Exergy’s new Clean Technology and Innovation head sees big opportunities for reducing emissions

We chatted with Matt McCulloch about how Exergy is enabling technology deployment in the energy sector

Exergy has recently brought on a new Vice President of Clean Technology and Innovation. Matt McCulloch is focused on new energy technologies and, specifically, to help guide our clients with strategies for emissions reduction. We recently did an interview with him to discuss his new role and the opportunities that Exergy brings to the energy sector.

It is clear that Exergy feels it has a role to play in greening the energy sector through technology. Can you tell us a bit about this?

We really feel that technology is going to play a significant role in emissions reduction in Canada. Exergy has already been working with the largest producers in the oil sands industry to deploy more energy efficient process technologies and now there’s a huge opportunity to collaborate with other large energy producers and consumers, as well as directly with the clean energy technology community. We can work with both groups to scale and deploy new clean technologies that can help industry reach net zero more quickly and at a lower cost than it otherwise would have.

Can you elaborate on the role advanced manufacturing (AM) is playing in reducing emissions?

AM has shown to be a critical enabler of new energy technology development. Technology developers can’t wait for long lead times associated with ordering ‘off-the-shelf’ parts, and in many cases, need custom parts that are not readily available. AM can provide cost-effective parts immediately; first printed in nylon to test different designs as required, and then printed in metal, if appropriate. This hastens the cycle of iterative and agile technology scaling.

Tell me a bit about the innovation coming out of the energy industry?

The sector is driving a wide array of innovation, including both improved process technologies as well as new, clean energy technologies such as hydrogen generation, CO2 capture and conversion, novel batteries, geothermal, small modular reactors, methane reduction, and waste heat recovery.

Sectors such as the oil sands are seeking novel alternatives to the use of their product, such as for carbon fibres or asphalt. There are also innovations as a result from technologies such as CO2 conversion or methane decomposition to create H2, where new, value-added carbon materials with unique properties are produced. For example, the carbon generated from these technologies directly create carbon nanotubes, carbon fullerenes, even graphene.

What do you think is the main driver for technology deployment in the energy sector?

Innovation is being advanced and driven by the energy sector like never before. Both large energy producers and industrial end-users are working to dramatically reduce operating costs, while also aiming to achieve deep GHG reductions—including net zero aspirations, which many industry leaders are setting as a medium- to long-term goal.

Tell us a bit about some of Exergy’s projects to deploy clean energy in the sector.

We’re excited about some of the projects we’re currently working on. Right now, Exergy is helping several industry leaders in their plans to achieve net zero, including broader strategy support. This includes identifying and selecting the most appropriate GHG technologies through performing detailed techno-economic evaluations to ensure the best technologies are selected and then supporting a technology development plan.

Exergy is leading a collaboration of nine industry leaders from different sectors to identify and assess novel lower cost CO2 capture technologies that are best suited to their assets. A key objective of this project is to identify collaboration opportunities where two or more companies can leverage each other’s resources to advance a technology of common interest.

Two projects we recently worked on were the development and prototype for a thermal electric generator to help save GHG emissions and costs for vented methane from pipelines in remote areas; and engineering and building a novel flow battery that offers high storage capacity, with flexibility in accommodating different power loads. Exergy is working with Suncor Energy on non-aqueous extraction for surface mining and bitumen extraction that could reduce or eliminate the need for water. We recently wrapped up a project to deliver a fully- reconfigurable pilot unit for testing water treatment optimization opportunities for thermal in situ oil sands operations.

We certainly see incredible potential in the energy sector and beyond, and I’m excited to be able to collaborate with industry and the new energy technology community to bring solutions to market faster as a result of Exergy’s unique capabilities. This next decade is sure to be one of exciting, fast-paced change and we are incredibly well positioned to help our clients lead the way.

Matt McCulloch joined Exergy in early 2021 as VP Clean Technology and Innovation. Prior to joining Exergy, Matt was the director of the Greenhouse Gas Environmental Priority Area of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), supporting the oil sands industry alliance members in accelerating the pace of environmental technology innovation through collaboration. Matt also led the consulting activities of the Pembina Institute. He is a Clean Resource Innovation Network theme lead, board member of Foresight Canada, and chair of the board for the Academy for Sustainable Innovation. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Engineering from Queens University and is a Fellow of the Energy Futures Lab.

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