Innovation surge sparks oil sands opportunities: PwC

CALGARY, AB, November 14, 2013 — Speaking with oil sands executives and associations, PwC’s oil sands technology innovation report – Innovation surge sparks oil sands opportunities, reveal four innovation surges that are opening up a new era of opportunity for Canadian oil sands: reducing economic costs; improving environmental performance; industry collaboration; and converting more resources to reserves.

The report found that for a majority of oil sands companies, environmental and economic goals are consistent. By improving operational performance, a company can also reduce its emissions footprint.

Improvements in energy efficiency have led to a 26% reduction in emissions intensity in the oil sands industry between 1990 and 2010. Currently, Alberta is investing CA$1.3 billion over 15 years in two large-scale carbon capture storage (CCS) projects – one of which is Shell Canada’s Quest CCS project.

Reynold Tetzlaff, National Energy Leader, PwC, explains, “The pursuit of environmental outcomes is a push and pull: a push from within the industry and a pull from regulatory institutions. Environmental performance capabilities keep improving while regulatory standards continue to get stricter. It’s not always clear which is leading and which is following.”

Collaboration is key
According to the report, the pace of innovation is being driven by the increasingly open exchange of ideas- stemming from new industry alliances, some “intra-corporate”, some as partnerships with innovative suppliers and others with government bodies.

Looking at Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) and its members, the organization represents nearly 90% of oil sands production and agrees to share experience and intellectual property with other member companies.

Tetzlaff adds, “It’s this type of collaboration like the COSIA example that has resulted in technological advancements occurring at a much quicker pace than conceived of even five years ago.” To date, COSIA member companies have shared 560 distinct technologies and innovations that cost nearly CA$1 billion to develop.

Resources to reserves
CEO of Connacher Oil and Gas, Chris Bloomer, says in the report, “There are many ways in which technology is converting resources to reserves. The better we can characterize the formation, the more bitumen we can produce.”

An example of this includes Cenovus using Wedge WellTM technology to produce a higher percentage of bitumen, while working towards lowering the environmental impact. As well, Athabasca Oil Corporation’s Thermal Assisted Gravity Drainage (TAGD) is a potential production technology for the in situ recovery of bitumen resources. TAGD uses electrical energy to stimulate the reservoir instead of steam in in situ extraction.

Tetzlaff concludes, “The successful deployment of new solutions and approaches are dramatically increasing recovery rates and reserves. As a result of the improvements in recovery and the outlook for further breakthrough enhancements in the future, Canada’s oil sands continue to represent an attractive investment.”

For more information on PwC’s Oil Sands Technology report – Innovation surge sparks oil sands opportunities, please visit: www.pwc.com/ca/oilsandstech.

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