Research collaboration improving industry performance

Corporate Responsibility

Research collaboration improving industry performance

Being innovative has always been part of doing it right at Canadian Natural, as is working together through our collaborations and partnerships with industry, academia and government. Collaboration that improves industry’s collective performance is playing an important role in ensuring competitiveness and a sustainable industry that meets Canada’s and the world’s energy needs for the long-term.

Our participation in ongoing research and technology programs is helping drive continuous improvement across our operations while teaching us more about how to best manage each area. The knowledge Canadian Natural gathers from its own testing and research, plus all the information shared through industry, is factored into our processes to improve our performance in the years to come.

For years, we have been working together through industry collaborations like Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) and Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC), with universities directly or through our industry associations like the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), and through government agencies like Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Our work with COSIA

Our research projects also provide benefits outside our company’s boundaries. As part of our commitment to collaboration and R&D, Canadian Natural is a founding member and active participant in the Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA). Through COSIA, Canadian Natural, along with Canada’s largest oil sands producers, is sharing research information and technologies in an unprecedented industry collaboration effort to improve environmental performance.

This industry alliance focuses on four Environmental Priority Areas (EPAs) – tailings, water, land management and GHG reduction. Since its inception in 2012, COSIA’s members have collectively shared 936 distinct technologies to date, representing more than $1.33 billion to develop, allowing each company to benefit from the research and development of their partners.

In 2016, Canadian Natural led 11 group projects and participated in another 35 projects throughout COSIA’s EPAs. We also worked on another 36 single-participant projects, whose results will be shared with COSIA. Some of the projects we are leading are:

  • Tailings research projects, including carbon dioxide (CO2) to treat tailings, non-segregated tailings deployment and monitoring, and the Horizon Applied Process Innovation Centre (APIC) research facility. Read our “Advancing Tailings Management Technologies story on page 17 of our 2016 Stewardship Report to Stakeholders.
  • The Forest Watershed and Riparian Disturbance (FORWARD) project was designed to develop soil and watershed assessment tools to support reclamation efforts in the oil sands region. The project incorporates existing information about oil sands processes, forest dynamics and hydrology into a watershed-modelling framework. For more information, read this story on COSIA's website.
  • Water and energy recovery from flue gas. This scoping study is looking into technologies that can recover both flue gas water vapour and heat for re-use and can be integrated into in situ and mining operations. See page 36 of the COSIA 2016 Project Portfolio.
  • Fugitive emissions measurement project aims to improve accuracy and reliability of area fugitive emissions measurement, and has the potential to benefit other industrial sectors. This project involves industry, academia and government, among other partners.

Canadian Natural is also participating in other projects to improve emissions measurement, such as a study on CO2 conversion technologies that will reduce carbon footprint and a GHG satellite project. Read more about our innovative projects with COSIA here, and learn more about COSIA’s current work on their website.

Converting carbon into usable products

Climate change and further reductions of GHG emissions are issues that Canada’s oil and natural gas industry takes seriously. Technological advances over the past two decades have enabled a 32% reduction in GHG emissions intensity for every barrel of oil produced in Alberta’s oil sands compared to 1990 levels. Those efforts continue today through collaborative partnerships to develop innovative solutions to address environmental challenges.

GHG reduction is one of COSIA’s focus areas and Canadian Natural has been directly involved with a great deal of the research. To date, our Company has led several GHG-related projects and shared $29.9 million worth of GHG research and data with other COSIA members.

In September 2015, the US$20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE was announced, challenging the brightest minds and innovators across the world to develop new technologies to manage carbon emissions by converting waste carbon/CO2 into useable products. Over four years, competitors will test their solutions using either a coal or natural gas flue stream at a commercial scale. For more information on this project visit the COSIA website.

Other collaborations

The Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada (PTAC) has been facilitating innovation, collaborative research and technology development to support the responsible development of Canada’s energy resources for over 20 years. This partnership is providing us tools to run our day-to-day business and leading-edge risk- and science-based guidelines, ultimately supporting a more sustainable, efficient energy industry. Canadian Natural has participated with PTAC in projects to improve reclamation methods and reduce venting.

Another great example of collaboration projects is our work with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), a federal government agency that provides grants for research in the natural sciences and engineering. In 2016, we participated in the announcement of an NSERC Industrial Research Chair (IRC) in Novel CO2 Capture Technologies for Oil Sand Operations at the University of Calgary. Canadian Natural and an industry partner are co-funding this initiative for $160K per year over five years. The goal of this research is to identify, evaluate, develop, design, and implement the most promising CO2 capture technologies for cost effective commercial implementation in Alberta, and ultimately reduce GHG emissions from oil sands operations.

Throughout the years, Canadian Natural has supported 11 industrial research chairs at the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, University of British Columbia, and Athabasca University, as well as other centres of excellence like Materials and Reliability in Oil Sands (MARIOS).

Canadian Natural is also participating in the Algal Carbon Conversion (ACC) Project as an observer in the first stage of deployment of a biorefinery. This project will capture CO2 and waste heat, and treat them with algae to release bio-oil. An economic and engineering assessment was initiated by our company with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and Pond Technologies, a Canadian algae technology company in 2013. The NRC, Pond Technologies and St. Marys Cement Canada began testing this technology in 2016 at a pilot-scale biorefinery at St Marys Cement plant in Ontario. Canadian Natural will share in the results from the activities at the St Marys Cement plant, and further participate in the planning and development of a later stage two deployment, anticipated for an oil sands operation. The objective of this project is to generate bio-oil to be used for biofuels and biomaterials ― and, at an oil sands operation, blended into heavy oil or synthetic crude oil. The leftover biomass can then be used to feed livestock and for land reclamation. For information about the ACC can be found on COSIA’s website.