Parker: Calgary-based NanosTech set to transform oilsands industry

The benefits are expected to be great

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Calgary-based technology company NanosTech is set to transform the Alberta oilsands industry.

The company emerged from the University of Calgary’s Alberta Ingenuity Centre for In Situ Energy, committed to developing leading-edge catalytic solutions to the most pressing challenges facing the energy industry today.

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NanosTech was co-founded by CTO Pedro Pereira-Almao and a group of scientist colleagues as an energy transition company to help producers meet the challenges of climate change. His partners are serial entrepreneurs who have successfully taken emerging technologies to market.

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We are fortunate to have such a distinguished scientist as Pereira-Almao here in Calgary. He has held the NSERC industrial chair in Catalysis for Bitumen Upgrading at the U of C’s Schulich School of Engineering, and has been working on upgrading technologies for more than 30 years. For the past 18 years he has worked on in situ upgrading and other technology schemes, from CO2 conversion to renewable fuels.

Born in Venezuela, Pereira-Almao studied at a Venezuela tech university before earning his bachelor of science and doctorate in chemistry-catalysis at Université de Poitiers. He returned to Venezuela to work with Petróleos de Venezuela — the state oil and gas company — as heavy oils processing and research manager, and then became a postdoctorate fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.

Back home, he worked in research and development with the Venezuelan oilsands, which he says are rich in heavy oil, very similar to Alberta. In 2002 he attended the World Petroleum Congress in Calgary and, when things became politically uncomfortable in Venezuela, decided to move here.

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He arrived in 2003 and joined the University of Calgary as a professor specializing in the conversion of hydrocarbons and carbohydrates, from C1 to heavy oils, upgrading heavy oils from partial/field to in-reservoir.

As full professor in the faculty of chemical and petroleum engineering, he led research projects based on nanoparticle and catalyst-based nanotechnologies development, co-founding Litus and Carbonova Corp. and a number of other cleantech startups, as well as NanosTech.

Since retiring from his duties at the university, Pereira-Almao has concentrated more fully on NanosTech, which is poised to revolutionize oil production by substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions while cutting production costs. He has led a vision of Calgary becoming a nanotechnology innovation hub and has contributed to creating it.

Vorsana Environmental, a global leader in the commercialization of waste management technology that converts waste into transportation fuels and utilizes captured CO2 in numerous high-value products, acquired NanosTech in 2021. Vorsana looks after the investment side of the business while NanosTech concentrates on being the technology development arm.

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Earlier this month it received significant funding from the Alberta government; $5 million from Emissions Reduction Alberta, and $500,000 from Alberta Innovates.

With funding secured, NanosTech is gearing up for a pilot demonstration in northern Alberta with a prominent oilsands producer, paving the way for commercial development. It is expected to be operational by the end of next year, although the company is in talks with several smaller producers to expedite the deployment of the groundbreaking technology in the province.

The benefits are expected to be great.

Currently, bitumen recovery rates are modest, water use and emissions are high, and transportation and refining costs are additional.

NanosTech promises up to 35 per cent reduced emissions, enhanced economic performance of between $5 and $8 per barrel, improved oil recovery and reduced diluents that will free up pipelines and reduce costs.

It’s time for change. NanosTech’s transformational, catalyst and noncatalyst-based technologies accelerate the evolution, making energy more efficient and cleaner for people and our planet.

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Notes:

Global investment manager Realterm, which focuses on the transportation industry and currently manages more than $11 billion in assets, has announced the latest expansion to its global transportation logistics real estate platform with the acquisition of the Airfreight Logistics Centre, on land leased from the Calgary Airport Authority. The centre encompasses five Class-A industrial buildings totalling 502,065 square feet on Aero Drive N.E., directly adjacent to the airfield. “With direct access to the tarmac and proximity to vital transportation routes, the acquisition amplifies our presence in the Calgary area and is a unique opportunity to meet the needs of the rapidly growing airport community,” said Alexi Lachambre, vice-president of investments at Realterm.

David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at [email protected]

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