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VR takes viewers to the heart of energy production

Virtual reality opens doors and answers questions about how Canada’s natural gas and oil are produced safely and sustainably.

Most Canadians have never been on the floor of an active drilling rig, inside the cab of a giant oil sands haul truck, or witnessed the highly co-ordinated sequence of events during hydraulic fracturing operations. But the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) is using virtual reality technology to help inform and educate Canadians about the country’s oil and natural gas sector. 

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a virtual reality (VR) experience is an entire encyclopedia. VR incorporates visuals, audio and animation, but goes beyond flat-screen video to create a one-of-a-kind experience that puts the viewer in the heart of the action. The beauty of VR is how it allows the viewer to be in situations that are normally inaccessible.

A video portion from CAPP’s oil sands in situ VR experience

The importance of this tool stems from a key observation. For many years, CAPP and several producing companies have been hosting in-person tours of the oil sands and western Canadian natural gas facilities, allowing journalists, educators, business leaders and government officials a first-hand look at key features of these operations. 

And while these visitors may have different views about the role of oil and natural gas, they almost invariably leave with a recognition that Canada’s industry is highly professional, well regulated, safer and more environmentally focused than they had initially realized.

“Of course, we can’t bring every Canadian up to the oil sands or a natural gas well to have this same experience,” notes Andrew Mah, interim manager of content and creative at CAPP. “But with VR, we can come close, showing what it’s really like, while cutting through some of the misperceptions some may have of the industry.”

CAPP launched its first VR in 2017 and now has a suite of three separate VR experiences. The oil sands mining VR takes viewers inside a bitumen molecule, explains the sequence of surface mining including a haul truck ride, and provides quick facts – all of which adds up to a powerful look into the fascinating world of Canada’s oil sands. The natural gas VR visits the floor of an active drilling rig, uses animation to explain horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, and includes spectacular aerials above a multi-well drilling operation. The most recent immersive experience about oil sands in situ development goes deep underground to show how steam heats bitumen to make it flow, a technology that has revolutionized oil sands production with less land disturbance than surface mining. Viewers also get inside an actual in situ operation.

To take best advantage of these extraordinary VR experiences, viewers should use virtual reality headset equipment and download the CAPP Natural Gas and Oil Sands VR app from Google Play or the Apple Store. CAPP has also created 360-degree versions suitable for viewing on a flat screen. 

CAPP’s website also features a variety of animated and on-location videos, infographics, easy-to-read information about the natural gas and oil industry, and numerous links to reports, articles and related websites.