Canada’s oil and natural gas sector leads the way in clean technology research

People need energy – and want it developed in the most responsible way possible. That’s one of the reasons why Canada’s energy companies are continuously looking for ways to limit the environmental impact of the energy they produce and transport.

Canada’s energy companies, including members of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA), place a high priority on clean technology research and development. In this week’s blog post, we look at some of the research that goes into making Canada a global leader in responsibly-produced energy.


Collaborating for sustainable energy


The oil and gas sector conducts about 75 per cent of the clean technology research and development in Canada. And that involves collaborations among a variety of industry participants. Coalitions of oil and gas producers and suppliers, pipelines, post-secondary institutions, and governments, all contribute to this important research. Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) is one such organization.

COSIA is an alliance of oil sands companies – working with scientists, academics, governments, innovators, and others. They’re focused on making Canadian energy part of a sustainable future. Right now, the organization has 225 active projects, at a cost of $621 million.


COSIA’s work focuses on four key areas of the oil sands:


  1. Water – reducing water use and ensuring that producers manage any water they do use in a responsible and sustainable way.
  2. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – producing Canadian oil with the lowest GHG emissions possible.
  3. Land – reclaiming and restoring any land that’s impacted by oil sands operations with the aim of reducing the environmental footprint.
  4. Tailings – improving how the industry manages tailings from oil sands operations… essentially this work would turn tailings into a resource to speed up reclamation.


COSIA also works with the provincial and federal governments on the oil sands monitoring program, one of North America’s largest environmental monitoring programs. It gathers data on the cumulative effects of oil sands production from more than one thousand sites.

COSIA members have already significantly reduced their water use and GHG emissions. And they’re on track to make further improvements, especially when some of the game-changing technologies that are currently in development are implemented. Among those new technologies are initiatives that could reduce emissions from oil sands’ in-situ operations by around 25 per cent to as much as 90 per cent.

COSIA’s Director of Communications and Stakeholder Relations, Rob Gray, explains that working collectively allows the industry to achieve breakthrough outcomes more quickly and efficiently. And he notes that COSIA initiatives often have outcomes that result in huge step changes for the industry. Here are two examples:

  • NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE – The XPRIZE competition is a large-scale global competition where teams of cutting-edge technology experts from around the world compete to solve complex global problems. Competitors for the Carbon XPRIZE will convert carbon dioxide (CO₂) into high-value products. The winner will be determined by a) the amount of CO2 they convert b) other environmental impacts minimized, and c) the net value of their products.
  • Using satellites – “Claire” and “Iris” – to measure methane emissions – these satellites measure methane emissions once every few weeks, when passing by the oil sands. The data they gather will help advance the industry’s measurement of fugitive emissions.

“When you look at the work that’s being done through COSIA, oil sands operators are clearly focused on demonstrating they can reduce their environmental impact, and on proving that oil can be produced in a sustainable manner,” says Gray.

CEPA members are proud to be part of the value chain that brings sustainable Canadian energy to Canada and the world.

About Pipelines thanks COSIA and Rob Gray for contributions to this blog.