The Algae Project


Using algae to convert CO2 into biofuel and biomass products


Reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from oil sands operations


COSIA is investigating ways to reduce energy use and associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the development of innovative technologies for oil sands in situ and mining operations. In oil sands mining, sources of GHG emissions include the energy required to mine and transport the oil sands, to separate the oil from the sand, and to process the oil. In situ drilling operations require energy to generate steam that is then injected deep underground into the oil sands formation to warm the heavy oil so it can be pumped to the surface.

Oil sands companies are working together, building on each other’s expertise and collaborating with universities, government and research institutes on energy efficiency projects that help manage GHG emissions associated with oil sands production. One of these projects is the Algal Carbon Conversion Project (Algae Project), a pilot-scale biorefinery that mixes CO2 emissions with algae to produce biofuel and biomass products.

Technology and Innovation

Turning CO2 into Valuable Products Could Lead to Significant CO2 Reductions

Turning CO2 into Valuable Products Could Lead to Significant CO2 Reductions

Canadian Natural Resources Limited (Canadian Natural) will test this technology at a pliot-scale biorefinery. The pilot will take carbon dioxide and waste heat from oil sands facilities put it into large tanks with algae and treated waste water and promote photosynthesis with LED lights. Then the algae are pressed to release bio-oil that can be used for jet plane fuel or blended into heavy oil or synthetic crude oil. The leftover biomass can then be used to feed livestock and for land reclamation.

Each tonne of algae can reduce CO2 emissions by 1.8 tonnes and will yield 0.3 tonne of biofuel and 0.7 tonne of biomass products that can be used as fertilizer, livestock feed and as an input into other premium products. The process will also release 1.3 tonnes of oxygen to the atmosphere.

The pilot will determine optimized parameters for emissions reductions as well as the best path forward to full-scale commercialization of this technology..

Learn more about the potential of this technology


The Algae Project is the work of Canadian Natural and its partner the National Research Council of Canada and Pond Biofuels Inc. Results from the pilot project will be shared with the oil sands industry through COSIA.

Environmental Benefits

If the technology can be scaled to commercial size, the potential for real emission reductions is substantial. The Algae Project has the potential to reduce emissions by 15 per cent at Canadian Natural’s Horizon oil sands operations. At Canadian Natural’s Primrose operations, the company believes emissions could be reduced by 30 percent or more. Overall, Canadian Natural expects to reduce over 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions which is comparable to removing the emissions of up to 300,000 vehicles off the road.