An Edmonton-based firm that has developed a process to improve the efficiency of oil extraction and clean up contaminated groundwater is finding growing interest in its process.
Wavefront Energy and Environmental Energy Services Inc. has signed a deal with Stratum Environmental Engineering Co. of Helsinki to market, distribute and implement its technology in Nordic and Baltic Rim countries as well as Russia.
Halliburton, the U.S. giant once headed by current Vice-President Dick Cheney, is Wavefront's agent stateside for the energy service.
A privately held Boston-based company that operates in 37 countries, Environmental Resource Management Services is a partner in the environmental area.
"We will provide them with the tools and they will sell and implement the service to their clients," says Brad Paterson, the chief financial officer based in Edmonton.
Paterson compares the company's pressure pulse technology, which is patented in Canada, the United States and Great Britain, to the way the body's capillaries work.
As the heart beats, the capillaries expand and contract. In an expanded state they can push through more blood more efficiently.
"It's this constant expansion and contraction that allows the blood to flow," says Paterson.
It's the same with pressure- point technology, using water to bring up oil.
"Water follows the path of least resistance," explains Paterson, "as you know if you've ever spilled water on a table."
Water flows through porous rock and sand and pushes up the oil. Pulsing creates an earthquake-like effect that causes the system to operate more efficiently.
"It creates a dynamic force on the oil reservoir or chemical pool, says Paterson. "It's the duration of this pulse that allows the oil or water to flow more efficiently."
The clean water can also be used to mop up contaminated groundwater. Clean water can be sent down and when it comes back up, it carries the contaminated water, which can then be cleaned up above ground.
"They may inject something into water, a bio-remediation agent," adds Paterson.
"It could be a little bug that eats the contaminants, or chemicals that neutralize the chemicals that are in the polluted water."
Wavefront, which was established in 1998, does not actually sell its process. It will set up the service for customers either itself or through its partners, and monitor and maintain it on a fee-for-service basis, but it retains the process, explains Paterson.
Modern technology through the Internet, satellite or radio means that the system can be monitored anywhere in the world from the company's Edmonton headquarters.
"We can control our pulsing tool anywhere in the world from here," notes Paterson.
"We can see how they're operating, we can adjust the rate at which they're pulsing. That helps us by not having personnel on the site 24/7, 52 weeks a year.
"We still have to have people overseeing the tool but the economics of having them permanently with one tool would drive the cost beyond what a company would be willing to pay. This way we can have a project manager overseeing a number of systems."
Wavefront was started by Brett Davidson of Cambridge, Ont., who was helped by two university professors to create and refine pulsing technology. Davidson is president and CEO, and is still based in Cambridge.
The company expects to hit sales of $2 million this year, and has a staff of 15.
The company's first foray with its process was in Lloydminster. It set up an initial model that led to field applications and a growing interest in the energy sector in Alberta, which is why the company decided to place its headquarters in Edmonton with a branch in Cambridge. Interest in the energy service is now coming from Texas, Oklahoma and California.
Almost all the environmental work is being done in the U.S. "However, the federal government oversaw a project we did just outside our president's residence in Ontario where we affected the groundwater cleanup by 250 per cent," says Paterson.
He describes a couple of processes developed earlier by the company. One was called the Blue Whale.
"The pulses were very slow but they would push large volumes of liquid, just like a blue whale. Another tool was the Hummingbird, which was used in low-permeability rock. It didn't push very much volume but it was a very rapid pulse," he says.
(Catherine Carson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)