With $45/bbl, Alberta's energy sector is under tremendous cost and environmental pressures, getting more, spending less and increasing efficiencies across the board are the current realities.
Enter the technology developers. From leak detection to down-hole optimization, Alberta has an impressive resume of energy technology developers poised to bring solutions to those very problems being faced by the energy sector.
In response, Calgary Economic Development, Kinetica Ventures, the Government of Alberta and Bennett Jones have just launched Innovate Straight Talk: a conversation about getting energy tech innovations to market. The de-risking energy technology series kicked off October 22 with a dialogue intended to bridge technology developers to end users. With the goal of increasing the success rate in which innovations are adopted by Alberta’s energy industry. The panelists explored what it takes to get new technologies or products across that final "finish line" of adoption and procurement. Speakers included:
- Bernard Jones, President, Fluid Decisions
- Jeremy Krol, VP Corporate Development, nFluids Inc.
- Dr. Chris O’Neill, Manager, Technology Transfer, Research, Development, & Innovation Group, Enbridge
- Steve Koles, CEO, Hifi Engineering
Below are some highlights of what they had to say:
Tech developer sentiments
- Technology developers often do not appreciate the financial and operational risk faced by the energy companies they are trying to sell to. They feel frustrated with the apparent conservatism that makes it appear that energy companies are not open to innovation and its potential upside i.e. costs savings the new technology brings with it.
- However, the energy industry is open to innovation…provided that the offering has been thoroughly de-risked, so as not to jeopardize existing assets or operations.Both groups need to work together to figure out faster and more effective ways of accomplishing this de-risking.
- Building a strong relationship with the company is paramount in overcoming potential hiccups the product may face along the way.
- Often the junior sized companies are quicker to adopt new tech than the Majors
- Developers need to identify the person(s) willing to challenge the status quo- in order to break this chicken and egg cycle of being ‘first to be second’i.e. find a sponsor within the customer organization who will take the risk to do a pilot test of your technology
- Developers need to be persistent without being obnoxious
- When talking to customers, don’t talk dollars, talk percentages instead. They are more impactful and scalable.(But have the dollar information available for subsequent discussions.)
- Make sure all stakeholders are at the table i.e. First Nations, energy regulators, etc.
- From an ecosystem perspective, there is a gap in getting innovations out of universities and into the industry. This is a service support opportunity.
- What developers need most from the support ecosystem is testing support i.e. C-FER Technologies in Edmonton contains a unique, world-class laboratory, in which full scale equipment qualification testing can be performed, at high pressure, temperature, and load conditions, as well as in sour environments.
- Structure payments for large capital projects, is a great idea! Developers could suggest a system lease inclusive of hardware and software constituting a monthly fee. This could move a project from a capital budget to an operating one thus removing level reducing time associated with multiple approval levels.
What does industry need from developers?
- Innovation that has been de-risked (i.e., tested and validated, ready for pilot testing, and comes with a strong team capable of implementing).
- Developers could try an adoption sheet requiring all the appropriate levels of customer signatures and buy-in before field testing begins
- To instill confidence, customers need to see a ‘bypass’ option- an opportunity to stop testing in the field if anything goes wrong in order to avoid process disruption or down time
- Confidence building - if you can deliver on each and every little thing, even how meetings and contracts are managed, then they know you can deliver on the bigger things
The next Innovate Straight Talk event takes place November 16 at the Global Business Centre and will focus on the energy value chain. Tickets can be purchased here.
There will be up to three more events in the series in 2015 and early 2016 and sub-topic areas will be determined by industry and development