Change Agent

How Imaginea Energy founder Suzanne West is greening the oil business

Imaginea is experimenting with new tech to reduce drilling’s impact

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Imaginea Energy founder Suzanne West

“I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve never had this much fun.” (Ania & Tyler Stalman)

Suzanne West says Richard Branson inspired her to improve the world. After attending one of his Leadership Gatherings, she sold her oil firm, Black Shire, for $358 million and launched Imaginea Energy. In March, it raised US$270 million from private-equity firm Lime Rock.

“In my industry, you’re either a crazy tree hugger or a greedy capitalist. But I don’t know of a rule book that says we can’t make amazing profits and not wreck the planet at the same time. We want to make sustainability part of the fabric of how we do business.

“We just closed on our first oil asset for $150 million, and it produces about 3,500 BOEs—barrels of oil equivalent—a day. This is our first opportunity to apply some of our ideas. The property has wells that flare gas, which is bad for the environment. I’m looking at this new technology that captures flare gas and turns it into methane, which you can use to run generators. It’s also in an area with a lot of natural habitats, so we’re thinking about how we can be more creative about not affecting the surface.

“We’re looking at a technology that uses existing soil to create roads so you don’t have to bring in gravel or asphalt. And I’m going to see another technology in the U.S. that reduces nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel trucks by up to 50% while preserving horsepower.

“I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve never had this much fun in my career.”