Calgary startup tests down hole refinery prototype

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CALGARY, Alberta – In an effort to clean up the downstream oil gas sector’s tarnished image, which has been a bane to urban and rural landscapes across North America (not to mention the atmosphere), a 4-person startup company recently developed and is currently testing a prototype down hole micro-refinery.

The company, Micro Petro Inc., based out of Calgary, Alberta had raised over $1.2 million through various crowd-sourcing initiatives to fund the prototype’s R&D and construction.

The 4-person company, comprising an engineer, an environmental scientist, a marketing manager, and of course, a lawyer, held a press conference this morning to discuss progress to date, as the company prepares to make an IPO. President and COO, Tommy Rickles, describes the idea.

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Tommy Rickles, President & COO

“Currently, the fully integrated oil industry has 3 steps: 1) Get the crude oil out of the ground, 2) refine the crude oil into useable products, and 3) consume the product. We figured if we could switch the order of the first 2 steps, then we could eliminate the need for massive refineries and reduce this sector’s environmental footprint considerably. So that’s what we set off to do, and so far the results are mixed.” – Tommy Rickles, President & COO, MPI

According to a prospectus handed out at the press conference, the patent-pending technology uses a proprietary stack of down hole tools, one each for distilling, cracking, reforming, blending, and treating the crude oil on the way up the wellbore. The MicroRefine™ toolset is lowered into an oil well at the bottom of the tubing string. The top of the tubing terminates in a distribution point (which resembles a pump at a gas station) where the user simply selects the product, and pumps away.

Mr. Rickles continued,

“The idea is to make access to refined petroleum-based products as simple as possible. In our 1st prototype, we plan to make available gasoline (of various octane levels), diesel fuel, and liquid propane. So imagine this… I can fill my high performance Honda with 94 octane gas, top up my BBQ’s propane tank, and get my buddy’s Ford F-350 all good to go at a flick of a switch, and that’s what I call one-stop-shopping. Down the road, we plan to make available consumer products such as 5W30 motor oil, shoe polish, and Vaseline petroleum jelly.”

The company admits that its MicroRefine™ technology is only applicable on wells that are flowing oil, which clearly limits its widespread implementation across Western Canada.

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One of MPI’s earlier prototypes in Cremona, Alberta.

Opponents to the idea not only challenge the technical validity of the MicroRefine™ concept, but also wonder exactly how the mineral owners and other stakeholders will be financially compensated and how the reservoirs would be managed without standard production data. When asked about this at the press conference, Mr. Rickles side-stepped the question by drawing attention to news of EnKarma planning to lay off over 1000 staff.

Very preliminary results have shown that the only product available at the pump is crude oil, no matter how the dial is set. And it turns out that the company struggled with down hole explosions from the heat required to break up the oil. There are reports that these MicroRefine™ explosions have caused micro earthquakes as far away as SW Saskatchewan.

The company stated that if the MicroRefine™ technology does not work, it will work on another toolset that will convert formation water into potable water from source water wells, and one that will refine natural gas from dry natural gas wells.

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