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GE’s Ecomagination winners could help oil sands projects reduce footprint, cut costs

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The winners of the final phase of General Electric’s Ecomagination Innovation Challenge are focused on reducing the heat and water used in new Oil Sands projects.

The three winners, announced in September, are all aiming to commercialize new technologies that reduce the environmental impact of projects by improving the efficiency of steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) based operations.

The winners are Sid Abma, Sidel Systems USA, Inc., U.S.A., Sylvain Lalot, UVHC, France, and Sumon K. Sinha, SINHATECH, U.S.A. They have the opportunity to create co-development plans with GE and other potential partners that will draw on a $475,000 directed development grant pool.

Ecomagination is an “open innovation” challenge, aimed at helping oil sands producers drastically reduce their environmental footprint.

“The open innovation challenge is a way that we’re helping our customers to address one of their top issues which is reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” James Cleland, global general manager of GE’s Heavy Oil Solutions team told BNN Partner Services. “Open innovation is similar to crowd sourcing in that it’s ways of harnessing a broader set of minds.”

Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) partnered with GE, and came up with the criteria for the challenge, in part because it saw the potential of pairing large companies with small-scale innovators.

“We jointly developed these challenges with General Electric. General Electric then ran a global competition, assessed all of the competitors in the competition using criteria that the COSIA companies developed,” Dan Wicklum, chief executive of COSIA said in an interview.

Instead of cutting up a wide swath of land like open pit oil sands mines, SAGD involves using relatively small well pairs placed in a rows in the woods.

One half of each well pair sends steam about 400 metres down a shaft to super-heat and loosen the sticky bitumen to the point where gravity can pull it even lower into the earth. The second half of the well pair contains a parallel shaft that turns and runs under the steam shaft, catching the bitumen as it slides lower. The oily substance is then pumped up to the surface.

While SAGD projects are already considered less environmentally harmful than open pit mines, they use a lot of water, as well as energy to turn it into steam. The winners of the final phase of Ecomagination are looking to tackle this problem.

For more on how GE is helping energy companies reduce water usage and costs, go to

This video and story is sponsored content, created by BNN Partner Services for GE Canada. BNN editorial was not involved in the creation of this content. CTV Two CTV News CTV News Channel BNN - Business News Network CP24