Proton's R&D program is executed by

Four Research Teams:

  • Modelling and Software
  • Hy-generator Design
  • Hydrogen Production
  • Trove Operations


A challenge for the Modelling and Design Team is to resolve multiple inter-dependent mathematical algorithms for the chemical reactions.

The ‘TROVE’ model must accommodate heat and mass transfer processes specific to each geological setting, while accounting for such variables as oil saturation, porosity and permeability.

A dependable model requires real field history data.  Thus the simulation work now underway is taking full advantage of published case studies, to ‘ground truth’ the outputs.  As the simulations continue through 2017, the model will benefit from a wealth of new field data.

Once developed, the simulation model will be converted into a software tool that can be applied to each field site, and used to predict the outcome, identify opportunities and fine tune the engineering. Obviously it is a tremendous benefit in both time and money for companies to use the TROVE software for evaluating different configurations, and optimizing design.


One challenge is how to fit a hydrogen well with a durable, hydrogen-selective membrane.

The membrane must be constructed from metal alloys such as palladium.

The membrane must be incased in a robust cartridge, designed to allow commercial production of hydrogen in a high pressure, high temperature environment. Commercial production of membrane will be a critical part of operationalizing our process.

The tubular shape of exchange membranes makes them well-suited to deployment within a wellbore.

In theory, it should be possible to insert a membrane, and then retrieve it for maintenance or for re-deployment to new wells and new locations. However application within a wellbore is untried, and raises a series of research questions.

Dogleg Severity: it is likely that HEE will require the capacity to insert a membrane into a dogleg well. The dogleg allows the production well to move laterally along a single reservoir horizon. The challenge is to design the membrane to safely pass the dogleg without deformation of the membrane alloy. The solution may be a stronger alloy around the membrane, or some other technique adapted from the long history of industry experience with lateral drilling.

Metallurgy: the metallurgy of the membrane needs to be optimized for longevity and safety. Promising metallurgy will be tested in laboratory. Solutions will be adapted from similar temperature and pressure environments in steam methane reformation, and prior experience with gasification facilities in Alberta and Asia.

Thermal Expansion: the challenge is how to connect the membrane to more traditional alloys down-hole, taking into account their differential thermal expansion coefficients, so as to prevent leaking of syngas into the membrane.

Physical Damage: the challenge is to protect the membrane from abrasion as it move down-hole. A trade-off may be required between durability and cost, since membranes are costly. A solution may be to wrap the wrap the membrane in a steel alloy.

Surface Area: the challenge is to maximize the surface area, without impairing the complexity and functionality. The membrane operates through diffusion, and flux or productivity is directly related to the area exposed. The solution may be to increase the length of membrane deployed, or use a daisy chain.


A challenge is to generate hydrogen within a reservoir at a sustained and predictable rate.

Multiple injection wells can be used in sequence.  The wells can included verticals and laterals with perforations.

The ISC can be augmented through a combination of targeted electric magnetic preheating and controlled injection of oxygen-enriched air. Options may be considered for cycling of the oxygen, and for adding water and other elements to control the production rates.

Sensors and controls may assist in preserving the integrity of the wells and the Hygenerators, and protecting the health and safety of operators.


A challenge is how to manage a collection of  Oxinjection and Hygeneration wells so they operate as a system, including all the ancillary equipment.

A particularly interesting part of the technology is the process for creating oxygen-enhaved air on-site.  Similar to the other components of the Troves, we will begin by adapting pumps and filtering systems already in use for other purposes.

Proton’s Trove Operations Team is working to bring all these elements together as part of the first commercial pilot, 2017.

In order to optimize the design at this stage, the pilot will need extra equipment and the capacity to adapt to different operating modes.

The pilot will serve to generate revenue and prove the value of the technology.  It will also serve as a research and training facility.

Each Team is managed by a Proton Team Leader

Each Team is supported and advised by Canada’s Regional Centre of Excellence.

Participation in the RCE is managed through formal partnerships, ad hoc collaborations, financial support and special events.

All sectors are participating in the RCE.

Regional Centre of Excellence (RCE) Partners

Private Sector Firms

Vanguard Engineering

Vanguard Engineering is assisting with the feasibility research reports, and with project management, regulatory compliance, cost reporting and tracking, and risk mitigation strategies.


Vepica is a global engineering firm that has worked closely on the design of the proof-of-concept apparatus for the laboratory phase, and will soon adapt the lab equipment for down-hole.


IconOil, an innovative oil and gas company, has supported Proton by sharing staffing and facilities, and by acquiring land and facilities for proof-of-concept.  IconOil is interested in using HEE to extract clean energy from their growing land base in Western Canada.

Academic Institutions

University of Calgary

University of Calgary and specifically Dr. Ian Gates and his research team, who have been integral to the success thus far in all aspects of the work, and most notably in the laboratory work and simulation modelling.

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology

The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) has taken the lead in construction and fabrication of the lab apparatus. The SAIT team of engineers, welders and project managers have participated from the beginning of the proof-of-concept. Their expertise will later assist in adapting Hygenerators to differing temperatures and pressures.

Government Agencies & Departments

National Research Council

National Research Council – Industrial Research and Assistance Program

Natural Resources Canada

Natural Resources Canada – Energy Innovations Program


Alberta Innovates

Alberta Innovates – Energy and Environmental Solutions


Western Canada Innovation Offices

Western Canada Innovation Offices


R&D Program

The R&D program is organised into two distinct Phases:

Phase 1 (completed in 2016) Proof of Concept, including numerical simulations, design specifications, lab test protocols, construction of prototypes, identification of field sites and a plan for product testing (FEED).

Phase 2 (2017) Reservoir deployment, including field trials in diverse reservoir types, and a combined commercial pilot, demonstration, research, and training facility.

Going forward, each Team is making rapid progress on some exciting research challenges.
Supplemental Reading:

Where to learn more about...


X. Yang, I.D. Gates, Combustion kinetics of Athabasca bitumen from 1D oxidation tube experiments, Natural Resources Research 18 (September 2009) 193–211.

P.R. Kapadia, M.S. Kallos, I.D. Gates, Potential for hydrogen generation from in situ oxidation of Athabasca bitumen, Fuel 90 (June 2011) 2254–2265.

P.R. Kapadia, J. Wang, M.S. Kallos, I.D. Gates, Practical process design for in situ gasification of bitumen, Applied Energy 107 (July 2013) 281–296.

P.R. Kapadia, M.S. Kallos, I.D. Gates, A new kinetic model for pyrolysis of Athabasca bitumen, The Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering 91 (May 2013) 889–901.

P.R. Kapadia, M.S. Kallos, I.D. Gates, A new reaction model for aquathermolysis of Athabasca bitumen The Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering 91 (March 2013) 475–482.

P.R. Kapadia, J. Wang, M.S. Kallos, I.D. Gates, New thermal-reactive reservoir engineering model predicts hydrogen sulfide generation in steam assisted gravity drainage, Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 94–95 (September 2012) 100–111.

P.R. Kapadia, M.S. Kallos, I.D. Gates, A review of pyrolysis, aquathermolysis and oxidation of Athabasca Bitumen, Fuel Processing Technology 90 (2015) 270-289.


Potential for hydrogen generation during in-situ combustion of bitumen (Kapadia, Kallos, Leskiw, Gates, 2009)

In-Situ Combustion Handbook – Principles and Practices (Sarathi, US DOE, 1999)

Hydrogen generation during in-situ combustion (Hajdo, Hallam, Vorndran, 1985)


The influence of hydrogen sulfide-to-hydrogen partial pressure ratio on the sulfidization of Pd and 70 mol% Pd-Cu membranes (Iyoha, Enick, Killmeyer, Morreale, 2007)

Hydrogen permeance of palladium-copper alloy membranes over a wide range of temperatures and pressures (Howard, Killmeyer, Rothenberger, Cugini, Morreale, Enick, Bustamante, 2004)

Effects of co-existing hydrocarbons on hydrogen permeation through a palladium membrane (Jung, Kusakabe, Morooka, Kim, 1999)