‘Big and Bold’ effort will engage the world’s best minds in accelerating carbon dioxide reduction technologies

COSIA is intensifying its global outreach in the drive to find solutions that will reduce and ultimately eliminate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from Canada’s oil sands.

Over the past five years, COSIA’s GHG Environmental Priority area (EPA) has been investigating ways to reduce energy use and associated GHG emissions through development of innovative technologies for in situ and mining operations.

Now a new emphasis on ‘Big and ‘Bold’ initiatives will sharpen that focus in the coming months and years, leading to accelerated technology development and deployment in the oil sands. 

The approach reaches far beyond established oil sands expertise to tap experts in other domains that have an interest in collaboratively delivering innovative solutions to industry challenges.

“Through Big and Bold, we are being more precise in describing the improvement outcomes we seek and our efforts are focused on maximizing the probability of success and pace of deployment,” explains Jonathan Matthews, COSIA Director, Greenhouse Gases.

“To help reach our goals, we are searching out great minds with perhaps unconventional ideas, to engage with us. We want the world to know that if they come to us with great ideas, we have the facilities to test those concepts out.”

Led by Devon Canada’s Sarah Field and Cathy Crawford, and Suncor’s Iftikhar Huq – working in tandem with the other GHG EPA committee members - the innovation net will be cast internationally to find the technologies that hold the most promise. 

That means connecting with universities, government, entrepreneurs and those in related industries to explore synergies with the oil sands industry to find global solutions that can be developed and deployed faster in more cost-effective ways.  

“It’s all come together to a point that we are able to prioritize and focus onseveral key innovation pathways that we think can accelerate the changes required in the industry.” – Cathy Crawford, Devon Canada

“Through COSIA, there has been a lot of foundational work done over the last few years to help us better define the highest potential opportunities for reducing our industry-wide GHG emissions, while understanding the existing technical options available to us and the gaps that remain,” Iftikhar explains.

“The Big and Bold approach aims to focus those technology development efforts by beginning with the end in mind,” Cathy adds. “As a group, the GHG EPA developed future end states and then worked backwards to develop various pathways to get there.

“It’s all come together to a point that we are able to prioritize and focus on several key innovation pathways that we think can accelerate the changes required in the industry.”  

Innovation pathways identified for further advancement include:

  • Step reductions in the costs of post-combustion CO2 capture
  • Conversion of CO2 into valued feedstocks and/or higher value products
  • Alternate methods of Oil Sands’ ore handlings
  • Haul system efficiency improvements
  • Improved measurement and mitigation of tailings pond fugitive emissions
  • Fuel cell applications to use flue gases from steam generation as feedstock for generating electricity and capturing CO2
  • Novel heat recovery technologies
  • Natural gas decarbonization
  • Froth tailings heat recovery and utilization

At the same time, ongoing work with vendors and other industry partners to move these ideas forward and drive costs down could move the timing of implementation up substantially.

“In the end, our success will be measured by how well we can accelerate the technology development process and come up with competitive projects that in the past may have taken a decade or more to be ready for implementation.” says Sarah.

It’s an approach that reaches far beyond industry and across the planet to tap the experts in confronting international challenges. Accepting technological solutions from anyone, in any related or unrelated business, that may fall beyond the traditional norms of oil sands techniques, increases the chances and the pace of moving critical new technology initiatives forward.  

“We’re confident that Big and Bold will build on these types of efforts and produce results based on this more assertive approach, greater aggressiveness on timelines, and an ongoing dialogue that produces concrete results,” Jonathan adds.


Cathy Crawford, P.Eng, is a Development Engineer, GHG & Energy Efficiency at Devon Canada in Calgary, AB.

Sarah Field, P.Eng, is a Senior Development Engineer at Devon Canada in Calgary, AB.

Iftikhar Huq, Ph.D, is Manager, Oil Sands Decarbonization at Suncor Energy.

Jonathan Matthews is the Director of COSIA’s Greenhouse Gases EPA.