Novel oil sampling tool means business

Novel oil sampling tool means business

University of Calgary spin-off finds success in oil and gas industry with new device
April 24, 2014

Much of Alberta’s oil is heavy and buried in reservoirs, trapped in between rocks and sand. It can also be quite thick and sticky, which makes it difficult to extract, and costs the oil sands industry $15 billion a year in developing more efficient, affordable and environmentally friendly extraction methods.

Oil and gas companies in the province rely on rock and oil samples to locate high concentrations of the less viscous oil where they can place wells. Steven Larter, Canada Research Chair in Petroleum Geology and his team at the University of Calgary created a spin-off company in 2006 called Gushor Inc., and developed a tool that is now the industry standard for taking these clean, cost-effective samples for measuring oil viscosity.

The Plunger™, a hydraulic cylinder the size of a large coffee cup attached to a hydraulic jack, pushes the rock in reservoirs to stress levels similar to those at 4,000 metres below ground, literally squeezing the oil out of the grains of sand and rock to produce a clean oil sample.

Gushor Inc. was acquired by Schlumberger, the world’s biggest company in the oil and gas industry, in 2013 and all 17 employees now work for the oil giant in Gushor’s lab outside Calgary. The Plunger™ is now used by most oil and gas companies in the world.

The development of the Plunger™ evolved from published research from Larter’s group that relied on equipment funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation. This work identified the microbiological and geological processes that convert conventional crude oils to heavy oil and bitumen within reservoirs. Understanding these processes, together with the means to effectively sample heavy oil reservoirs, Gushor was able to better predict where less viscous oil would be found within a reservoir.

One of Larter’s graduate students, Jennifer Adams — who later became the company’s CEO — saw a business opportunity to develop products from this knowledge that would save the oil and gas industry time and money.