COSIA marks fifth consecutive year of progress in oil sands innovation

Highlights areas of focus aimed at accelerating performance

At its 2017 annual Performance Update, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) showcased advances towards its goal of accelerating the pace of environmental performance in Canada’s oil sands. To date, members of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) have voluntarily shared 981 distinct environmental technologies costing $1.4 billion.

Since its inception more than five years ago, COSIA, a collaboration of Canada’s largest oil sands producers, has focused on accelerating the pace of environmental improvements in the industry. Despite continued economic challenges across the sector, COSIA’s members, which represent 90 per cent of Canada’s oil sands production, remain actively committed to improvements in four key priority areas: greenhouse gases (GHGs), land, water and tailings.

“The commitment of our member companies has strengthened year-over-year,” said Dan Wicklum, COSIA chief executive. “In fact, our project count has gone up every year. In 2017, COSIA members expanded the alliance’s portfolio more than in any year previous, initiating 99 new projects in 2017.”

Since 2012, COSIA members have reduced GHG emissions intensity by 11 per cent at in situ operations and nine per cent at mining operations. They have also seen a 42 per cent reduction in fresh water use intensity at in situ operations and a net reduction of 18 per cent in water use intensity from the Athabasca river at mining operations.

As COSIA moves forward, the alliance has identified promising areas for innovations in in situ development. By reducing the need for steam during bitumen extraction, COSIA members aim to increase energy efficiency and drastically cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – an area of activity where industry could reduce GHG intensity by 10 to 30 per cent in the next five years, with even greater improvements in the next decade and a half.

“When I look at what’s in the technology pipeline right now, with new innovations that could potentially slash the GHGs that the industry produces in oil sands, it’s really exciting,” says Wicklum.

The research and innovation around in situ subsurface steam and waterless extraction has potential to lower water and land use, and reduce production costs, as well as reducing GHGs. While the mid to long-term results are promising, taking the right approach is key to seeing technologies succeed.

“As with any scientific advancement, the best way to accelerate progress is to tap into as much different experience and expertise as you can,” adds Wicklum. “That’s what COSIA does so well; we will continue to use our collaboration model to keep pushing the pace of progress and maintain Canada’s reputation as a leader in clean resource innovation.”

To share its progress, COSIA hosted an online conference, allowing individuals from anywhere in the world to attend virtually. The virtual conference included presentations on key projects and live web chats with technical experts, including Marcius Extavour, director of Technical Operations for the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, describing the road to the finals, Dr. William Shotyk, professor and Bocock Chair for Agriculture and the Environment at the University of Alberta, discussing his world-class water technology lab, and other experts working on technologies to solve problems in COSIA’s four environmental priority areas of land, water, GHGs and tailings.

The full virtual conference can be accessed at: COSIA 2017 Performance Update Virtual Conference

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