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By Tanner Milner, Business Development Manager, Scovan with Stan Ross, President & CEO, Recover Inc.

Tanner Milner: Can you tell us a little bit about Recover’s beginnings and where you as an organization are today? What do you do?

Stan Ross: Recover was founded in 2008 with a mandate to develop a technological solution to the longstanding liability of oil based drilling waste. 

Today, Recover is a leading Waste-to-Fuel company focused on recycling oil based drilling waste, which is created nearly every time a well is drilled. Recover’s first-of-a-kind Lodgepole Facility, operating in Western Canada, culminates fifteen years of research and development and the successful commercialization of the Corporation’s Waste-to-Fuel technology.

TM: What makes Recover unique? How do you do what you do? Can you explain the technology utilized to recover marketable product from drilling waste?

SR: Recover is competing in a technologically under developed area. While some niche technologies have tried to fill the technological gap (for example, thermal recovery, high speed centrifuges and vacuum shakers), all are constrained by effectiveness or operating costs. Thermal processes apply heat to the drilling waste in an effort to evaporate the diesel phase – a process that comes with high energy inputs. Getting the diesel to boil off in its fractions requires tremendous energy, increasing the carbon footprint of the recovered diesel. Centrifuges and vacuum shakers are limited by effectiveness in that, they can only recover the free liquids. Given this area lacked a technological solution, industry defaulted to managing the liability with landfilling. Recover has a multi-phase solvent extraction process, a time-proven technique leveraged worldwide to recover many materials. 

Recover has adapted the solvent extraction technique to function on oil based drilling waste. Through our specialized application, the solvent dissolves oil-based mud into solution. That liquid phase is sent to a distillation tower where the solvent evaporates (at a low temperature) and is converted from vapour to a liquid for reuse. Since the base oil (diesel) has a higher boiling point, it is collected in the tower bottom and reusable as a low-sulfur fuel.

TM: Scovan was involved in some of the early stages with Recover, on a Debottlenecking Project in 2019. How did that project go?

SR: The Debottlenecking Project was commissioned to remove any of the bottlenecks in the original facility design. Scovan was the lead engineering firm and the project was completed on time and on budget. The project was commissioned to prove two metrics:

  • The technology worked at the designed throughput;
  • The business plan is commercially viable.

Following our commissioning of the Debottlenecking Project (and following the COVID shutdown), both of these metrics have been fully proven. In fact, Recover recently achieved two significant milestones including, the production of >11mm litres of base oil and avoidance of 100,000 metric tonnes of CO2e.

TM: How important is it for Recover to work with companies, both up and down-stream of your business in a collaborative, mutually beneficial way? What are you doing to foster these relationships with vendors, partners, and clients?

SR: Recover is a proud partner of the Western Economic Corridor (“WEC”). WEC is a Brazeau County initiative, intended to attract clean-tech companies to situate operations in this new industrial cluster area. Recover agreed to participate because we believe in the area and recognize, collaboration is essential to success and Recover was the benefactor of such collaboration while we were developing our clean-tech. Not only did Recover find vendors in Brazeau County who were willing to help design and build proprietary process equipment, but we also found other innovators, like that of Mojo Trucking and HVO, both located in Drayton Valley. Mojo Trucking has been a leader in the development of sealed trailer designs which allow for the safe and effective transport of oil based drilling waste. HVO demonstrated that Recover’s cleaned waste (RecoverDryTM) worked really well as a stabilization material for daylighting waste streams. By recycling RecoverDryTM as a stabilization material, the use of biogenic materials is avoided, further reducing GHG emissions. 

TM:What does the future have in store for Recover?

SR: Recover is actively pursuing a US expansion and we have received a permit from the Railroad Commission of Texas to build its next facility in the heart of the busiest market in the world. Construction of this facility is scheduled to start later this year and the facility will be located directly on a landfill in Howard County Texas. This facility will be capable of producing more than 12,000,000 gallons per year of negative carbon intensity distillate fuel, while avoiding over 400,000 tonnes of GHG emissions per year. This project will mark the start of a long and prosperous growth phase resulting in the recycling of waste, reducing landfill volumes and substantial reductions in GHG emissions.

Recover plans to replicate its existing technology in North America to more than twenty possible expansion sites where there is limited, if any, competition and upon full commercial rollout Recover could avoid upwards of 8 million tonnes of GHG emissions annually while producing more than 240,000,000 gallons per year of negative carbon intensity distillate fuel. Recover is committed to playing a pivotal role in the fight against climate change through the expansion of its proprietary technology to maximize the recycling of waste and avoidance of GHG emissions.

TM: How does being a Canadian based business impact your ability to grow and succeed with a focus on American-based infrastructure projects?

SR: In our experience, it doesn’t matter if you’re based-in and expanding-to the US or Canada. Your technology needs to be economical to be sustainable. The Recover team doesn’t subscribe to being green at any cost – if any process costs more than the status quo, you won’t get buy in. We have been really happy with the reception for Recover and we believe it’s because of our approach of a zero dollar processing fee. Recover uses the recovered base oil as our revenue stream, while promoting recycling efforts, reducing landfillable volumes and avoiding green house gas emissions. ‘Being better’ with the same (or a lower) cost point gets you buy in. 

Scovan delivered front end engineering services which resulted in Recover obtaining a permit for our first US facility. With a permit in-hand and our state of technology readiness, Recover was able to secure a feedstock agreement with a large US based landfill operator and off-take agreements with a local drilling fluids wholesaler and a large US based refiner.

TM: What is your future outlook for the oil and gas industry in North America?

SR: Oil and gas will be an important part of global energy supply for the coming decades and we are gradually seeing more attention to ways of decarbonizing beyond replacing fossil fuels. Recover Inc. is at the forefront of the opportunities and challenges associated with decarbonizing drilling new wells, landfill avoidance and low carbon fuel production. 

TM: Thanks for your time and insight into the work Recover is doing and how you are approaching the challenge of oil based drilling waste and providing an option that allows companies to deliver on ESG commitments. Scovan is proud to have been a part of your journey so far, we look forward to your future successes.

Originally published in Scovan’s IGNITE Vol. 6