"Collaboration equals Innovation" – Michael Dell. This seemed to be the all-encompassing theme of last week's Innovation Summit hosted by ROSEN Canada at the Telus Spark Science Center in Calgary. The Science Center's mission states; "Spark brings people together to learn, play and create with science, technology, engineering, art and math."
In that spirit, the event took off.

On October 10 2019, ROSEN Canada brought together a variety of Canadian operators for a day of presentations, panel discussions, and technical displays. Although individual topics ranged from data analytics to tool and sensor development, the undisputed message was “moving forward through collaboration,” highlighted by Daryl Ronsky, Vice President of ROSEN Canada, in his welcome speech, and also Chris Bloomer, President and CEO of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA), in his keynote speech.

The day’s presentations each introduced a contribution to the latest developments and innovations in the industry; however, the afternoon's panel discussion was the undisputed highlight of the day. Moderator Arti Bhatia, of DNV GL, asked each panelist (Andrew Greig, Trans Mountain, David Chittick, TC Energy, and Mike Hill, Enbridge) a series of questions revolving around drivers for change, successes in innovation, and future game changers or threats we should be aware of. Of course, the audience was also given the opportunity to direct questions to the panel. Some highlights included:

Panel Discussion, Calgary Innovation Summit

When asked what operational challenges their organizations had overcome and what may have been the catalysts for change, Andrew Greig responded with the simple answer of cultural change. He referred to an organization that had become stagnant, prior to a leak in 2011. He said that we could not become complacent about what we already know. He said that once this cultural shift occurred, the organization was better-equipped to manage the integrity of their asset.

Arti Bhatia also introduced the economic aspect of the industry, asking how a company with a large amount of assets can continue to invest in innovation and integrity management.

Mike Hill responded that although new technology is challenging, we must continue to invest and to do it now, and be prepared. He also restated the idea of collaboration, and how together we would be better prepared.

Bhatia followed up with the question of how a small operator, with much less assets then a TC Energy or an Enbridge, and a much smaller budget, could also drive innovation. The congruous answer to this question was: together. Each member of the panel mentioned the industry organizations already established, and the free sharing of information about integrity and safety-related issues, and urged operators to take part in industry forums and joint technical partnerships.

Calgary Innovation Summit

The audience also addressed the issue of knowledge transfer to which the panel anonymously responded with mentorship programs and the creation of training programs, but also emphasized the need for the young minds of the industry to bring new ways of thinking into the mix and to foster the exchange of knowledge more than the one-way transfer. The final question, asked by Bhatia, pertained to what the next big challenge will be in the pipeline industry, and what would be the next big technology.

David Chittick responded by saying, the biggest threats would not necessarily be physical threats, like cracks or corrosion, but rather social acceptance, the rising social pressure, and the issue of climate change. In the future, we will need to focus more on efficiency and reducing our carbon footprint, as well as making sure the 'outliers' don't happen anymore. Mike Hill added to this comment by saying that geohazards brought upon by climate change would become more relevant, as extreme natural phenomenon become more frequent, and that perhaps self-balancing tools, i.e. tools that not only detected threats but also relieved them, would be the next big technological innovation.

Calgary Innovation Summit

Andrew Greig agreed to the two other comments, but also added the immediate threat of the political landscape as a potential challenge to be faced. Greig also emphasized the need for better integration of data sets and making more efficient use of the data we gather.

The theme of the day did not waver and attendees went into the cocktail reception with the initial words of Chris Bloomer still top of mind, "Keep the technology coming, keep collaborating, and keep innovating."