Government of Alberta and Emissions Reduction Alberta Commit $7 Million for Cenovus to Study the Use of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors in the Oil Sands

The Government of Alberta is providing $7 million in funding through Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) for Cenovus Energy to conduct a preliminary, multi-year study on whether small modular nuclear reactors (SMR) can be safely, technically, and economically deployed in Alberta’s oil sands operations. Funding will be provided through the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) fund.

SMRs could potentially supply non-emitting heat and power to the oil sands, but significant evaluation is needed to determine how they can be effectively used in Alberta. Adoption of the technology would require a lengthy regulatory and engagement process. Any proposed nuclear projects will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

This enabling study will further refine early-stage work previously supported by Alberta Innovates, Cenovus, and TC Energy on whether SMR technology can be part of a long-term solution to reducing emissions from oil sands operations. This new ERA-funded study will take a more in-depth look at how SMRs could be used, and what information would be needed to pursue regulatory approval in the future. This in turn can provide valuable lessons learned for other Alberta industrial sites who may want to consider deploying nuclear energy in the future.

 “A few years ago, the idea of expanding nuclear energy use was on the back burner – that is no longer the case. In Alberta, small modular nuclear reactors have the potential to supply heat and power to the oil sands, simultaneously reducing emissions and supporting Alberta’s energy future. This funding is the foundation for that promising future. I want to thank Cenovus Energy and Emissions Reduction Alberta for their leadership in this work.”

Rebecca Schulz, Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Protected Areas

“Alberta is determined to be a leader in the support and development of market-driven emerging energy technologies like small modular reactors. With Alberta’s long history of responsible energy development, we are optimistic about the opportunities ahead and will continue working with industry to explore and enable small modular reactor development in this province.”

Brian Jean, Minister of Energy and Minerals

“SMRs have great potential to supply non-emitting energy in many different applications, including the oil sands. Further studies like this are needed to see if the technology is suitable for those industrial applications. If so, it could be transformational for the in-situ oil sands sector and other sectors in Alberta.”

Justin Riemer, CEO, Emissions Reduction Alberta

 “This enabling study is a great example of the collaborative approach we’ll need to help us reach our ambition of net zero emissions from our operations by 2050. We’re exploring multiple technologies that would help significantly reduce our emissions, and small modular reactors show potential. This study will help us understand if this possible solution is economical and technically viable.”

Rhona DelFrari, Chief Sustainability Officer and Executive Vice-President, Stakeholder Engagement, Cenovus Energy

“Building off the work previously supported by Alberta Innovates, the success of Cenovus’s SMR ERA-funded study could provide substantial economic and environmental advantages throughout Alberta’s industrial sector, helping to advance a clean energy future for Canada.”

Laura Kilcrease, CEO, Alberta Innovates

Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick released A Strategic Plan for the Development of Small Modular Reactors in 2022. The plan commits the Alberta Utilities Commission and Alberta Energy Regulator to deliver findings on areas of overlap, uncertainty, and duplication between the federal and provincial regulatory systems to Alberta’s government this winter.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission regulates all stages of life of nuclear power plants in Canada, starting from the initial environmental assessment to decommissioning. The approval process takes several years and offers significant opportunities for public participation. To date, Cenovus has conducted extensive engagement with 16 Indigenous communities throughout the province. A more robust Indigenous and community engagement plan will be executed throughout the study.

The study was selected through ERA’s competitive review process. A team of experts in science, engineering, business development, commercialization, financing, and greenhouse gas quantification conducted an independent, rigorous, transparent review overseen by a Fairness Monitor.

All ERA funding recipients are required to produce a final outcomes report that is shared publicly for the broader benefit of Alberta, as well as other funding proposals. Funding recipients will be required to report on project outcomes, achievements, and lessons learned including GHG reductions, job creation, and other environmental, economic, and social benefits.

For more information, contact:
Kevin Duncan
Emissions Reduction Alberta


For more than 14 years, ERA has been investing revenues from the carbon price paid by large emitters to accelerate the development and adoption of innovative clean technology solutions. Since we were established in 2009, we have committed nearly $910 million toward 260 projects worth over $7.3 billion that are helping to reduce GHGs, create competitive industries and are leading to new business opportunities in Alberta. These projects are estimated to deliver cumulative GHG reductions of 40 million tonnes by 2030 and 108 million tonnes by 2050.


Headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Cenovus Energy Inc. is an integrated energy company committed to sustainably developing its assets in a safe, innovative, and cost-efficient manner, integrating environmental, social and governance considerations into its business plans. Cenovus operates in Canada, the United States and the Asia Pacific region and includes oil sands projects in northern Alberta, thermal and conventional crude oil and natural gas projects across Western Canada, crude oil production offshore Newfoundland and Labrador and natural gas and liquids production offshore China and Indonesia. Cenovus’s downstream operations include upgrading, refining, and marketing operations in Canada and the United States.