How the energy industry can reimagine itself

Blockchain could influence the way the energy sector does things, from extraction and production processes to financing and transactions

Alberta’s innovation landscape is pretty crowded.

Companies, entrepreneurs, non-profits, post-secondary institutions and governments are bumping into each other all over the place.

That’s a very good thing. It means that the innovation system is working. Some parts are focused on evolving the oil and gas sector, others on diversifying Alberta’s economy.

For the most part, there seems to be harmony in innovation land.

The next thing is to figure out how to work even more effectively; to ensure the momentum building around effective collaboration is sustainable and meaningful. Then the results of working together can be promptly measured across a variety of socio-economic and policy metrics.

So is there an immediate common theme?

Blockchain.

Blockchain’s first move as a technology platform was related to the rise of virtual currencies like Bitcoin. Blockchain is related to issues of Internet security and transactional integrity.

But it’s also much more.

Blockchain’s potential to reshape Canada’s energy sector is much bigger than secure transactions. Creatively deployed, blockchain could influence a variety of ways the energy sector does things, from extraction and production processes to financial and transactional aspects. It can tell us how to make data more meaningful and allow freer and more seamless sale of goods and services. It can help manage major projects and comply more efficiently with regulations.

Blockchain can also spur important dialogue in an industry that hasn’t been terribly proficient about collaborating within itself, much less beyond itself. The power of blockchain to bring disparate – and even competitive – interests together can’t be overstated.

That’s why everyone who is serious about evolving Canada’s energy sector should pay attention to an emerging Alberta-based blockchain consortium that’s powered by passion and technological proficiency. Early consortium members demonstrate how serious the opportunity is: the University of Calgary, SAIT, Imaginea Energy, Enmax and IBM.

What is blockchain today is not blockchain tomorrow. Things move that fast. But in this group there’s a will to take collective action.

In innovation vernacular, “disruption” is common. But too often, the meaning is lost or misconstrued, since disruption can be seen negatively, as something that unbalances equilibrium. But blockchain can disrupt in a positive way.

Innovation should be about renewal and reimagining, respecting that all things rethought came from somewhere in the first place. For innovation to be robust and resilient, it must be predicated on a shared definition of innovation.

The blockchain consortium can be that creator of a shared definition that accommodates the old, the new and everything and everyone in between.

This is human blockchain in action.

(For information on consortium and how to get involved, contact Trish Josephs at tjosephs@imagineaenergy.com.)

Bill Whitelaw is president and CEO at JuneWarren-Nickle’s Energy Group.


The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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