Ranjith (“Ran”) Narayanasamy is the new CEO of the PTRC. Photo courtesy PTRC

REGINA – On Feb. 14th the Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC) and its board of directors announced the appointment of Ranjith (“Ran”) Narayanasamy as the company’s new president and chief executive officer.

Narayanasamy comes to the PTRC from SaskPower after over 16 years. He has a somewhat different perspective on carbon capture and storage. You see, he spent some time in India speaking about and promoting SaskPower’s efforts in that regard. And India happens to have more than 180,000 megawatts of coal-fired power generation

Now a Canadian citizen, Narayanasamy is originally from India, where he got his bachelor in instrumentation and controls engineering from the University of Madras.

“I came as a student here 19 years ago,” he said by Zoom call from Regina on Feb. 14. “I did my masters in engineering then my MBA, both at the University of Regina.”

The masters in engineering focused on electronics. Narayanasamy brings with him a background in energy, business and policy development. He is a registered professional engineer with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan (APEGS). At SaskPower he was a senior business advisor.

Narayanasamy says his position was, “kind of like a hybrid, with a lot of accountability and responsibility, where you are not bound by a single functional role. It was very diverse role.”

To that end, he worked on creating an Indigenous procurement economic development policy. “We were able to implement that policy and create $360 million of new economy in terms of that.”

He received the Premier’s Award for Public Service Excellence in 2019 for Indigenous procurement implementation. He was also a lead negotiator for SaskPower on various indigenous projects. He noted PTRC has increased its indigenous consultations, and actually established an undergraduate scholarship is science at the First Nations University in 2018.

A large portion of the PTRC’s work since its formation over 20 years ago has been in the use of carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery. PTRC expanded that focus to include CO2 storage in deep saline formations with its Aquistore project, directly affiliated with SaskPower’s Boundary Dam facility. To that end, Narayanasamy has been involved in promoting SaskPower’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) efforts.

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“I went to India promoting CCS and SaskPower’s carbon capture project in India,” he said, pointing out, “I strongly believe CCS has a big role to play here and outside Canada.”

“I have been to the plant many times. I have taken delegations from India and other countries and people from the UK,” he said. “It’s very fascinating because when we look at it, it’s not a power plant, actually. It’s a chemical plant producing power.”

Boundary Dam Unit 3 doesn’t just capture its CO2, it also strips out NOX and SOX, producing additional commodities like sulphuric acid for industrial use and fly ash for concrete production.

“It’s amazing what the plant can do in terms of capturing carbon and also helping enhanced oil recovery,” he said.

Asked what motivated him to jump ship from SaskPower to the PTRC, Narayanasamy said looking back over almost 25 years, the PTRC has been doing some really good work, especially in carbon capture and storage. That includes the Boundary Dam Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Facility and its associated Aquistore Project.

“There is some fantastic research being done, and we are not promoting enough the great things we do in Saskatchewan. I would say Saskatchewan is very humble. Saskatchewan people are very humble,” he said, noting more could be done to promote the technological work that we do.

“There are a lot of opportunities I’m seeing outside the province, too,” he said.

When it comes to climate change mitigation, Narayanasamy said, “You need to have some kind of carbon capture, utilization and storage mechanisms. I don’t think our major industries will ever go about doing climate change solutions without carbon capture and storage.”

He included cement and steel as examples.

“People might say everything is great (to be) green, but I don’t think, without carbon capture, you’re going to make 2050 net-zero targets happen,” Narayanasamy said. “We can keep talking about it, but something has to happen.”

While a lot of companies may say they have expertise, Narayanasamy said, “Nobody has the track record or history of the PTRC in terms of the data, and the research, and also the background and implementation. And it’s proven work, proven technology that’s working.”

“There is so much opportunity for the PTRC to lead the change and help major industries to achieve their goals, especially since ESG is becoming pretty big, right?” he said, referring to environmental, social and governance targets. “I think the PTRC will play a vital role in that.”

Narayanasamy expects oil to be around for a while yet. “It’s pretty hard to close the tap and say, ‘I won’t drive the car.’ It’s very hard, when it’s minus 20, to say, ‘I’m just going to put on four jackets and sit at home and not use natural gas.’

“At the same time, companies like the PTRC can help mitigate some of the CO2, capture and store it, use it, even find an opportunity to use it for enhanced oil recovery. That’s one of the important aspects of this organization. It’s complimentary.”

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As for the expectation that fewer people will drive cars in five years, he points to India, noting that almost 300 million people moved to the middle class in the last 10-15 years.

“It’s phenomenal,” he said.

He’s a big fan of electric vehicles, but adds, “It takes energy to produce electricity to power these vehicles. You can’t just say, ‘I’m going to shut everything down and open this one up.’ It has to go hand in hand.”

Goals

As for his goals, Narayanasamy said, “One of the main things is I want to make sure that PTRC, the technology and the knowledge and the people and the Saskatchewan story are utilized to help major industries for ESG targets. I think PTRC will play a very important role in helping those major industries.”

“I think we are in a perfect storm right now, because everybody’s talking about carbon capture, utilization and storage. I think you wouldn’t have heard this a few years before, but right now it’s perfect timing. Everybody’s talking about it. Even Alberta is building some bigger trunklines and they’re investing a lot of money. In Saskatchewan, we have the Boundary Dam plant. I think my goal is to make sure that PTRC is there to provide the solutions. We are a very relevant organization for current climate change needs, like mitigation. We will have a solution to provide.”

“Look at India – more than 180,000 megawatts of coal plants are running. Solar and wind are great, but it’s intermittent power. I think carbon capture and storage is going to be the new commodity domain. I believe it will play an important role.”

With reference to Narayanasamy’s selection, Kristal Allen, chair of the organization’s board of directors, said in a release, “The PTRC’s importance as a petroleum research facilitator has never been higher. Its core role as a manager and advancer of enhanced oil recovery technologies that reduce emissions and improve production efficiencies remains key. In the last few years, in alignment with economic and environmental trends, the PTRC has also expanded its other core competency: CO2 utilization and storage.”

The PTRC remains a committed partner and funder of Saskatchewan research organizations – including the University of Regina, University of Saskatchewan, and the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) – contributing close to $1.5 million to those organizations each year. Additional funds from oil and gas companies support the PTRC’s EOR work. Other industries and an extensive network of national and international partners fund the Aquistore program. Recent federal initiatives related to net-zero 2050 and support of carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) have created more demand from different industries for the PTRC’s CO2 storage expertise, including from refiners, pipeline companies, geothermal developers, cement manufacturers, and utilities.

“The value-added by the PTRC is significant,” noted Allen. “Its leadership in EOR and CO2 utilization, and the extensive databases from Aquistore and the Weyburn-Midale CO2 Storage Project, have identified and advanced innovations in subsurface energy. We are confident Ran will continue to move the PTRC forward.”

 

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