20 Years of Clean Air
Advancements Written by Julia Marshall
he phrase “in quest of” may be at the root of Questor Technology Inc.’s moniker, but if there’s one word to describe the company itself, it’s passion. “We all wholeheartedly believe in what we’re doing here,” explains Questor president and CEO, Audrey Mascarenhas. “We have faith in our people, the technology and the positive things we’re doing for the environment.” Indeed, Questor is doing some very positive things for the environment. The company designs and manufactures incinerators that combust waste gas from oil and gas operations at 99.99 per cent efficiency. Compared to conventional gas flaring, where noxious gases are burned off into the atmosphere, Questor’s incinerators create no
“We have faith in our people, the technology and the positive things we’re doing for the environment.” ~ Audrey Mascarenhas, Questor president and CEO Audrey Mascarenhas. Photo by Melissa Arthur
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The team at Questor Technology. Photo by Melissa Arthur
visible flame, smoke or black plume, and only emit vaporized water and carbon dioxide. Even the heat generated from the process can be reused for different purposes. The technology is particularly unique in that it creates a win-win for both industry and environment. “There really isn’t a loser with what we do,” says Mascarenhas. “It makes business sense for clients to use our technology, for both
cost-saving and compliance reasons. At the same time, it creates social license within communities due to cleaner air and reduced visibility and noise.” Questor’s incinerators operate unmanned and require 80 per cent less fuel than a flare when combusting low-heat content gases, which significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. No extensive maintenance, vapor recovery units or external power sources are necessary. Companies enjoy significant cost savings with a four-month payback, and even more importantly, no toxic gases end up in the atmosphere. Today, Questor is headquartered in Calgary with a fabrication facility in Grande Prairie. In 2014, the company plans to open a fabrication facility in Florida, an office in Houston and service centres in Pennsylvania and Texas. The company primarily serves oil and gas clients in Canada and the U.S. and has worked in France, Germany, Russia and China.
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Questor’s technology can also be applied to tire recycling, water and sewage treatment plants, agricultural operations, landfills and railcar loading facilities – anywhere waste gases need to be disposed of as efficiently as possible.
The Pursuit of Cleaner Air Questor’s journey first began in 1994. A group of investors based in Vancouver compiled a number of eco-friendly innovations and formed a company. At the time, it was quite a novel concept to have a for-profit company in the environmental sector. Inspired by the quest-like nature of their objective, the founders named the company Questor Technology Inc. The company went public on the TSX Venture exchange in 1998 under the stock symbol QST. One of the original inventions in Questor’s portfolio was similar to what the company has today, but it couldn’t handle the large industrial volumes that would make it marketmarket able. To improve the technology, Questor’s founders turned to where they knew they’d find engineering expertise – Calgary. Excited about Questor’s potential to create cleaner air technologies, a handful of oil and gas professionals joined the company. One of those individuals was Dan Motyka, who left his position at Gulf Canada Resources Ltd. in the late 1990s to join Questor. (Gulf Canada was acquired by ConocoPhillips in 2001.) “It was Dan who convinced me to come to Questor,” smiles Mascarenhas. “He was my former colleague at Gulf. He contacted me and said just come work here for six months. That was 15 years ago now.” Mascarenhas, a chemical engineer, had worked at Gulf CanCan ada for 17 years. In 1999, she decided to take a step away from her career and stay at home with her young children, aged six and three. “I also really wanted more time to give back,” explains Mascarenhas. “I was able to sit on the board for the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association, coach a lot of the kids’ sports, and volunteer with Girl Guides and Scouts.” It didn’t take long for Mascarenhas to miss her professional life though, and she decided to go back to work part time. Mascarenhas received a lot of offers for full-time oil and gas work,
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which wasn’t what she wanted. Then, Motyka’s proposal came along. “I realized that with this company, I could work in the industry and still give back by making a positive difference in the world. I didn’t think I could do both,” says Mascarenhas. Now, as Questor’s president and CEO, Mascarenhas is dedicating her professional life to improving air quality and reducing emissions worldwide with the company’s innovative technology.
The Passion Behind the People The desire to work in the industry and make a difference at the same time is also what drives the other dynamic professionals at Questor. “This is a big inspiration around here,” says Ritchie Stagg, Questor’s director of sales and marketing, referring to an image on his computer screen. It’s a picture of a woman and her children in a remote village, surrounded by open gas flares. Conventional flaring can emit particulate, hydrocarbons, methane, sulfur dioxide and other sulfur compounds that may be carcinogenic and are known to trigger asthma and other respiratory problems. The image on Stagg’s screen needs no further explanation. Having grown up in a small town in Kenya, Mascarenhas can relate to the image. “One of the reasons why I love what I do is that a lot of flaring is done in areas where people are exposed to health risks and don’t necessarily have utility infrastructure,” she says. “Our technology not only improves
air quality, it also can provide some of the heat or power that these remote areas need.” Kim Hubick, the company’s CFO and corporate secretary, and John Sutherland, Questor’s COO, emit the same enthusiasm as Stagg and Mascarenhas. “We have such a creative team of engineers, and we have one of the best solutions around,” says Hubick. “Now it’s about getting our story out, to change how people think and to raise awareness of how flaring can be done differently.” “This has been an opportunity to work at something that interests me more than anything else has in my career,” says Sutherland, who previously worked with Mascarenhas at Gulf Canada. “We have a versatile technology that serves all industries and is a proven global solution.”
The Journey Continues As Questor celebrates its 20th anniversary, the company has more than achieved its quest to become a successful for-profit provider of clean technologies. But the journey, thankfully, is far from over. Recently, Questor acquired USbased ClearPower Systems Inc., a company that has developed an efficient system to convert waste heat to power. The technology has now been integrated into Questor’s offerings to open up global opportunities in other industries. Questor has an impressive and growing list of clients, including AltaGas, Dominion Exploration, Nexen, Williams and Husky. The company’s U.S. operations are particularly Envisuccessful, thanks in part to strict regulations in the Envi ronmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act. “The year 2013 was a big year for us; we saw substantial growth in our revenue and profitability,” says Mascarenhas. “Clients are demstarting to choose our technology as a best practice to dem onstrate they’re in compliance with increasingly tougher rules on emissions.” But helping companies comply with regulations is only one part of Questor’s journey. “There is still so much gas flared internationally. Daily, over 14 billion cubic feet of gas is flared baror vented globally, the energy equivalent of 2.5 million bar rels of oil per day. It’s an enormous waste of energy, it isn’t being combusted cleanly, it creates greenhouse gases and it’s a hazard for global health,” Mascarenhas concludes. “Making a positive difference around the world is our ultimate goal.” •
For more information, please visit www.questortech.com or call 403.571.1530
20 Years of Clean Air Advancements