About 60 people — including representatives from the oil and gas sector, and provincial and municipal government — gathered in a Lacombe shop on Thursday. There, they got a look at some new technology that could revolutionize petroleum production.
At least that’s the hope of NEXT Legacy Technologies Inc., a Lacombe company that’s developed a process for squeezing oil and gas from underground rock formations, and which hosted the event.
Currently, producers rely on hydraulic fracturing — which utilizes a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals — to create cracks in the formation and allow oil and gas to flow out. Critics of the practice, which is called fracking, say it consumes huge volumes of water and creates a risk of groundwater and surface contamination by the fracking fluid.
NEXT has developed a fracturing compound that it says can achieve superior results with very little water and no toxic chemicals. It doesn’t have to be used under high pressure, which reduces equipment and manpower needs, and the resulting fractures extend farther and can be controlled, says the company.
NEXT CEO Darren Wiltse, a mechanical engineer with 30 years of experience in the oil and gas industry, said his company’s compound is made from organic materials that have been independently verified to be non-toxic. When injected into a wellbore with a small quantity of water, it reacts with the reservoir rock to produce exothermic (heat) and kinetic (mechanical) energy. This produces fractures in the formation and allows oil and gas to flow out.
The name NEXT is derived from the term “non-hydraulic exothermic/kinetic energy technology.”
The technology has already been used in about 36 wells, said Wiltse, with Thursday’s open house held to boost awareness. It achieved that objective, he said, with those in attendance very interested in NEXT’s technology.
“It was a really good day,” said Wiltse, adding that in addition to supplying the needs of producing companies, NEXT is signing licence agreements with service companies.
This should accelerate the spread of the technology.
The company is currently developing a commercial-scale blending plant northwest of Lacombe, which will also serve as its operational centre.
“It looks like it’ll be ready some time in October,” said Wiltse, adding that this will open the door to large-scale production.
Hydrocarbon fracturing isn’t the only application for NEXT’s compound, the ingredients in which are a carefully guarded secret. The heat it produces is sufficient to melt the paraffin that can build up in wellbores and block the flow of hydrocarbons, said Wiltse. It might also prove useful in extracting oilsands bitumen.
But one of the most promising alternate uses for NEXT’s material is as a construction material, said Wiltse.
“We can mix the compound such that it creates a hard mass material like cement.”
NEXT is already discussing this potential with a major player in the construction industry, he said.
NEXT Legacy Technologies Inc.’s website can be found at www.next-tech.ca.