Oil Sands Innovation


The $50 million ERA Oil Sands Innovation Challenge closed for submissions on September 7, 2017. The Call focused on technologies that reduce GHG emissions and increase the global competitiveness of Alberta’s oil sands industry. ERA reviewed 47 submissions and invited 10 applicants to submit Full Project Proposals. ERA is now developing plans to announce the projects that were selected for funding.

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Proposal Focus Areas

This funding opportunity sought innovative technologies that reduce GHG emissions and improve the cost competitiveness of bitumen production and processing. Proposals were invited for technology solutions related to in situ or mined oil sands operations, including both new developments and retrofit opportunities for existing operations.

Examples of potential areas of interest for this Call included but were not limited to:

  • Alternative steam generation methods for in situ recovery;
  • Advanced reservoir technologies including solvent recovery, electromagnetic systems, and hybrid processes;
  • Novel surface mining and bitumen ore processing technologies
  • Improved bitumen upgrading and partial upgrading processes; and
  • Solutions for tailings reductions & management.

Stage of Development

We are advancing oil sands technology that has been proven in concept but is not commercially operational in Alberta today. Our aim is to accelerate solutions that could potentially be commercially deployed in 5-10 years. All projects must involve prototype testing, field piloting, commercial demonstration, or first-of-kind technology deployment.

  • Prototype Development and Testing: At this stage of development, the technological components have been integrated and the concept has been proven. Projects in this category include development of representative prototypes and prototype testing in a simulated operational environment.
  • Field Pilot: At this stage of development, a small-scale prototype system is ready to be field tested in an operational environment. Projects in this category include field testing of prototype units and small-scale field pilots.
  • Demonstration: At this stage of development, a prototype system is ready to demonstrate at a commercially-relevant scale viability. Projects in this category include demonstration of actual system prototypes in an operational environment.

What Else?

All projects supported through this Call must:

  • De-risk technology. ERA will not fund projects that address only a financial barrier to deployment.
  • Demonstrate a clear and justified value proposition for reducing emissions associated with Alberta’s oil sands industry.
  • Involve an oil sands operator or lease holder.
  • Represent new and innovative breakthrough solutions with significant GHG benefits. Opportunities related to optimization, energy efficiency improvement, or deployment of existing ‘business as usual’ technologies will not be considered.
  • Be tested, piloted, demonstrated, or deployed in Alberta. Consideration may be given to projects outside of Alberta where there is a well-justified value proposition and strong support from end users in Alberta.

Why the Oil Sands?

Today, the oil sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Imagine if we could change that. Imagine if Alberta could produce the lowest-emitting fossil fuels in the world?

The Alberta Climate Leadership Plan sets the stage by placing a cap on GHG emissions from the oil sands.

The ERA Oil Sands Innovation Challenge is one way that industry, innovators and government are working together to support the goals set out in the Alberta Climate Leadership Plan.

Our Collaborators

No one company, innovator or organization will accomplish our goals alone. By working together, we are accelerating the innovation Albertans need to build a bright and prosperous future for generations to come.  When you apply for funding under ERA’s Oil Sands Innovation Challenge, you can elect to also have your idea considered for funding by ERA’s trusted partners, including federal and provincial governments and agencies.

Working Together to Secure a Lower Carbon Future for Alberta

ERA works with industry, government and the innovation community to invest in and advance the solutions Alberta needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build a stronger, more diversified economy. To date, ERA has committed to more than $340 million in funding to over 120 projects with a total value of over $2.3 billion.

The Province of Alberta provides grants to ERA from the Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund to enable ERA to fulfil its mandate.