updates.