Canada-Israel Energy Science & Technology Fund

Lead Proponent:  Canada-Israel Industrial R&D Foundation
Location:  Ontario
ecoEII Contribution:  $ 5,000,000
Project Total:  $11,718,000

Project Background

On October 29, 2012, the Honourable Joe Oliver, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, and Dr. Uzi Landau, Israeli Minister of Energy and Water Resources, announced the creation of the Canada–Israel Energy Science and Technology (CIEST) Fund. The Fund would facilitate the bilateral development and commercialization of innovative energy technologies and processes, with a strong focus on promoting innovations that reduce environmental impact associated with the exploration, extraction, processing and production of unconventional oil and gas. The Government of Canada committed up to $5 million to the CIEST Fund over four years (2013 to 2016), with matching funds to be allocated by the Israel Innovation Authority (the former Office of the Chief Scientist, Ministry of Economy) on a project-by-project basis. Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation (CIIRDF) was selected to manage and implement the fund.

Results

At the start of the initiative, Canada’s unconventional oil and gas industry was largely unknown to the Israeli scientific and technological community. To initiate bilateral partnerships and facilitate CIEST Fund project applications, CIIRDF enlisted the help of Signals Intelligence Group of Israel to publish an “Israeli Technological Capabilities Ecosystem Map” and launch a knowledge portal “Israeli Innovation for Canada’s Oil Sands”. In combination, the map and portal provided a comprehensive overview of Israel’s technological capabilities and helped companies in Canada to identify strategic technological synergies and prospective Israeli partners for R&D projects.

Two calls for proposals resulted in seven collaborative technology projects between Canadian and Israel companies. The Government of Canada provided $4.757M through ecoEII to support the projects. The projects were:

Enhanced Oil Sands Produced Water Evaporators: Developing New Water Solutions for the Oil Sands Industry

The water treatment process employed to extract crude oil and bitumen from oil sands is costly and challenging. Mechanical Vapor Compression (MVC) evaporators are a critical part of this practice. Comprised of a complex network of pipes that process heavy oil and sludge, MVC evaporators demand frequent chemical cleaning and use hundreds of thousands of gallons of water that cannot be recycled or reused. Processing plants must therefore be shut down for days, impeding oil production. The CIEST fund supported the development of a bench-scale system that combined Israeli IDE Technologies’ unique horizontal evaporator design with Canadian Clean Harbor’s chemical expertise. The new system could be cleaned in 24 hours (instead of the typical one week), thereby reducing water consumption by 97% and ultimately reducing evaporator downtime.

Produced Water - Enhanced Reuse & Hyper-saline Desalination: Enabling the Safe and Cost-Effective Reuse of Water during Unconventional Oil and Gas Production

The hydraulic fracturing process uses high pressure water combined with chemicals to fracture the shale rock and enable the release of shale oil and gas. With the hydraulic fracturing market valued at $37 billion in 2012, this approach is increasingly used around the world despite the many challenges of disposing of high salinity water. In order to address some of the key challenges associated with traditional hydraulic fracturing techniques, RWL Water (Israeli) and KmX Corporation (Canadian) collaborated on the development of an innovative water treatment and desalination system. KmX’s Vacuum Membrane Distillation (VMD) technology uses low-temperature evaporation (at 60-70°C) combined with a “hydrophobic” selective membrane to remove water from concentrated brine solutions. A test unit was run for five months, processing fracturing flowback water that contained 1-2% organics and 15-20% salt. In total, 8,000 liters (20 batches) of water was processed with an average water recovery rate of greater than 60% and a brine concentration of 45-60% (well beyond the saturation point).

Assessment of Oil Shales from Israel and Canada: Unlocking the Value of Oil Shales Responsibly in Canada and Israel

Israel and Canada possess vast shale deposits; however, little is known about which shale basins are most suitable for recovery. FG & Partners (Canadian) and Israel Energy Initiatives Ltd. collaborated on the development of a new tool that assesses the potential for recovering shale oil and gas from source rocks in Canadian and Israeli deposits, and estimates the value of these unconventional resources. A field study was conducted to collect samples from oil shale deposits across Canada. All collected samples were analysed for their hydrocarbon potential. Samples of deposits in Israel were also collected and analysed.

Integration of Fe-based Fischer-Tropsch conversion with a bitumen upgrader: Increasing the Productivity and Profitability of Oil Sands Upgrader Plants

Oil sands are a naturally occurring mixture of sand, clay or other minerals, water and bitumen. To process the bitumen into oil, it must first be separated from the water and sand. It is then upgraded and refined to produce transportation fuels, chemical feedstock and other products. Asphaltenes are a byproduct of the bitumen upgrading process. Asphaltenes are extremely heavy and dense materials and are typically disposed of in landfills but may also be utilized as gasification feed to be converted into syngas, as is the case at Nexen’s Long Lake facility.

The Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process is known for converting syngas into liquid hydrocarbons. These hydrocarbons may be transformed into a variety of commercial products, including waxes, chemical compounds, gasoline, naphtha and diesel. Nexen Energy (Canadian) and Merchav Engineering (Israeli) conducted a study to determine the possibility of applying the FT process to a bitumen upgrader facility by investigating each portion of the process independently. A suitable catalyst for converting CO-rich ratio syngas to liquids was first identified. The catalyst developed at Ben-Gurion University met all specified performance targets with the required activity and stability, and good heavy product selectivity. Moreover, the University of Alberta (a project partner) conducted experiments which demonstrated that the amount of liquid hydrocarbons produced from the FT process could be increased by using oligomerization to convert the olefins in the FT tail gas (a product of the FT process) to liquids. It was also determined that commercial gas purification technologies could be used to remove the impurities in the syngas, and when incorporated into upgrader facilities, liquid yield could increase. Overall, the study confirmed that it is possible to apply the FT technology to a bitumen upgrader facility to produce liquid hydrocarbons from CO-rich syngas. A preliminary process flow diagram for a modular design of the FT process was completed.

Online Boiler Feed Water Quality Analyser

In-situ production, commonly referred to as thermally enhanced heavy oil recovery, has reached 1.2 million barrels of oil per day (BPD) in Canada. A large amount of water is needed for steam generation – approximately 4.8 millions of barrels per day. The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) regulates the amount of fresh, typically brackish water that producers are allowed to dispose of. As a result, producers typically re-use over 85% of the injected water that is returned with the oil being produced. The water is first cleaned and treated. Higher quality water ensures higher quality steam which equates to increased oil production. When water quality is poor deposits form on boiler tubes, hot spots are generated and the tubes rupture. In order to ensure water quality and properly treat water, producers need to identify and measure contaminants such as oil and silica.

Luxmux Technology (Canadian) and NDT Ultrasonics (Israeli) combined efforts to develop an online boiler feed water quality analyzer to provide water analysis online and in real time. Various configurations using infrared, microwave and ultrasonic sensors to measure parts-per-million (ppm) oil in water were tested. With Luxmux’s BeST-SLED® infrared system, scattering effects of oil droplets were measured at various wavelengths in order to determine the droplet size and amount of oil. Further experimentation indicated that increasing the gap of the infrared light increases the sensitivity sufficiently to measure the oil. However, too large of a gap poses a problem due to high absorption of water. Work was performed on the BeST-SLED® to pulse the light and obtain higher light throughput which enabled up to a 10mm gap for measuring oil in water.

Integrated Energy Management and Monitoring System (IEMS)

EllisDon (Canadian) and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems (Israeli) collaborated on the development of a next-generation smart grid management system for project partner Polycon Industries’ combined heat and power (CHP) plant. The Integrated Energy Management and Monitoring System (IEMS) added economic decision making capabilities and operational efficiencies to SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) and building management systems. Initially, a techno-economic model was “manually” developed to simulate target systems. Once built, the IEMS created a desired state based on baseline inputs and variable inputs such as weather, production schedules, and commodity pricing. Collection of data in real-time allowed the IEMS to determine the optimal performance schedule for the CHP and optimal production of the grid connected load displacement generator and/or distributed energy resources. The IEMS evolved to be capable of developing a techno-economic model via data collecting and importing. A management interface was also developed for collecting information from a number of locations with generators and systems for the purpose of determining performance, costs, savings, aggregating alerts and alarms and overall command and control of the assets. The IEMS was put into operation for a few months during which data was collected and system performance was analyzed.

Oil Sands Evaporator Blowdown Produced Water

In Alberta's oil sands, Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) produced water treatment is highly challenging due to the quality of the water, the requirement for recycling more than 90% of the water for re-use, and the limited disposal options on-site. Mechanical Vapor Compression (MVC) evaporators are a critical step in the SAGD water treatment process, treating and recovering approximately 95% of the produced water. Currently, the options for volume reduction and solidification of the evaporator blowdown (waste) stream are limited and not reliable. Many SAGD sites cannot dispose of the evaporator waste on-site, and trucking the waste to a dedicated disposal well is costly.

Saltworks Technologies (Canadian) and IDE Technologies (Israeli) jointly developed and validated a cost-effective combined evaporation and waste treatment process that would increase the overall water recovery and decrease the disposal volumes in SAGD production. Saltworks’ SaltMaker is designed to treat highly compromised wastewater (such as from oil sands processing) to freshwater for reuse. A pilot scale SaltMaker was installed at an active SAGD oil sands facility in northern Alberta. The SaltMaker worked reliably, treating wastewater and producing freshwater and solids for 60 days (24/7) over the winter.

Benefits to Canada

The CIEST Fund combined the strengths of Canadian and Israeli companies to propel the development and commercialization of new solutions that address key challenges in Canada and Israel’s energy sector. The resulting technologies will promote the responsible development of unconventional oil and gas resources and help Canadian and Israeli firms to capitalize on the global market.

Next Steps

Successful delivery of the CIEST Fund has led CIIRDF to recommend that the Fund be extended and/or expanded to include other energy and technology areas.


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