An Advanced Technology Centre hosted start-up will soon see its oilfield technology take hold in Southeast Asia, after partnering with an Indonesian firm.
For the past five years, TOKU Systems has had its focus on the oil and gas sector in North America. They’ve now announced a partnership with the PT. Fuji Electric Indonesia, which helped them secure an order from the country’s national oil company after a year of talks.
“Because we are dealing with a national oil company, things can take a little bit longer because other groups get involved,” said Peter Choy, TOKU’s general manager.
“Eventually, we were able to show very clearly … that the device can do what we say it can.”
What it does, according to Choy, is fill a gap when it comes to monitoring pumpjacks, pipelines, and other oil and gas infrastructure. Real-time monitoring using SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems give operators important information about how the equipment is performing and can even warn about leaks in the system. But it is also very expensive, both the equipment costs, installation and maintenance.
“Only a certain percentage of assets can it be justified because it isn’t a cheap undertaking,” he said. “They have to be very selective on what is being monitored. That’s where we saw an opportunity.”
Choy estimates that 90% of pumpjacks and pipelines don’t have real-time, continuous monitoring, including many remote sites. Instead, they rely on weekly or even monthly site visits to check the well-being of the infrastructure.
So they developed a different monitoring solution. It’s a relatively compact, but extremely durable, injection molded polycarbonate housing; it looks more like a fancy home water filter than a piece of rugged oilfield equipment. Inside the shell, the company has packed sensitive pressure-monitoring electronics, a cellular transmitter that allows it to be sent back to operators in real-time and a solar panel to keep the whole thing running. Because the device has been tested by CSA and certified to be intrinsically safe, it can be installed in hazardous areas, such as directly on a wellhead.
It is not only much less expensive than more complex SCADA monitoring systems, but from the start it was designed with DIY installation in mind so that it only takes minutes to install.
“When we started field tests with operators, they asked ‘where’s the rest of it?’ They were used to working with large panels and lots of cables,” he said.
Once installed, operators can get extremely accurate pressure readings sent to them, updated every second.
Finding a way to collect that data was only a first step for TOKU. While the manufacture and sale of the device is their current focus, they see another opportunity in providing services in handling and interpreting that data. Real-time information is important, but operators don’t always have the time to make the best use of it. That’s where he sees TOKU being able to provide help.
“Customers look at our technology and they think of us as a hardware play, but in the future, we see it as a software and services platform,” he says.
Being able to make that kind of change requires flexibility. TOKU Industries is currently split across two cities, with its sales, marketing, and customer service staff in Calgary while the technical and operational side of things is centred in Edmonton. The devices themselves are assembled in the company’s offices at the Advanced Technology Centre in south Edmonton.
In their five years, they’ve had to expand and shift their space several times as new staff were added and more orders came in. That’s something that’s not always possible with a traditional lease.
“As a startup, it’s not practical to be locked into a five-year lease. We need some flexibility if we are growing,” he said.
The Advanced Technology Centre offers month-to-month lease terms and up to three years, in addition to growth-accelerating programs, development advice, support services, and a modern, collaborative space. Book your tour today to take the first step in growing and scaling your company.