Radical Sharing Finds Solutions Faster

Radical sharing in oil sands innovation

After six years at COSIA, I’ve seen how radical sharing promotes a positive shift in the culture of innovation and achieves tangible results faster. Radical sharing can be defined as being completely open about yourself and your work, without holding anything back. At COSIA, as representatives of our member companies embraced radical sharing, it led to faster identification and deployment of practical solutions to address some of our industry’s toughest environmental challenges.

When COSIA looked to drive innovation in the early years, it was difficult to get competing companies to share information about their innovation plans. But over time, as we built mutual trust and understanding across our membership, companies became increasingly willing to open up and share project ideas and detailed plans.

As a result, COSIA now has 31 formal working groups that span the breadth of COSIA’s four priority areas: Greenhouse Gases, Land, Tailings and Water. Staffed by specialists from COSIA members, each group is an innovation hub with a mandate to accelerate innovation around a specific theme. 

For example, the Asset Integrity Working Group, part of the Water Environmental Priority Area, recently discussed common problems with Pressure Safety Valves (PSVs), a type of valve that’s used to quickly release the pressure from a piece of equipment. PSVs are activated automatically when pressure exceeds a specific limit to return it to a safe operating level and avoid a safety incident.

The issue is that PSVs often fail prematurely and when that occurs, the equipment they protect must be taken off-line for repair, interrupting operations and potentially reducing production. To explore this issue, working group members who are experts on operations and deal with the PSV problem continually, got together to share their experiences. 

Everyone has problems with weeping PSVs, and all sorts of solutions have been tried. One company observed that if more than 20 lbs of pressure was used to connect pipes to the PSV, leaking could begin within hours after a new valve was installed, a startling discovery for all. Another company noted it’s common practice to wrap PSVs in a thermal blanket to protect equipment operators. This wrapping creates excess heat that can damage the PSV spring, requiring a shut down to service the valve – another surprise. 

There were several “aha” moments in the discussion and a realization that different companies had different pieces to the puzzle. A number of potential solutions were identified, such as replacing thermal blankets with a cage to prevent overheating. Several other good ideas were tested and the ones that were successful were documented and shared as best practices across all member companies.

At the end of the day, it was the open access to information through radical sharing that brought about a swift and successful solution. Chris Godwaldt, the Water Sr Technical Advisor said, “This is shining example of the power of radical sharing at COSIA. In a little over two hours, member companies were able to access over 100 years of experience from others operating similar assets. Money just can’t buy that kind of collaboration.” 

Interested in other stories in our Innovation Hacks series? Check out these blogs.
•    Engaging with innovators  
•    Propelling start-ups to the finish line
•    Measuring the value of innovation

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