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What do beer, bitumen and greenhouse gas emissions have in common?

That would be Neil Camarta, founder of Field Upgrading.

Camarta spent most of his engineering career building conventional upgraders, which emit sulphur dioxide and other noxious GHG pollutants into the atmosphere.

Now he's teamed up with the Coors Brewing family and Alberta Innovates to commercialize a simple and clean upgrading technology for heavy oil. And he's even found a novel market for his product that will make a significant contribution toward reducing pollution from ships.

That's not bad for a landlocked prairie company.

Camarta, a chemical engineer, has helped build heavy oil upgraders for Shell and Petro-Canada.

In recent years, his mantra is cleaner and cheaper. That's what drives him and business partner Guy Turcotte to be innovators.

"We talk to a lot of inventors. If we like their idea, then we work with them to commercialize the technology. In this case, the inventors are the Coors family, who make beer in Colorado, of all things."

Sodium connects beer to bitumen. "It's as if it was programmed to remove all the 'dirty' from dirty oil," says Camarta.

Field Upgrading's novel process begins with elemental sodium, a metal that melts at the relatively low temperature of 100C. "It mixes really well with oil. It takes out all the sulphur. It takes out all the metals. It takes out all the acid. So it cleans up the oil and it doesn't leave piles of coke or asphaltenes behind."

The kicker is recovering the sodium because of its high value.

That's where Coors comes in. Besides making beer, they're also the world's largest manufacturer of high-tech ceramics.

"One of their specialty ceramics allows us to recycle sodium using electrolysis in a battery-like setup," Camarta explains. "When you use sulphur from the oil using sodium, you make sodium sulphide. You put the sodium sulphide in the battery, turn on the power and it separates the sodium from the sulphur. So you're able to recycle the sodium."

Conventional upgrading of heavy oil requires the use of high pressure, high temperature and many catalysts. Because of the focus on hydrogen, that results in emissions like hydrogen sulphide, sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide.

But by using sodium as the de-sulphuring agent, the reaction with Field Upgrading's technology is exothermic, meaning it makes heat. Any greenhouse gas emissions are indirect, depending on the source of electricity used for the batteries. "So it's very clean. It's also very simple. We just have a reactor and these batteries," says Carmata. He calls the process elegant.

Camarta spent four years developing the technology bench scale at a Coors-owned lab in Salt Lake City. Now he has opened a pilot plant in Fort Saskatchewan, with plans for a demonstration plant next on the path to commercialization. Funding over the years has come from Alberta Innovates, Natural Resources Canada, Sustainable Development Technology Canada and the former CCEMC, now called Emissions Reduction Alberta.

And Field Upgrading's target market?

"The largest single consumer of high-sulphur heavy oil is the marine industry," says Camarta. "All the ships that sail upon the sea, they burn about four million barrels a day of 3.5 per cent sulphur. I think there's a fact that goes something like this: that the world's 15 largest ships make more pollution in the form of sulphur dioxide than all the cars in the world put together. "

In October 2016, the International Maritime Organization ruled that by 2020, every ship must change over to fuel that has a reduced sulphur content of 0.5 per cent.

"So that's our market. We would take the sulphur out of heavy oil and then we would take it to tidewater and we would sell it into the shipping industry, because our oil fits the new sulphur regulations perfectly."

Field Upgrading has already met with companies in Singapore and other shipping centres.

The technology offers a major market opportunity for the oilsands industry. With diesel well over $70 a barrel, this will help in diversifying Alberta's economy and it's an environmental win for the world's atmosphere and oceans.

Says Camarta about his Calgary office: "We must be the only people here with a boardroom with a big ship on the wall - just to remind us of what our market is."

Not surprisingly, the demonstration plant will be named Clean Seas.


Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau once famously quipped that living next to the United States "is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant." By this he meant that developments in the U.S. often have an outsized effect on Canada. Canadians, like it or not, must always be mindful of what's happening south of the border and be flexible enough to respond.

This is particularly true with our comparative standing on taxes. Unfortunately, Pierre Trudeau's observation seems completely lost on his son, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and various provincial leaders.

With the U.S. Senate passing its tax reform bill, it's increasingly likely that the U.S. will - for the first time in almost two decades - soon have a business tax regime that's significantly more competitive than Canada's. Crucially, this will divert investment, which drives long-term economic growth and prosperity, away from Canada to the U.S.

It's not like our governments can say they didn't see this coming. For more than a year, there have been clear warning signs that the U.S. was serious about tax reform. And Ottawa and many of the provinces have done nothing to respond.

This is unfortunate because successive federal governments (starting with Jean Chretien's Liberals and then Stephen Harper's Conservatives) - along with provincial governments of various political stripes - undertook enormous reforms to improve Canada's business tax regime. Major reductions to the statutory corporate income tax rate, elimination of the corporate capital tax, and a switch to value-added sales taxes at the provincial level helped give Canada a marked advantage over the U.S.

For instance, in 2000 Canada's combined federal-provincial corporate income tax rate was 42.4 per cent, the second highest among industrialized countries and higher than the U.S. federal-state rate of 39.3 per cent. By 2017, Canada's combined corporate income tax rate dropped to 26.7 per cent, below the U.S. rate of 38.9 per cent.

This advantage will soon be spun on its head. While final details of the U.S. reform package are not yet set in stone, the U.S. will likely move from depreciating capital investment towards full expensing, create incentives to move overseas profits to the U.S. And it's expected to reduce the federal corporate tax rate from 35 per cent to 20 per cent, bringing its combined federal-state rate lower than Canada's combined rate.

More broadly, the U.S. will gain an advantage when it comes to the overall tax rate on new investment, which includes more than just the corporate income tax. According to University of Calgary economist Jack Mintz, the overall tax rate on new investment in the U.S. will fall from 34.6 per cent to 18.6 per cent (Canada's current rate is 21.6 per cent). Indeed, Canada will go from having a big advantage over the U.S. on the taxation of new investment to a disadvantage, as the U.S. rate is cut by almost half.

In the wake of this challenge, neither the federal government nor any of the provinces have presented a plan to maintain Canada's competitive position on business taxes. To the contrary, some provinces in the past two years have actually raised their corporate tax rates, making us less competitive vis-à-vis the U.S.

Making matters worse, federal finances, and the finances of key provinces such as Ontario and Alberta, make it very difficult for our governments to do anything in the short term without having to either run even larger deficits or enact significant spending reforms (none of these governments seem interested in reducing spending).

Given the widespread economic benefits, improving Canada's business tax regime is good policy regardless of what the U.S. does. But reform south of the border makes it even more critical for our governments to take action.

When you sleep with an elephant, doing nothing is not a good choice.


December 15, 2017

Flair Airlines (Kelowna, British Columbia) today will begin service as the first ULCC carrier in Canada to fly from Vancouver International Airport, Toronto Pearson Airport, and Kelowna International airport. The airline announced plans to expand their route network in September to add the three additional airports.  Service will includes direct flights between Toronto to Edmonton and Vancouver to Kelowna, Edmonton with one-stop flights to Toronto (and returns). 

“Flair is making significant strides, operating as the only ULCC in Canada.  Over the last six months we have expanded our route network, we have increased our aircraft fleet by purchasing two more Boeing 737-400s, we have entered onto the Global Distribution System making it easier for customers to purchase air tickets, and so we are now excited to bring our low fares to these new markets,” stated Chris Lapointe, Vice President Commercial Operations, Flair Airlines

“We are pleased to welcome Flair Airlines to YVR, providing more connections to Canadian cities while giving travelers more options to visit family and friends over this holiday season and throughout the year,” said Anne Murray, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Vancouver Airport Authority.

Flair Airlines plans to be operating 12 aircraft by the spring of 2019. 

Schedule Highlights:

Toronto to:

Edmonton, Direct 7 times weekly

Vancouver, One-Stop 4 times weekly

Kelowna, One-Stop 3 times weekly                    

Vancouver to:

Kelowna Direct, 4 times weekly

Edmonton, Direct 4 times weekly

Toronto,One-Stop 4 times weekly    

Kelowna to:

Edmonton, Direct 3 times weekly

Toronto, One-Stop 3 times weekly

Vancouver, 4 times weekly    

Flair Airlines’ route network also includes Hamilton, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Abbotsford.  


One of the central planks of globalisation - offshoring - has been found to have no effect on unemployment and on the whole boosts jobs in the home country.

A study of nearly 6,000 European service multi-nationals by Nigel Driffield, of Warwick Business School, Vijay Pereira, of the University of Wollongong, and Yama Temourib, of Aston University, found no evidence that offshoring - the relocation of part of the business to another country - led to an increase in unemployment at home.

In fact, since the global financial crisis in 2007-08 the researchers found offshoring led to an uplift in employment for the company on its home soil.

Professor Driffield said: “Unsubstantiated claims of loss of employment due to offshoring have played a part to the UK voting for Brexit and the rise of right wing protectionist governments across the world, so it is imperative that we have some proper evidence on the issue.

“Most research has been on manufacturing companies, but with the service sector making up around 80 per cent of UK employment we have focused on services.

“Thus, we have looked at thousands of multi-national firms across Europe over a near 20-year period and calculated the impact of their offshoring activities.

“Not only is there no evidence of a reduction in employment at home, but on the whole offshoring in these sectors led to an increase in employment at home, particularly after the financial crisis.”

The study, Does offshore outsourcing impact home employment? Evidence from service multinationals, due to be published in the Journal of Business Research, investigated the impact of offshoring by 5,746 European multi-nationals from 1997 to 2016, so taking in the pre-crisis and post-crisis periods.

These companies - ranging from retailers and hoteliers to financial services and telecommunications - offshored to 9,416 subsidiaries in 87 countries around the world, with Germany, Spain, France and Sweden hosting the majority of parent firms (66 per cent) followed by Belgium, Denmark, Finland and the UK.

They found the vast majority of the subsidiaries - 7,635 - were located not in developing countries, but in high income economies in Western Europe, North America or Japan and Australia.

Professor Driffield and his colleagues also found companies offshoring to move into a new market, such as Walmart opening branches in another country, actually saw employment grow in their home country. These ‘location intensive’ firms make up 62 per cent of the multi-nationals studied.

Interestingly, offshoring by ‘information intensive’ companies - those with high levels of technology and knowledge like a UK advertising agency opening an office in Frankfurt - saw a drop in employment when offshoring before the financial crisis, but since then it has not impacted on unemployment.

“Since the financial crisis these ‘information intensive’ companies have engaged in labour hoarding to avoid the impact of skill shortages,” said Professor Driffield. “The study also shows that is worthwhile policymakers encouraging ‘location intensive’ service firms to invest abroad, particularly in high income countries as that will generate more employment back home.

“It is possible that the effects of offshoring on jobs are being felt on the companies’ supply chain and this needs investigating.

“But our results suggest something of a breakdown of the traditional models of ‘job exporting’. In the short term, this is perhaps driven in the West by skill shortages, and the reluctance of firms to shed scarce labour.

“In the longer term, however, we may see a return to the pre-crisis norm, especially if higher levels of protectionism force firms to move nearer to their customers.”


DOVER, N.H., Dec. 12, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- ElectroCraft, Inc., the global fractional horsepower motor, and motion solutions provider, has expanded their CompletePower™ Plus family of BLDC motor drives offering with the CompletePower™ Plus Universal Drive. The Universal Drive takes performance, efficiency and flexibility to the next level, utilizing state-of-the-art digital drive technology combined with an intuitive and highly configurable user interface. The CompletePower™ Plus comes in three standard capacities with customized options available for OEMs.

"ElectroCraft has added a key new offering to their digital drive family with the Universal Drive," notes Scott Rohlfs, Director of Product Marketing. "This exciting new platform provides the flexibility, ease of use, performance and customization capability that our OEM customers require, and it is an important component of a complete motion solution from ElectroCraft."

Universal Drive Highlights:

  • Driven by design to be one of the most space efficient, low voltage, digital servo drives available. 
  • Utilizing the latest in digital drive architecture to provide software selectable velocity or torque control modes.
  • Compatible with Brushless motors from 12 to 80 VDC and up to 24A continuous, 60A peak current.
  • Sine-wave commutation using either hall sensor or encoder feedback provides smooth torque for demanding motion control requirements. 
  • Advanced Field Oriented Control provides high dynamic response resulting in a robust motor controller with low torque ripple that produces smoother, more efficient motion!
  • Easy setup and configuration via USB interface with the ElectroCraft CompleteArchitect™ Windows-based software.

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