PTRC Continues Its Important ESG Initiatives Across its R&D Programs

Back in 1998, when the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC) was first envisioned and created, the goals were simple.

Founded by the Government of Canada (NRCan), the Government of Saskatchewan (Energy and Resources), the University of Regina, and the Saskatchewan Research Council, the PTRC’s focus was to be on creating the capacity at Saskatchewan’s universities and research groups to conduct R&D that would advance the province’s difficult-to-access oil reserves.  With the large universities in Alberta dominating engineering and geology disciplines, the PTRC became instrumental in expanding and creating a research ecosystem within the province. That included bringing together funds from the private and public sectors to drive research in key areas like enhanced oil recovery.

But a funny thing happened on the way to R&D.

In 2000, Pan-Canadian—the company that would become Encana and eventually Cenovus—decided to begin CO2 injection into the depleted oil reservoir at Weyburn.  Drawing on limited public knowledge of using CO2 for enhanced oil recovery in locations in Texas, Pan-Canadian was interested in seeing what improved production would look like.  And the PTRC approached the company to develop a research, measurement and monitoring program to accompany the planned CO2 flood.

Over the next 15 years, the IEAGHG Weyburn-Midale CO2 Monitoring and Storage Project would become the most important R&D program in the world looking at the safe geological utilization and storage of CO2.  Over 300 research papers and four book-length publications later, that project has helped inform almost every CO2 utilization and storage project globally on best practices.

“PTRC within a few years of its creation became a company that started to work towards the environmental, social and governance aspirations of not just the oil and gas industry, but also other industries interested in reducing their CO2 emissions,” notes Ran Narayanasamy, the CEO and president of the company.

From Weyburn, the PTRC moved on to the Aquistore program, which is injecting CO2 from SaskPower’s Boundary Dam CCS facility into a deep saline aquifer 3.4km underground.  That project is straight storage—not EOR—and has permanently stored almost 540,000 tonnes of CO2.  The same as taking 135,000 cars off the road for one year.

Even in its ongoing enhanced oil recovery research program—the Heavy Oil Research Network, or HORNET—the focus of R&D continues to develop towards reducing the environmental impacts of enhanced oil recovery (EOR).  Reductions in water and energy use, and the continued advancement of capturing CO2 and methane for rejection are main areas of focus.

“Our network of experts and knowledge base has further expanded,” says Erik Nickel, the PTRC’s chief operating officer. “We’ve recently completed geothermal energy assessments for the planned aquatic centre in downtown Regina, and have an additional program for the City of Estevan looking at possible geothermal heat for buildings in that city.  We want to use our knowledge and expertise in the subsurface to help companies and municipalities reduce their emissions to hit 2030 and 2050 targets.”

The PTRC has committed itself further to ESG initiatives, including becoming an active member of the Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) program with the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.  The company recently completed its first phase of the program, and is hoping to attain “bronze” status with PAR by the end of 2024.  The company also recently hired an Indigenous Human Resources consultant.

“We’ve made sure to fund initiatives that will bring Indigenous participation in our future projects, and hopefully at our Board level,” notes Narayanasamy. “We have fostered a close connection with the First Nations Power Authority, based in Regina, and are optimistic about a recent funding proposal we jointly submitted to the federal government.”

In the summer of 2022, the company also hired its first Indigenous summer student, and a science scholarship program was established by the company at the First Nations University of Canada in 2020.

“We’d like to encourage First Nations students to look into that scholarship and see if they are eligible,” said Narayanasamy.

Indigenous students can find information about the scholarship by going here: