Westgen Designs ‘Better Mousetrap’ To Reduce Methane Emissions
Fuelling Canada, a new natural gas information hub, was launched in November 2021 with the goal of helping Canadians better understand the foundational role of this energy source across the country. In 2021, natural gas met 38% of our energy needs, nearly double that of electricity.
“Natural gas is an essential part of our everyday lives,” says Paul Cheliak, Vice President, Strategy and Delivery, for the Canadian Gas Association (CGA). “We are dedicated to providing Canadians with not only affordable and reliable natural gas, but with the information they need to make informed energy decisions.”
Most Canadians associate natural gas with their stove top or BBQ, but the industry has deep roots across the country. What is lesser known is the leading role the natural gas industry is playing in the cleantech space. Enter Westgen Technologies Inc.
Westgen Technologies has a goal of eliminating methane emissions from natural gas production through the deployment of their EPOD technology which reduces methane emissions by up to 99.5%. “We designed the better mousetrap,” says Ben Klepacki, co-founder & vice president, engineering, of Westgen Technologies.
EPOD works by replacing traditional methane driven devices with electricity generated on site by solar power, combined with a battery for storage. This is critical for the industry as many gas wells are located in areas far from the electrical grid
Krepacki and his partner, co-founder and president Connor O’Shea, have several decades of experience in the industry. When the duo decided to form their own business in 2019, the issue of energy sustainability was on top of their business goals. “One of the founding beliefs of our company is that we needed to develop a more responsible way of developing hydrocarbons both environmentally and socially,” says Klepacki.
A recent regulatory change caught their eye. “The AER changed the rules so that, starting in 2022, there would be no more methane-emitting pneumatic devices allowed at well sites,” says O’Shea. “The regulation was a catalyst that made a need obvious.”
Using off-the-shelf components, they invented EPOD. The module consists of several parts. A battery is charged using a combination of solar panels and an internal combustion engine (ICE) that runs on natural gas from the well. The engine is designed to operate intermittently, topping up the battery power when the sun isn’t shining in order to minimize CO2 emissions. The battery, in turn, can be used to compress air or to run electrical valves.
“The EPOD allows the operator to reduce annual GHG emissions from a single well from 1000 – 1200 tonnes of CO2e per year to just 10 tonnes,” said Klepacki.
As part of its goal of reducing emissions to zero by 2050, Shell installed an EPOD at one of its well pads in northern Alberta in order to test its effectiveness, and were very impressed. “The success of this trial has resulted in the adoption of the EPOD in all future well pads in Shell’s Alberta Shales operations,” they noted in a published study.1
With early success, Westgen Technologies is growing at leaps and bounds. “We are selling them faster than we can build them,” says Klepacki.
In January, 2022, the company moved into a 46,000 ft2 plant in Balzac, Alberta with the capacity to produce 100 EPOD units per month, but even that barely scratches the surface of the potential. “Both retrofit and new-build represents a US$10 billion market in North America alone,” says O’Shea.
“What we’ve done is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of opportunity for Canada to develop solutions for export,” says O’Shea. “We can create a reputation for Canada as a clean energy centre of excellence.”
Canadians are invited to learn and share their experiences by visiting the Fuelling Canada website and engaging with the content on social media.