I know for a lot of people, 2018 was a year they’d like to forget. However, for anyone associated with Acceleware, 2018 was a year to remember; full of incredible progress and achievement. We exited 2017 with $10 million in funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA). With this financing secured, we were off in search of a test site for our transformational RF XL clean-tech innovation. After an exhaustive search, we reached an agreement with Prosper Petroleum Ltd to complete the test at its Rigel property near Fort McKay in north east Alberta. In order to complete the commercial-scale test of RF XL, we needed an additional $6 million, at minimum, and just as we geared up to raise some additional funding, this happens…….. (the WTI/WCS oil price differential widened significantly):
By the end of summer 2018, everyone in the Alberta oil industry was talking about discounts and differentials. Refinery disruptions, pipeline delays and other factors piled on to force the price of Canadian heavy oil below US$15 per barrel. Raising money in this environment was certainly challenging - so we had to get creative. Through a unique transaction, we successfully raised C$3.3 million by transferring some of our high-value software team to Advanced Micro Devices in October. In November, we secured the participation of a major oil sands producer in our commercial-scale test, which not only strengthens the team, but provides a wealth of expertise and is contributing up to $2 million in incremental funding.
In addition to making progress operationally and financially, we also continued to expand our intellectual property portfolio. During 2018, we had a second RF heating technology patent granted in the United States. We now have two patents granted, 13 patents pending in various jurisdictions, and have a further nine patent applications which are in development. Our efforts to strengthen Acceleware weren’t limited to patent protection. We also bolstered our technical depth in February of 2019 with the addition of two industry veterans to our executive team, both of whom bring expertise that will be critical to advancing Acceleware’s business as we move forward.
A further achievement during 2018 was our collaborative work with GE Global Research to develop, design and prototype the first RF XL silicon carbide (SiC) generator. In December, I had the great pleasure of traveling to Niskayuna, New York (not far from Albany) to witness factory acceptance testing of the first SiC module for our generator. The testing was very successful, and it was awe-inspiring to see our technology take physical shape. In March of 2019 we resumed factory acceptance testing at GE and finalized our well and surface facility designs.
Our proprietary well designs for the pilot test are complete, thanks to solid work by Codeco-Vanoco. Ongoing enhancements to these well designs are planned to enable Acceleware to reduce costs while ensuring optimal results from our commercial designs. In addition, in concert with our partner, Scovan, we have completed the first engineering design for the surface facilities utilized in the pilot. Scovan is an innovative engineering, procurement and construction management firm whose philosophy is closely aligned with ours. Soon we will begin working with Scovan on creating a modular, pad-based RF XL design that will allow oil sands producers to develop their resource with a fraction of the up-front investment that is associated with traditional SAGD projects. This concept will allow smaller players to generate cash flow with a lower up-front investment and achieve scale by making further investments on a well-by-well basis.
At this point, all required materials and responses have now been submitted for the experimental scheme application with the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) to secure approval for our test. The application builds on facilities that were already approved as part of Prosper’s planned Rigel SAGD facility. We are now awaiting approval of the experimental scheme application.
As we move further into 2019, Acceleware is well positioned to deliver more of the same in terms of results. We have engaged GMP FirstEnergy to assist us in raising additional capital (preferably non-dilutive project funding) that can round out our commercial test financing and provide some contingency reserve. In addition, we published a new whitepaper at the beginning of February, and presented at the PROPEL Energy Tech Forum in Calgary, featuring over 200 participants. You can download the presentation here. Looking ahead, on April 16th at 10:15 AM, Mike Tourigny will be presenting at the SPE/CHOA Slugging It Out conference being held in Calgary.
As the graph above demonstrates, 2019 has brought a little more optimism to our industry (at least among the smaller operators), specifically with the Alberta government’s decision to curtail oil production and impact shipments of oil. While the Government’s action is an imperfect solution to this short-term problem, we are pleased to see that a positive response has occurred.
As noted in our press release of March 13th, 2019, we believe that Acceleware’s RF technology represents a solution that would ease some of the oil takeaway capacity limits impacting Western Canada. RF heating could be built right into rail cars so bitumen could be shipped undiluted and then melted only after safely reaching the ultimate destination, creating a cheaper and safer way to ship bitumen by rail. We believe Acceleware’s technology offers a meaningful alternative and a critical step forward in helping Western Canadian producers get their products to competitively-priced markets for the benefit of all Canadians.
Acceleware introduced the concept of RF-enabled rail cars through the first of a new series called "Wouldn't It Be Cool If..." This series will highlight the connection between Acceleware's innovation and hot topics in the industry. We plan to post 1-2 of these features a month on our LinkedIn page, on other social media and on our website, and will be referencing articles that are of interest or relevant to Acceleware's business.
We hope this new feature will provide our shareholders and followers more insight into the broad potential we see for our technologies, and how we continue to apply that innovation to make a difference for our customers.
Our first post featured the concept of RF-enabled rail cars, and our second post heralds the very real potential of Zero-GHG production of heavy oil and oil sands by using renewable energy sources to power RF XL. Look for more from Acceleware on both of these topics as we work to make them a reality.
This blog post contains “forward-looking information” within the meaning of Canadian securities legislation. Forward-looking information generally means information about an issuer’s business, capital, or operations that is prospective in nature, and includes disclosure about the issuer’s prospective financial performance or financial position.
Actual results may vary from the forward-looking information in this blog post due to certain material risk factors. These risk factors are described in detail in Acceleware’s continuous disclosure documents, which are filed on SEDAR at www.sedar.com.
Acceleware assumes no obligation to update or revise the forward-looking information in this blog post, unless it is required to do so under Canadian securities legislation.