Daily Oil Bulletin – Rapid technological change and a low price environment has promoted the creation of a new Clean Resources Innovation Network (CRIN) that seeks to bring the oil and gas industry more in line with the needs of its end users and accelerate technology uptake, leading to potentially transformative innovation.

CRIN is also seeking a $200-$250 million chunk of the $950 million in funding available under the supercluster initiative announced by the federal government in May, which is targeting the funding to create three to five superclusters across the country advancing innovation in various sectors. Industry players will match government funding dollar for dollar. Not-for-profit consortiums have until July 21 to make an initial application.

“With or without government funding, CRIN will proceed. Having said that, with government funding we can significantly accelerate our activities,” Soheil Asgarpour, Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC) president, said in a sold-out presentation and webcast hosted by PTAC in Calgary last week.

CRIN was created to deal with two “extreme periods” facing the industry, he said: a period with low commodity prices combined with a desire to significantly reduce the environmental footprint; and a period of rapid technological change that in which “consumers needs and desires are evolving much more rapidly than industry can

[adapt] to. Undoubtedly the technological changes will provide astonishing opportunities, if we are prepared for it,” said Asgarpour.

“Technological advances that once seemed like science fiction will become reality to the extent that they will surpass our imagination,” he said, referencing advances in driverless vehicles, transplantation of 3D printed organs, implanted mobile phones and vertical farming.

“In our increasingly complex world with accelerated pace of change the old model of innovating in silos behind closed doors will not arm industry for the changes to come. This is why CRIN was created — to take the oil and gas industry, which already plays a significant role in the Canadian economy, to a completely different level.”

Joy Romero, vice-president of technology development at Canadian Natural Resources Limited, said CRIN is still in the formation stage, and because it is a network it will always be evolving and improving, but there is a sense of haste. “Right now we don’t have a lot of time to waste; there is an absolute urgency for us to be able to exist in a low-carbon, low-cost economy, and we need you — we need to hear your feedback,” she told the PTAC audience.

The oil and gas industry is the largest single private investor in innovation in Canada, she said, and needs to channel that innovation more effectively. “We need to change, we need to do things differently, [and] that innovation component is extremely important,” she said. “We have a critical mass here in Alberta and a hub situation allowing us to be a global leader. The vision of CRIN is [for] Canada to be the global leader in producing clean hydrocarbon energy from source to end use.”

Focusing on the end user of the oil and gas industry’s products is a vital component of that change, Romero said. “I am sure you are used to us talking about source, but probably not used to us talking about end use. We understand that our products need to change, or grow, as we move forward. [The industry must] be associated with our end users, and be a part of the continuum that they are doing right now in moving forward to a low-carbon, low-cost economy. If we aren’t aligned with the end users, our solutions can miss the mark.

“So it is really imperative that we establish those relationships with end users; the Fedexes of the world, the Teslas of the world, the building providers of the world. All of these use our fuels today [and] are looking at using them potentially differently in the future. We need to work along side of them and be a part of their innovation.”

CRIN is composed of conventional and unconventional oil and gas companies of all sizes, technology solution providers, research and learning institutions, government agencies and other organizations that support innovation with the common goal of promoting clean tech and energy innovation, an area in which CRIN said Canada is positioned to be a leader. It is not meant to replace any of the various organizations promoting similar goals, such as PTAC and Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), but rather to complement them.

“CRIN’s goal is to actually strengthen all of those groups, and what we hope is the focus they are working on is that industry pull to [technology] commercialization.”

Romero said CRIN looked at over 100 oil and gas industry roadmaps from around the world that identified industry challenges, gaps and duplication, and provided an inventory of potential technology solutions. The meta analysis found that current roadmaps have a strong focus on environmental priorities in the near to medium term and that transformational opportunities exist in the longer term.

Focus areas CRIN identified include: environmental performance to improve water and air quality and reduce GHG emissions and land disturbance; end user collaboration to reduce carbon intensive processes; digital technologies such as the Internet of Things and the digital oilfield; and improved mining extraction methods and in-situ oilsands extraction technology.

A CRIN senior leaders forum will meet several times a year and metrics will be established for CRIN to deliver, Romero said, with “solid measures that show this is actually making a difference.”

CRIN will also fill a gap often overlooked, she said, with financial leaders and a venture capital role. “What we have learned from the various organizations is that one of the components that is missing is the financial part, and so we have brought a financial voice to CRIN as well.

“We want to make sure CRIN has that component of, depending on where you are at in the development stage, that people are aware of that work with the opportunity for the right financial vehicle to come in at the right time. Because on that road to commercialization, [CRIN must have] the ability to be there for the right technology at the right time.”

It is hoped CRIN will rapidly speed time to commercialization that, in the oil and gas industry, typically takes decades from idea to development, piloting and in field use. But the industry must play a role, Romero said, and be open to collaboration.

“This is a network. Networks work because of trust. Collaboration is everything,” she said. “What does it take to belong to CRIN? What we will ask you is that we actually have a social contract, basically trust, that we would like you to sign to join. Basically what it is going to say is, we respect the principles of CRIN, we can buy into those, and we are going to collaborate, to look for opportunities to the best degree you can given where you play.”

To survive and prosper, the industry needs to be open to change and do things differently, she emphasized. “Because if we don’t do something different, I don’t like that outcome — for the future of the country, or for the future of my family. And I definitely don’t think we should be stranding resources inside of this province. But we have a window to make a difference, and that window is now.”

By: Maurice Smith

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