Summit Topics

Oil Sands Innovation Summit 2017  will put the spotlight on how innovators from industry, research, government, academia, and the service and technology sectors from around the globe are improving the environmental performance of Canada's oil sands.

Sessions explore research and project results in:

Bold Innovation (Plenary)

Given the pace of change around us and global concerns about the changing climate, big ideas, bold innovation and agility are integral for the oil sands sector to solve the GHG challenge. The GHG plenary will look at examples of bold innovation already underway and how they may help improve the GHG performance of the oil sands.

CO2 Capture Technology

Oil sands producers are seeking breakthrough technologies that significantly lower the cost of post- and pre-combustion CO2 capture. COSIA’s CO2 Capture Challenge describes the solution being sought. This panel will include technology developers making significant advancements, as well as emerging technologies. The need for cost reductions across the system of capture will also be discussed.

GHG Area Fugitives from Tailings Ponds and Mine Faces

Emissions from oil sands tailings ponds and mines are difficult to measure, leading to uncertainty in the associated GHG emission assertions. This panel will frame the challenge described in COSIA’s Area Fugitive Quantification Challenge, which seeks transformative, cost-effective, technologies to accurately quantify area fugitive greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands tailings ponds and mines. Emerging technologies and approaches to quantification will also be presented.

Mining Technologies to Reduce GHGs

Mineable oil sands currently use a truck-and-shovel approach to remove near-surface bitumen. Alternatives to ore handling (and materials, such as overburden) are sought, as well as opportunities to reduce GHG emissions from the mobile fleet activities and extraction processes. Current initiatives underway, such as a hybrid ore handling model and the ARCTIC Challenge Sprint to optimize hot water production, will be discussed.

In Situ Energy Innovation

Between now and 2020, oil sands in situ production is expected to increase presenting a significant opportunity to improve the current Once Through Steam Generator (OTSG) boiler design and energy efficiency of an in situ facility. Results of a recent study seeking low cost, high efficiency novel steam generation systems will be presented, as well as other opportunities to increase the efficiency of a facility, such as burner technology advancements.

CO2 Conversion

Oil sands operations are remote and use natural gas for steam generation, which means predominately consuming electricity from a higher GHG intensity electricity grid in Alberta. This panel will explore and describe some of the conversion technologies and initiatives underway to convert the CO2 in the flue gas into a useable product while reducing the overall cost of capture in an oil sands context.

Low Carbon Heat and Power

The oil sands industry is interested in exploring the how new, emerging technologies that decarbonize fossil fuels before they are used in boilers, might be applied to oil sands production. A number of technologies that apply novel approaches to providing lower carbon heat and/or power in an oil sands context will be presented.


The session will explore carbon fluctuation in reclaimed landscapes.

Reclamation Toolbox

Looking at new and innovative techniques to reclaim and visualize the effort and successes of reclamation efforts, the session will discuss methodologies for enhancing and improving reclamation outcomes in a restrained spending environment.

Sustainable Reclaimed Landscapes

Oil sands producers work to ensure the land’s capability after development is equivalent to pre-development. The session will highlight reconstruction of landforms using natural and modified materials (including tailings), re-establishment of hydrologic processes, and modification of the land surface with land forming techniques, soil covers and revegetation strategies.

Developing Wetlands

Wetlands play a critical role is the establishment of a functional reconstructed landscape by providing functions (e.g., hydrologic) and biodiversity. This topic recognizes the physical and chemical aspects of the reconstructed landscape and the role of water within the landscape to influence the surface of the land. It will also delve into the subjects of understanding reference boreal systems, developing watershed modelling tools and approaches, and supporting the establishment of functioning upland, wetland and lake systems.

Linear Feature Restoration Effectiveness

The session will evaluate the restoration of linear features across large areas to support or enhance biodiversity. 

Biodiversity in Boreal Landscapes

The session will review how managing key species while addressing social and environmental requirements for land development helps industry continue to better understand population and habitat dynamics of a variety of species in the boreal forest. These dynamics are often influenced by natural processes such as wildfire and insect infestation, in addition to human population growth, recreational land use and industrial development (forestry, agriculture, energy).

Oil Sands Innovation Infrastructure Resources

Technological innovation enabled the unlocking of the oils sands as a global hydrocarbon resource, and technology innovation will drive environmental performance improvement. To increase the probability of success requires a robust technical, scientific and financial innovation infrastructure to maintain a pipeline of technologies and solutions available to producers. This topic will include presentation from COSIA members, Alberta Innovates and Natural Resources Canada on infrastructure they manage or have recently created to accelerate oil sands innovation.

Integrated Water Management – Understanding Cumulative Impacts

Integrated water management—how operations source water, use and reuse water and return water back to the environment—is part of a complex integrated system, and critical to mining and in situ operations. We have been working to increase understanding of the complexity and trade-offs around integrated water management and how this contributes to the total cumulative impact in the oil sands region. In this session we will show the relationship of water in the region and how oil sands are working to achieve balanced outcomes.

Oil Sands Process Affected Water and its Composition – It’s All in the Timing

In oil sands mining operations, hot water is used to separate bitumen from other constituents, such as clay, sand, dissolved metals and natural organic compounds, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and naphthenic acids. The resulting process water is called oil sands process water (OSPW), which is a complex mixture of compounds that changes in quality and quantity throughout a mine’s life. Projects on analytical methods, toxicity and active treatment have increased our knowledge of OSPW. This topic will share learnings from our latest projects and includes a panel discussing these projects and why some say they prefer OSPW just the way it is.

Managing Oil Sands Process Water– How to Leverage Natural Systems and Processes

As oil sands mines progressively reclaim sites and approach the end of mining, the return of oil sands process water (OSPW) is necessary to achieve closure and reclamation outcomes. The acute and chronic aquatic toxicity of OSPW has been attributed primarily to a group of highly soluble, low molecular weight carboxylic acids known as naphthenic acids (NAs). We are exploring how passive and semi-passive treatment systems can be used to drive not only the treatment of OSPW but become part of the final closure reclamation landscape. In this topic we will discuss the technical challenge of water return and share project work on OSPW treatment with pit lakes, mesocosms, and wetlands.

How Continuous Improvement is Helping Reduce In Situ Water Use Intensity

Continuous improvement, the sharing of best practices and lessons learned, are important for enabling producers to quickly add value to their daily operation, and reduce water use intensity. Areas covered include: de-oiling, water treatment, steam generation, analyzers and instrumentation and control improvement, and facility start- up. This topic will share a few recently developed best practices and share the lessons learned from the recent start-up of ConocoPhillips Surmount 2.

Improving and Adapting In Situ Water Treatment and Steam Generation Technologies – What’s Next?

Producers are looking for easy-to-implement and cost effective technologies that improve the performance of existing water treatment and steam generation equipment, or can be deployed on new facilities. This topic will cover technologies and processes that producers are testing at their facilities.

The Outer Limits – What is Out There for Future Water Treatment and Steam Generation Technologies

While novel technologies and new flow sheets are always of interest to producers, the current economic conditions are driving interest in ground-breaking water treatment, steam generation and waste management technologies that are smaller, less complex and modular, with lower environmental impact and costs. This topic will share research and projects in development on next generation technologies and include an open discussion on interest areas and what might come next.

Tailings Technology Fundamentals

The fundamental science that underpins tailings treatment and deposit performance is extremely complex, in spite of all the work in this area over the past 40 years. Understanding tailings fundamentals is often essential to improving the performance of commercial tailings treatment processes and deposition methods. This topic includes an overview of all tailings fundamentals research, highlighting the results to date and future focus of the Natural Sciences Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Industrial Research Chair (IRC) in Oil Sands Geotechnique and the NSERC Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) in Long-term Dewatering of Amended Oil Sands Fine Tailings.

Improving the Performance of Deep, Fines-dominated Deposits

Deep, fines-dominated deposits are of interest to oil sands operators as they may be a very effective alternative to thin-lift drying operations. This topic will cover challenges with commercial implementation of this technology, including maximizing water release and minimizing segregation during deposition, deposition strategies that speed consolidation, and modeling of these deposits to more accurately predict long-term performance.

Optimizing Thickener and Non-segregating Tailings Operations

Non-Segregating Tailings (NST) technology involves de-watering the course fraction of fresh tailings using cyclones, dewatering the fines fraction using a thickener, and then combining the course and fine streams prior to depositing in a tailings impoundment. The resulting deposit looks something like the original ore body where most of the fines are interspersed in the sand matrix. Alternatively, the fines fraction can be dewatered via a thickener and placed in a fines-dominated deposit without a course fraction. This topic will focus on the first commercial deployment of NST technology and optimizing operation of tailings thickeners.

Novel Tailings Technologies

COSIA member companies are always interested in novel tailings treatment technologies that have a better environmental net effect and are more robust than existing processes. This topic will cover a few technologies undergoing testing by COSIA members.

Capping Tailings Deposits

All terrestrial tailings deposits will need to be capped with clean sand prior to placing reclamation materials. This topic will cover pilot tests to assess the optimal methods for capping different tailings deposit types.

Enhancing Fines Capture in Tailings Deposits

Capturing more fines in sand beaches, composite tailings/non-segregating tailings (CT/NST) deposits or in overburden dumps is often a very efficient and environmentally effective way of permanently sequestering fines that would otherwise have to be treated and placed by alternate means. This topic will cover technologies and practices that enhance fines capture in tailings beaches and with overburden.

Modeling of Tailings Deposits

While fundamentals of predicting rate of consolidation for deposits are reasonably well understood, uncertainty in predictions moving from lab- to field-scale can span an order of magnitude. Oil sands operators already have models to predict the consolidation trajectory of most deposit types, but recognize there is room for improvement.

Building Innovation Capacity

By definition, innovation implies change, to disrupt the status quo and move processes and institutions forward. In order to be successful, innovation requires both a “new idea”, and a system to implement it. This session will provide insight into “what is” innovation and, just as importantly, “what is not”. It will also explore what parts of society are likely to be most innovative and how we can create institutions that better support innovation.

Innovation Ecosystems

A lot of things have to come together for innovation to happen. How does the innovation ecosystem in the oil sands industry stack up with other sectors around the world?

Innovation Toolkits

Practical, documented approaches to accelerate the innovation process for the oil sands sector and those who participate in it will be discussed.

Innovation Perspectives

A fun look at innovation in the oil sands from the stereotypical perspective of oil sands companies, technology providers, other subject matter experts and academia.