Oil sands innovation cuts emissions, creates jobs

Alberta’s oil sands facilities are gearing up to launch innovative projects that will reduce emissions, create new jobs and enhance competitiveness.

L-R: Shannon Phillips, Alberta Minister of Environment and Parks and the Minister Responsible for the Climate Change Office, Enlighten Innovations’ Lisa Doig, MLA Jessica Littlewood and President and CEO of Enlighten Innovations Lorraine Mitchelmore discuss the reactor process at the plant site in Fort Saskatchewan.

Nine Alberta oil sands technologies will receive more than $70 million through the Oil Sands Innovation Challenge to support economic growth in the oil sands sector. The funds are provided by the Alberta government through Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA), an organization that accelerates the development and demonstration of innovative, emissions-reducing technologies.

The funding leverages a combined project value of more than $720 million for Alberta’s oil sands sector. This is ERA’s biggest challenge to date in terms of funding.

“Albertans know that our economy and our environment go hand-in-hand. These new technologies will reduce emissions while also creating jobs, reducing costs and boosting competitiveness. Our investments in innovation continue to position Alberta as a forward-looking energy producer and climate change leader.”

Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks and Minister responsible for the Climate Change Office

“Alberta’s energy sector is the most innovative in the world and has proven it can rise to any challenge. This is about growing production while reducing emissions and costs. That means getting top dollar in return for our oil, which will help secure the industry’s long term success and build an economy to last.”

Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, Minister of Energy

In total, 47 projects were submitted including field pilots, commercial demonstrations and first-of-a-kind commercial technology with the potential for substantial greenhouse gas reductions in retrofit and new-build oil sands operations.

Selections were made based on the ability to advance innovative technology solutions to delivery, greenhouse gas emissions reductions and cost competitiveness enhancements. All projects include a major oil sands producer as the lead applicant or as a substantial partner and all field demonstrations are required to occur at an Alberta oil sands site.

The following projects are selected for funding:

  • Suncor Energy Inc. – High temperature membranes for steam-assisted gravity drainage water treatment
  • Canadian Natural Resources Limited – In-pit extraction process
  • Enlighten Innovations (formerly Field Upgrading Ltd.) – CLEANSEAS™ demonstration project
  • Heavy Oil Solutions Inc. – partner with Cenovus Energy Inc., partial upgrader with integrated water treatment
  • MEG Energy – eMVAPEX pilot, phase 3
  • Cenovus Energy Inc. – Flash Steam Generation field prototype
  • Imperial – Enhanced bitumen recovery technology pilot
  • ConocoPhillips Canada – Non-condensable gas co-injection for thief zone mitigation
  • Cenovus Energy Inc. – Multi-pad pilot of a solvent-aided process

These projects will help Alberta’s oil sands industry meet the provincial climate leadership oil sands legislated emissions limit of 100 megatonnes by 2030.

“ERA’s mandate is to identify and accelerate technologies that have the greatest potential to reduce GHGs. Each of the technologies associated with these nine projects is in the final stages of development and each has the potential to transform Alberta’s oil sands development by significantly reducing both emissions and costs.”

Steve MacDonald, CEO, Emissions Reduction Alberta

“The projects funded by ERA are evidence of industry’s positive response to Alberta’s new carbon levy and illustrate the sector’s ability to operate competitively with a carbon price by lowering their costs while reducing emissions.”

Duncan Kenyon, managing director fossil fuels, Pembina Institute

The projects are estimated to result in potential greenhouse gas emissions reductions of up to 4.1 million tonnes of annual COemissions reductions in Alberta by 2030. This is equivalent to more than 440,000 homes’ energy use for one year.

“Our DSU® technology is a cleaner and cheaper way to meet the new global marine fuel sulphur regulations. It can be transported and installed anywhere, from ports to refineries all across this country. The CLEANSEAS™ project offers a unique opportunity for Alberta and Canada to showcase our clean tech innovation to the world. ERA recognizes that our technology is a Made-in-Canada solution to a global issue and they have been a strong supporter through its development. This funding will advance our plans to commercialize DSU®, in turn producing value-added products, creating jobs, and helping to further Alberta’s goal of being a global clean tech leader.”

Lorraine Mitchelmore, president and CEO, Enlighten Innovations

“The value of Canada’s oil and natural gas resources is very important to Canada and critical to its long-term prosperity. Not only is the industry making significant strides in improving our environmental performance, we are achieving this progress through strong collaborative effort and a range of partnerships across industry, governments, academia, and technology providers. Together, with the leadership and support of ERA, Alberta will continue to be a leader in technology investment and emissions reduction to ensure that Canada is well-positioned to be a preferred supplier of responsibly produced crude oil and natural gas and an important part of a lower carbon energy future for decades to come.”

Joy Romero, vice-president of technology and innovation, Canadian Natural Resources Limited

“We are committed to accelerating innovation and the development of new technologies that will deliver industry-leading GHG and economic performance. Imperial’s Enhanced Bitumen Recovery Technology is designed to significantly improve both environmental and economic performance by reducing the amount of steam used. This increases energy efficiency, lowers emissions, and reduces water use.”

John Whelan, senior vice-president, upstream, Imperial

“The funding from Emissions Reduction Alberta is a valuable contribution to our Non-Condensable Gas Co-Injection for Thief Zone Mitigation pilot. If successful, we plan to accelerate the commercial deployment of this technology, which will significantly reduce greenhouse gas intensity and facilitate continued development of our oil sands resources in an efficient manner.”

Khoa Dao, vice-president, ConocoPhillips Canada

“We’re pleased that Emissions Reduction Alberta has chosen to provide funding for our proposed projects, which hold significant potential to reduce CO2 emissions from the oil sands production process and increase the value of our product. This is a great example of government and industry working together to drive innovation and help explore solutions to reduce the cost and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with developing Canada’s vast oil resources.”

Harbir Chhina, executive vice-president and chief technology officer, Cenovus

“We’re honored to receive this funding from Emissions Reduction Alberta, and recognize with it comes great responsibility to the citizens of Alberta. We look forward to doing everything in our power, through innovation, to expand on Canada’s deep energy heritage, drive global competitiveness and optimize the balance between economic growth and environmental stewardship.”

Chris Traylor, chief executive officer, Heavy Oil Solutions

“Our focus on technology and innovation has enabled MEG to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water use intensities to one of the lowest in the industry. With eMVAPEX, we believe we have the potential to further reduce our environmental impact and enhance our performance.”

Chi-Tak Yee, senior vice-president, operations, resource and technology development, MEG Energy

The Alberta government provides grants to ERA from the Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund. These funds support innovation and Alberta’s industry leaders to create new jobs, diversify the economy and reduce carbon emissions.

To date, ERA has committed more than $385 million in funding to 129 projects with a total value of approximately $2.7 billion.

This challenge aligns with the Carbon Competitiveness Incentives System (CCIs) that is expected to cut emissions by 20 million tonnes by 2020 and 50 million tonnes by 2030. The CCIs will reduce emissions, attract investment, and grow the modern Alberta economy. This made-in-Alberta solution protects our businesses by reducing costs for sectors that are reliant on exports, keeping their products competitively priced in international markets.

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Press Secretary, Environment and Parks