Interface Fluidics Named Energy Excellence Awards Champion For Technique That Shines New Light Into Reservoir Fluid Dynamics


The second annual Energy Excellence Awards (EEAs) program, presented by the Daily Oil Bulletin, uniquely recognizes energy excellence and focuses on the advancement of collaboration within Canada’s energy industry.

For 2020, the DOB received close to 90 nominations in four broad awards categories — Project Execution Excellence; Innovation & Technology Excellence; Environmental Excellence; and Exporting Excellence — recognizing work completed last year. The nominees were further broken down into 12 subcategories across the four groupings, before being judged by a committee of industry leaders.

In the following days we will present the champions in each subcategory. Today, we feature the champion in Exporting Excellence in the subcategory of Advanced Technologies.

The Champions stories are compiled here, and access all the Finalists stories here.

Champion Announcement Podcast: Listen to our podcast announcing the champion of this subcategory and a panel discussion on what makes the organizations within this category and their approaches to new market expansions true demonstrations of excellence. The panel also speaks to what businesses need to continue to do, or perhaps start to do, to ensure exporting excellence tomorrow.

Leading the discussion is Wendy Ell, director of strategic partnerships and industry development for Glacier Resource Innovation Group, which publishes the DOB. Joining her is Tim Hazlett, a global energy solutions leader; Bemal Mehta, senior vice-president of energy and mining intelligence with Glacier Resource Innovation Group; as well as David Nygaard, global trade director, energy at Export Development Canada (EDC).

Click here to listen.

Unlocking oil and gas production from tight shale formations has been a game changer for the industry, opening up vast hydrocarbon reserves and revitalizing an industry once thought to be in relentless decline. But shale and tight formations’ low permeabilities still present a challenge, with over 90 per cent of hydrocarbons often being left behind in the reservoir.

Interface Fluidics is changing that paradigm with a nanotechnology platform that helps customers optimize oil and gas production, and visualize fluid interactions, through rapid chemical testing at reservoir temperature and pressure. The technology shines a light on fluid dynamics to help demystify performance for increased oil recovery.

By optimizing fluids, producers can increase oil recovery by up to 25 per cent, according to the Calgary-based startup selected as champion for Exporting Excellence in Advanced Technologies.

Interface has leveraged advances in microfluidics — the study of fluid flows at a micro scale — developed for the biomedical industry to disrupt conventional lab testing. Its lab-on-a-chip technique has cut in half the costs associated with processes such as coreflooding to determine aspects like permeability and interactions between the fluids and the rock.

There is currently “a sea of chemicals available to operators that claim they will boost the recovery rate in a well,” Interface said. The problem is, there has been no way to validate those claims, as it is difficult to determine how the reservoir rock will react with the chemicals pumped downhole, and how a mix of chemicals react with each other in a given rock formation. Chemicals that work in one well could be damaging in another.

Being able to see fluid interactions is vital when it comes to understanding how and why fluids may damage a reservoir, increase productivity, or measure fluid properties like bubble point or minimum miscibility pressure, said the company. Its technology offers the ability to actually observe what is happening at the pore scale using cameras and microscopes and quantify performance by analyzing those images using proprietary machine vision software.

“We create an analogue that matches our client’s specific reservoir characteristics including pore-throat size, permeability, porosity and wettability. We then use a small volume of our client’s fluids to run tests at reservoir relevant pressures, temperature and precise flow rates. The result is an ability to provide more actionable data and analysis to our clients in a fraction of the time conventional testing would allow.”

Seeing is believing

Since it collects its data visually, it provides an unprecedented level of graphic insight. “That means you get to look inside your reservoir for the first time ever, see your oil being produced out of a reservoir for the first time ever,” said Stuart Kinnear, Interface CEO. “For the majority of people out there that are visual learners, this is a brand new tool that they have never had access to before.”

The Interface Flowback Test identifies the most effective fluid additives, and quantifies their relative performance and compatibility with other fluids. It assesses flowback fluid performance and compatibilities for its clients’ individual well as a successful chemistry will allow for the highest percentage of oil flowed back.

Interface creates physical analogues — silicon and glass analogues are modified to be representative of the reservoir material — with precision to sub-50 nanometre (nm, one-billionth of a metre) pore size that are representative of the client’s well.

“By using machine vision software, the platform allows for visualization of performance mechanisms during the entire test run, unheard of in industry,” the company said.

The information provided by the flowback test helps clients make data-driven decisions on how to optimize field development, avoid potential reservoir damage, and select optimal chemical vendors and products.

“Operators are making chemical decisions based on our test results and analysis. There has been a high return rate of customers who have found value in the information and insight our technology provides — though this data is highly proprietary to them.”

Producers can quickly screen through several fracturing fluid additives, allowing them to make educated decisions as the testing is run under reservoir representative conditions, Interface said.

The test, which offers a repeatability unmatched in the market, provides relative results comparing chemistries to one another, providing clients with the data required to make strategic, cost-savings decisions that help them to recover more product per well.

“Visualization of the performance mechanisms for new chemistries gives operators the option to test new products, which can increase produced water usage, reduce damage and increase recovery of hydrocarbons, prior to going to the field,” said Interface. “Comparable testing either takes months to complete or is not run under representative conditions. Interface’s testing is run in days and under true nano-confinement.”

International success

Success on the international stage came early for the five-year-old company, which was a graduate of the first class of the Techstars Energy Accelerator, in partnership with Norwegian state oil company Equinor (with which it subsequently formed a commercial partnership), completing the Oslo-based program in December 2018. 

The program has given Interface a worldwide perspective and exposed it to international producers operating throughout North America, in the North Sea and the Middle East. Interface also works with the Alberta government, Economic Development and Trade in Norway, United Arab Emirates and the U.S. on various trade missions, accelerators and business development initiatives.

Interface’s Flowback Test technology has been the foundational piece of the company. “Operators, investors and partners in the industry truly believe in our technology,” Interface said. Belief in the technology led the company to raise a Series A round of funding worth $6 million last August.

“Interface has been gaining internal traction across multiple business units and across the life cycle of our assets,” Rannfrid Skjervold, managing director at Equinor Technology Ventures, said at the time. “We see this investment as a strategic opportunity to accelerate the technology development which will result in significantly increased oil recovery, revenue growth and cost reduction to our operations.”

Interface is seen as a leading expert on evaluating fluids for the energy industry on a micro- and nano-scale. “Operators around the globe reach out to us to develop new solutions to their challenges,” it said.

“We strongly think the microfluidic technology developed by Interface has great potential for understanding clearly, easily and quickly how fluids behave in the reservoir,” said Olivier-Francois Garnier, thermal EOR project manager with Total S.A.

The Champion Series is brought to you by Fluor Canada, our Gold Sponsor, and Spartan Controls, our Silver Sponsor.

Fluor Canada: Since 1949, Fluor Canada has been involved in the engineering, procurement and construction of a wide range of energy related projects that are spread across the Canadian landscape. Fluor provides local, regional and international clients with full-service capabilities, which include economic evaluations, conceptual engineering, feasibility studies, program management, detailed engineering, procurement, transportation and logistics, modularization, fabrication, direct-hire construction, construction management, commissioning, start-up, operations and maintenance.

Spartan Controls: Spartan Controls was founded in 1963 and is an employee-owned company with people and infrastructure in 14 towns and cities across Western Canada. Spartan Controls provides a very broad range of industrial automation products & solutions to all the process industries.

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