What a Year!

2020 oil sands innovation

However you choose to describe it – unprecedented, historic, extraordinary – 2020 has truly tested individuals, families and organizations in so many ways. COSIA, like so many others, has had to pivot and navigate through this tough year. But despite all the changes and challenges that confronted us, we held on to our belief that the work of improving environmental performance in the oil sands is a long-term commitment. So, despite the challenges of the here and now, we remain, at year end, as active and committed as ever to environmental innovation, clean tech development, and to our collaboration-amongst-competitors approach to environmental research and development (R&D).

Cause for optimism

The environmental science and clean technology efforts in Canada’s oil sands are cause for excitement and optimism. With some 225 active R&D projects currently underway, there have been many encouraging developments in recent months. One of these is our project with  the Montreal-based company GHGSat, which launched its second GHG monitoring satellite into orbit. This technology has potential to enable – from space – high resolution, real-time monitoring of fugitive methane emissions from oil sands facilities. It’s cutting-edge technology with a bright future and we’re proud that the Canadian oil sands have been involved in launching and testing this innovation from its earliest days.

Exciting developments

Another exciting development on the horizon is the completion of the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, which will see two winners picked from ten carbon dioxide (C02) conversion technology companies competing for the final $7.5 million prizes. The Carbon XPRIZE has been a long, five-year journey, and we’re excited and proud of the role COSIA and the oil sands are playing to give it a global profile and stimulate the development of carbon conversion technologies.

Telling our story

This past year, we’ve been working hard to tell our story in Canada and abroad. All too often, the lengths to which COSIA members go to significantly reduce GHG emissions, reduce freshwater use, and quickly and effectively reclaim disturbed land are overlooked. It’s important that Canadians in particular understand what the commitment of oil sands producers to the environment looks like in practice. Often, people are surprised to hear about the volume and scale of environmental innovation that’s underway.

Industry’s role in a low carbon future

Whenever I speak publicly (or virtually these days!), I always take time to answer questions from people in the audience. One question I’m frequently asked is “Can the oil sands be part of a low-carbon future in Canada?” My answer to this important question is invariably “yes, absolutely.” Canada’s oil sands have a track record of technological innovation that has long been improving the industry’s environmental performance. It has reduced Greenhouse Gas (GHG) intensity (the amount of GHGs emitted per barrel produced) by 20 per cent between 2009 and 2018 and is on track to achieve a further 16 to 23 per cent intensity reduction by 2030.

We’re part of the solution

While a number of exciting new energy technologies (such as hydrogen, energy storage, renewables, etc.) being developed around the world, oil is predicted to remain the dominant source of energy for decades to come. In a world where significant GHG emission reductions are necessary, it is critical that the world’s major oil producing countries step up. Canada’s oil sands – which have the third largest oil reserves in the world – are walking the talk. They are continuing to make major investments in R&D and deploying technologies that generated significant reductions in GHG emissions intensity over the past decade and will continue to for decades to come. 

Interested in other blogs by COSIA’s CE Wes Jickling? See
•    Innovative collaboration…now more than ever 
•    Globe trotting 
•    Bringing smart minds to tough environmental challenges 

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And don’t forget to check out our new podcast series Innovative Minds that features the people behind the novel technology. 

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