Technology simplifies process for customer

Newalta operates a thermal desorption unit (TDU) at our Drayton Valley, Alberta location. Thermal desorption uses friction to heat waste to a temperature at which hydrocarbons and water evaporate. The TDU cools and then condenses the water and hydrocarbon vapours into liquids for subsequent processing.

“Think of it as our transformative recovery system for drilling cuttings with oil content,” says Kendall Erickson, who has been leading Newalta’s team in Drayton Valley.

“We take the customer’s byproducts, isolate and reclaim the oil in that waste which once again becomes a marketable product, and we dispose of the cleaned-up drill cuttings – which are rendered non-hazardous by our process. It’s efficient, effective and valued by our customers.”

The popularity of the process reflects the economic and environmental advantages the system affords. Without this technology, drill cuttings were sent to landfill – and only once they had been mixed with a stabilizing agent such as sawdust which bulked up the waste and increased transportation costs.


“With our new process, we can cut a customer’s cost by up to $20,000 per well, which materially improves their economics,” notes Erickson.

One of the pioneering companies to supply volumes to the TDU is Peyto Energy. “We recognized the value of reducing our environmental impact yet we also pride ourselves on having the best cost structure in the basin,” says Lee Curran, Peyto’s Vice President of Drilling and Completions.

“Reducing waste generation while decreasing capital expenditures and still maintaining a high-quality recycle product is making our use of the technology a benefit to our drilling program.”

In Newalta’s view, this is a great solution for a customer who wants to minimize impact on the environment by reducing the amount of waste going to landfill, minimize liability, cut greenhouse gases associated with transporting bulked-up waste, and yet do all of this while saving money.


The TDU has a capacity of about four to six tonnes per hour. It is modular for ease of installation and mobility, making it ideal for today’s more mobile energy industry.

To ensure environmental integrity, we use specially designed trailers to move un-stabilized drill cuttings from the drill site to the TDU. These trailers include sealed end-dump tail gates, sealed roofs that are opened and closed hydraulically, and special baffles inside to ensure 100% containment of un-stabilized drill cuttings and centrifuge underflow.

“To really deliver on our promise of Sustainability Simplified™, we needed to make this technology mobile and we needed to make it an integrated part of a bundled service,” says Erickson. “When a customer like Peyto partners with us, they benefit from the technology but also from the fact that we arrange the logistics associated with the process, which streamlines their supply chain and reduces risk and complexity.”