COSIA has become a leader in open-source innovation, which is achieving major performance improvement in our environmental priority areas of water, greenhouse gases, tailings and land.

As the next chapter in innovation leadership, COSIA is taking the bold step of releasing all Innovation Opportunities which can benefit from broader, global collaboration. There are more than 60 of them, categorized by COSIA Environmental Priority Areas (EPAs).

If you're interested, sign up for our email list, follow our social media channels, submit an idea through our E-TAP system and check here regularly for more information. COSIA technical staff are also available to provide more information and answer specific questions.

Please contact us at or 403-444-4282.

What is an Innovation Opportunity?

COSIA's Innovation Opportunities provide focused, actionable descriptions of the current state of opportunities related to environmental processes and impacts of the oil sands industry.

  • We include desired outcomes without prescribing the means for reaching those outcomes.
  • The Innovation Opportunities include research and technology opportunities, from incremental - because the small things add up - through to the game-changers with the potential to propel industry forward.
  • Each represents a possibility that, if realized, would contribute towards the achievement of COSIA's environmental aspirations.

Who Do We Want to Hear From?

If you're an academic, researcher, innovator, inventor, entrepreneur, large company, or really anyone with an idea or potential innovation - we want to hear from you. After all, one never knows from where the next great idea will come.

How Do I Submit a proposal?

Have an idea? Submit a proposal through the COSIA Environmental Technology Assessment Portal (E-TAP).

Submit your ideas
Greenhouse Gases

Greenhouse Gases

Direct Hot Water Production for an Oil Sands Mining & Extraction Process
The COSIA Greenhouse Gas Environmental Priority Area has identified Direct Hot Water Production as a technology which could improve the environmental performance of mineable oil sands. New technology is sought which could replace conventional hot water production approaches, which use economizers or low grade steam, in either new or existing mining operations.
Higher Value Use of Low Grade Heat
COSIA’s GHG Environmental Priority Area Steering Committee is seeking technologies that create value from excess low grade heat resulting from Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) oil sands production and/or related surface facility operations.
Natural Gas Decarbonization
The COSIA GHG Environmental Priority Area (EPA) Steering Committee (SC) has identified natural gas decarbonization as an opportunity area in which to explore for technologies that will materially reduce oil sands GHG emissions. These technologies will partially or completely remove the carbon content of natural gas. The emissions associated with producing the decarbonized gas, plus the emissions from combusting the decarbonized gas, will be less than the emissions from combusting natural gas.
Water and Energy Recovery from Flue Gas
The COSIA GHG Environmental Priority Area Steering Committee is seeking leading edge technologies that capture water vapour and waste heat from flue gas from natural gas combustion. The successful technology will provide valuable high grade heat to be integrated into the processing facility and produce clean water as condensate that can be used for steam production. Ideally the technology could be retrofitted to existing combustion equipment.
New Heat Exchanger Technology
COSIA’s GHG Environmental Priority Area Steering Committee is seeking technology which could replace heat exchanger technology in either new or existing thermal in situ operations.
Energy from Pressure Letdown
The COSIA Greenhouse Gas Environmental Priority Area Steering Committee has identified Energy from Pressure Letdown as a technology area which could improve the environmental performance of the oil sands. COSIA seeks a new technology which could capture energy, likely power, at a small scale (e.g. 500 KW – 3 MW) when delivering high or medium pressure energy source through pressure let downs.
New Steam Generation Design
Upgrade existing OTSG's with OTSG new equipment, equipment modifications, and operating practices to improve the energy efficiency of steam production.
Optimizing Water Energy Balance
COSIA's Water EPA is advancing breakthrough water treatment technologies, many of which would reduce GHG emissions. COSIA's GHG EPA is working closely with the Water EPA to coordinate the advancement of promising water technologies and understanding the associated GHG benefits, or implications. Successful closure of this gap is the identification and evaluation of water treatment technologies that deliver co-benefits for GHGs and water performance. More promising technologies could reduce GHG emissions by up to 5%.
Optimizing Facility Energy Balance
An opportunity exists to minimize energy losses through the implementation of more efficient process technologies and by optimizing the reuse of energy losses within the facility. Existing knowledge gaps are related to energy losses at current in situ facilities, as well as the optimal design of heat exchanger networks and other process operations for maximum energy recovery and potentially seasonal storage. Successful closure of this gap is identifying cost effective options for minimizing heat losses and maximizing integration, potentially including low cost heat storage during summer months.
Low/No Carbon Alternate to Diesel Fuel
The opportunity exists to reduce the use of diesel fuel and associated GHG emissions from transportation of raw bitumen from the mine face to extraction processes. This could be through improvements in vehicle efficiency or alternative fuel sources. Renewable diesel and electricity are not excluded as a fuel source.
Optimize Fleet Utilization and Design
Reduction in GHG emissions is realized when the utilization of the mine fleet improves. Improved utilization is reflected in shorter hauls, reduced cycle times, adapting to, managing or preparing for extreme weather conditions, ore blending, fixed plant location and increased equipment availability. In short, reduce non-productive fuel burn. This includes advances in mobile crushing and advanced analytics. Successful closure of this gap means reducing GHG emissions through demonstrated world class mine fleet availability and utilization.
Mine Fleet Engine Efficiency Improvements
Support continual improvement in engine design and efficiency to realize reduced GHG emissions. Successful closure of this gap would result in decreased fuel consumption per operating hour, including idling, when running full, empty and on inclines or declines.
Optimize Ore Handling & Quantity Benefits
Alternatives to the current oil sands operating standard of using truck and shovels to handle all material are currently an opportunity for innovation. Multiple methods of handling material exist that could be applied to handling of ore, certain tailings streams and construction materials. The main drivers for this work are that (a) There have been significant advances in the operating scale, reliability and cost of most of the ore handling technologies and (b) Many ore handling methods (often used in other mining industries) have not been evaluated for oil sands operations. Opportunities therefore exist to optimize both the operation and cost of the current model of material handling.
Post Combustion Capture Processes
Activities in this opportunity will increase understanding of how to dramatically reduce the cost of capture, especially CAPEX, from diluted CO2 streams (<8 vol%), and how the most advanced and emerging Post Combustion Capture (PCC) technologies and processes can be economically applied to current oil sands production. Also of interest is the identification and development of promising early technology readiness level (TRL) processes and technologies for CO2 capture at a significantly lower cost (OPEX and CAPEX).
Oxy-fuel Combustion
Activities to close this gap will focus on decreasing the costs of oxygen enrichment technologies and improving their integration with oil sands facilities. Material energy efficiency improvements will also be targeted and could be achieved through lower energy intensity oxygen (O2) production.
Understand Available CO2 Storage Capacity
A better understanding of storage opportunities will support field trials and longer-term CO2 storage. Activities to close this gap consist of studies, assessments of the characteristics of potential CO2 storage sites in the Athabasca region and study the storage of CO2 in hydrate form. If these studies or evaluation show a cost effective and safe storage, pilot tests in single wells or multiple wells would follow as a future JIP.
Optimal CO2 Transport System Design
The assessment of the optimal CO2 transport system design is an enabler to identify low cost opportunities to accelerate carbon capture in the Fort McMurray, Edmonton, and Lac La Biche regions. Successful closure of this gap is identifying promising technologies for design and implementation in 2019 and beyond. Products that could be used locally are of preference.
CO2 Conversion
Activities to close this gap will focus on new technologies that can take CO2 or raw flue gas and make a value added, saleable, product.
Other Use of Biomass
The assessment of biomass/biofuels and combustion technologies will identify biomass availability, supply options, and opportunities for potential application to oil sands facilities. Successful closure of this gap means determining the sources and volumes of available biomass as a first step. Assuming promising results, supply chain logistics would be evaluated along with assessing existing and new biomass combustion and conversion technologies. It is estimated that biomass could improve a facility's GHG intensity by 2070%.


Impact of Water Chemistry on Tailings Treatment and Consolidation
Water chemistry can influence tailings settling and consolidation. While some of these effects are known, particularly for sand-dominated deposits like CT/NST, what is less well known are the effects of water chemistry on tailings treatment and consolidation for fines-dominated deposits when flocculants like poly acrylamide are used. Improved understanding of the effects of water chemistry on the treatment, de-watering and consolidation of polymer-treated tailings should improve the ability to predict and control commercial deposits. Further, it is important that any tailings water treatment minimizes any detrimental impact on extraction efficiency.
Modelling to Improve Predictions of Commercial Deposit Consolidation
Members require improved prediction and management of deposit properties including sand dominated, fines dominated, flocculated, and centrifuged tailings deposits. The modeling and prediction of consolidation behavior should be based on initial deposition properties (thickness, PSD, treatment method, initial density, etc.). Industry desires to reduce the uncertainty in predicting trajectories of tailings deposit properties so that plans can be developed with higher degree of confidence about when deposits will be fully consolidated.
Clay Chemistry Impacts on Permeability and Consolidation of Fines-Dominated Deposits
Improved understanding of the effects of clay types on permeability and consolidation of polymer-treated fine tailings, resulting in improved prediction of tailings processes, deposit modeling and adaptive management of tailings deposits.
Environmental Performance Assessment for Froth Treatment Tailings Affected Material
Quantification of environmental effects related to froth treatment tailings specific constituents of potential concern, i.e. residual diluent, acid rock drainage precursors and naturally occurring radioactive materials.
Impact of Residual Bitumen on Tailings
Understanding the effect of residual bitumen on tailings treatment, settling, and consolidation and drying, particularly for treatment and deposition of FFT and the geotechnical effects asphaltenes in the deposit can have.
Optimize Flocculants/Coagulant Suite and Dosage to Improve De-Watering
Understanding the science underpinning coagulant and flocculent use in tailings treatment including investigating different types of coagulants, different types of flocculants and optimum combinations of these for a wide range of tailings from sand-dominated to fines-dominated slurries.
Commercially Ready Online Instrumentation
Real-time, on-line or at-line analyzers that will measure directly – or by inference – all the key characteristics of tailings streams needed to control tailings treatment processes. Key characteristics could include bitumen content, clay content, density, segregation/dewatering potential, Sands-to-Fines Ratio (SFR), floc size, PSD, rheology, electrical and hydraulic conductivity and yield stress. Tailings treatment processes include optimal use of flocculants and/or coagulants when added to fluid fine tailings streams or control of processes used to produce processed tailings.
Surface Drying
Improve and enhance the understanding for drying for sub-aerial deposits, including atmospheric drying and freeze thaw.
Capping of Tailings Deposits
Refine existing methods and best practices and develop novel techniques for stabilization, capping, and reclamation of tailings deposits including CT/NST, thick fines-dominated deposits (TT, Centrifuge cake, polymer-treated FFT).
Consolidation Enhancement
Accelerate the speed at which initial settling and subsequent consolidation of tailings deposits progress. This will ultimately enhance the storage efficiency, water recovery and reuse, and subsequent deposit reclamation activities ensuring the objective of Tailings Management Framework (TMF) are met.
Co-Deposition of Tailings Streams
Optimizing the ratio of different tailings streams and the design of co-deposition cells to increase the initial strength and facilitate water release and consolidation.
In Situ Amendments to FFT and Soft Tailing Deposits
Environmentally effective means of in situ reclamation for soft tailings deposits to create boreal forest landforms including terrestrial, wetland and aquatic reclamation features.
Collection of (Harvesting) FFT
Two primary areas for attention in FFT harvesting system improvements:
i. More effective debris management to reduce system outages attributable to debris blockages at suction intake and downstream in FFT flocculation and processing operations.
ii. Reduce dilution of FFT due to 'coning' of FFT near suction intake and subsequent influx of overlying thin FFT and water. Seek techniques, equipment, and operating procedures to eliminate unplanned dilution associated with coning.
Effects of Transportation of Tailings Slurries
The deposit performance for both sand-dominated and fines-dominated tailings slurries can be greatly affected by the transportation and deposition method. It is important to understand how the rheology of the material is affected by shear during transportation. It is also important to optimize deposition techniques and practices to minimize segregation on tailings beaches for a variety of tailings slurries.


Promote Wetland Formation Conditions
Understanding conditions that promote wetland formation will enhance opportunities for wetlands to occur &/or control their location, allow for more accurate accounting of wetlands expected on the closure landscape and potentially respond to the Alberta Wetland Policy where applicable.
Reclamation Pads Within Wetlands to Uplands
We have reclaimed uplands in the past in both oil sands and conventional, but we need to better understand the potential effects of leaving multiple pads in place within former wetlands. Possible unique areas of focus for oil sands pads will be the presence of geo-textile material, soil physical and chemical constraints, lack of organic soil amendments, as well as lack of salvaged sub-soil. The spatial distribution of multiple pads and roads will require study to understand the effect on hydrology.
Better Techniques on Species of Management Concern
Improved monitoring methods has potential to reduce monitoring costs and to reduce business risks posed by SAR if detection and inventory methods are improved. It is likely that some species that are thought to be at risk are more common than current records indicate. Development of methods to improve detection and inventory of species that are elusive or occupy habitats that are difficult to survey would improve our knowledge and reduce business risks. These technologies could also be used to improve the accuracy of presence/absence surveys prior to development.
Predicting Caribou Habitat Restoration Performance
Land development has encroached on the natural habitat of the woodland caribou, a species that has been identified to be sensitive to change and identified as threatened under the SARA. Ongoing effort is required to better understand population and habitat dynamics of caribou in the boreal forest. Woodland Caribou have been closely linked to Oil Sands projects because of declining populations and a traditional habitat preference that is coincident with the locations of many existing and planned in situ oil sands developments.
Optimizing of Planning for Footprint Reduction
Refinement of current methods for augmenting caribou populations Caribou recovery management tools that are designed to increase population numbers in the wild. Specifically, population tools including the following: large (10s-100 km2) multi-decadal fenced enclosures; small (10’s ha) temporary (several months) maternity pens; captive breeding (zoo) with translocations; and wild-to-wild translocations.
More Efficient and Effective Monitoring Methods
Effective resource management and oil sands reclamation specifically is dependent on reliable information on biophysical states, often across extensive geographical areas. New methods, or alternative applications of existing methods for gathering information, can (i) provide valuable information previously not available, (ii) collect similar information that is more reliable, or (ii) reduce the costs of collecting information., or (iv) collect the information in a more timely manner.
Improve Non-Tree Propagation
The out-planting success (survival and growth) of non-treed species on reclaimed land is highly variable and not well understood. The scope of this Challenge is large; it includes the acquisition/storage/germination of propagules, treatment and growing conditions in the nursery, choice of container system, inoculation of materials with nutrients/fungi, and the establishment technique/site conditions and timing of deployment of the plant.
This innovation opportunity is forward looking, whereby in situ operators are focused on reducing exploration footprint across the oil sands region by focusing only on future projects or project expansions at existing project and doing the following:
a. Identifying and developing new zero- or low-footprint seismic technologies;
b. Evaluating life-cycle cost and benefit of new and existing tools and technologies; and
c. Developing and sharing footprint exploration reduction best practices.


Sharing Operational Improvements
Share best practices and technologies related to improving environmental performance of both operations and facility design for both the mining and the in-situ sectors.
Waste Treatment Technologies
Develop new and innovative technologies which manage (treat) the concentrated residuals (blowdown) created in in-situ the produced water treatment process including; slop oil, lime sludge, OTSG blowdown, evaporator blowdown, and ion exchange, which reduce Environmental Net Effects and cost and are thus more likely to be deployed. The technologies/practices could be either surface facility treatment technologies or long-term management strategies for these waste streams.
New or Non-Conventional Boilers
Develop new steam generation technologies which generate more steam to inject and/or increase steam generator operating uptime while improving water recycle, reducing disposal and reducing energy use/GHG intensity.
OTSG Related Technologies & Process Configurations
Improve the design/operation of existing Once Through Steam Generators (OTSGs) to generate more injection steam and/or increase steam generator operating uptime, while improving water recycle, reducing disposal and reducing energy use/GHG intensity.
Process Monitoring
Improve in situ process monitoring through the collaborative improvement/development online analyzers, and analytical techniques/best practices, and in situ laboratory analytical methods, with the goal of improving the stability, utilization of in situ produced water treatment facilities.
Advanced Predictive Control
Improve In situ process control and automation, resulting in the improved stability, utilization water intensity and OPEX, through sharing of best practices and the development of advanced controls, including the development and implementation advanced process control, data analytics, for predictive process optimization and control.
Water Treatment Fundamentals
Improve the understanding of the fundamentals of in situ water treatment and chemistry, including organic and inorganic fouling mechanisms, the insights from which will enable improvement of existing Insitu produced water treatment technologies and development of new technologies.
New Water Treatment Technologies
Develop new water treatment technologies, ready for commercial deployment, which replant elements of or the entire Insitu produced water treatment process with the goal of improving environmental performance, reduce costs and improve reliability.
Groundwater Makeup and Disposal
Improve the understanding of the regional groundwater source and waste disposal zones location, distribution and capacity used by thermal operators to ensure long term source and disposal optimization and sustainable use.
Innovation Infrastructure
Improve the Insitu technology development innovation infrastructure, including the innovation management systems, technical support, sample availability, and bench testing facilities, to support and expand the number of good early TRL ideas to be identified, and tested quickly, and efficiently.
Streamline (Field) Piloting of Potential Technologies
Development commercially available on and offsite pilot testing infrastructure/facilities to enable high potential technologies to be piloted quickly that are representative of all critical parts of the in-situ central processing facilities.
Recovery Technologies
Understand the feasibility, key issues, and costs associated with recovering water from the flue gas of natural gas boilers at in-situ production sites.
Acceptable Concentrations
The dissolved organics in OSPW are the primary toxic constituent. Untreated OSPW typically contains 20-60 ppm dissolved organics and if untreated is usually acutely toxic when assessed using standard bioassays like the 96-hr trout test. Like all-natural petroleum deposits, these dissolved organics consist of many different chemical species which likely contribute to the toxicity. As a result, this opportunity focuses on chemistry and toxicity studies that identify the most toxic chemical families and using this information to test how effectively treatment methods transform these species into non-toxic constituents.
Process Water Chemistry
Improved knowledge and science on the natural verses’ anthropogenic effects of oil sands development activity on the Athabasca River watershed, including trace elements and dissolved organics in both natural inputs, such as ground water seeps and bogs into the mainstem and tributaries and potential anthropogenic inputs from particulate emissions to snowpack and seepage from tailings ponds.
Watershed Cumulative Effects
Water return of treated oil sands process water (OSPW) to natural surface waters during operations. Depressurization water management (saline and non-saline), treatment technologies, residuals management and return. Result is that water management and treatment technologies enable the sustainable return of treated OSPW and depressurization water to the Athabasca River and as a result, minimize the net environmental effects.
Wastewater Management Tools
Developing tools and knowledge that enable mine site integrated water management. Developing tools and knowledge that help inform water management strategies and practices.
Passive Treatment Technologies
New or improved low-energy technologies that can effectively treat OSPW or highly saline depressurization water for return to the Athabasca River. The technology should be economical and require minimal energy and maintenance for long term operation. Passive or semi-passive treatment systems that detoxify OSPW have several advantages over active treatment systems like ozonation including lower net environment effect, lower costs and the ability to deploy during the active mining and reclamation phases of mine life.
Acceptable Configurations
Demonstration through modeling and pilots that the planned depths, littoral zones and lake substrates (with and without tailings) will result in typical boreal forest aquatic ecosystems. Desired results will demonstrate through modeling and pilots that the planned depths, littoral zones and lake substrates (with and without MFT) will result in typical boreal forest aquatic ecosystems.
Adaptive Management Techniques
Adaptive management techniques for pit lakes that address emerging problems and speed reclamation.
Scale Up
Scale up of pit lake technologies.
Biological and Water Quality Factors
Assessment of natural rates for establishment of biological activity and remediation of water quality in a pit lake and testing of technologies and practice that can speed or enhance these natural processes.
Improve Water Use
Technologies and best practices that reduce water use while minimizing detrimental impacts to other environmental areas such as GHGs and Land. Identification and deployment of technologies, best practices and water sharing that reduce water or improve water quality use while minimizing detrimental impacts to other environmental areas such as GHGs and Land.
Optimize Environmental Performance Boundaries
Environmental Net Effects assessment tools that help assess the potential impacts of water management options.