Collaborating to improve our industry
We recognize that advancing technologies capable of achieving zero emissions from production to end use is a big challenge that no single company can solve on its own. The table below provides an overview of how we’re working with our peer companies, academics, entrepreneurs and other industries to identify and develop innovative solutions to address this challenge.
|Our goal||Our recent performance examples|
To collaboratively accelerate development of technologies with the aim of reducing emissions and resources required for each barrel of oil we produce.
Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance
An amphibious vehicle at our Foster Creek operations.
Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) is based on the idea that by collaborating on technology and innovation member companies will improve the environmental performance of the industry faster and more effectively than by working alone. Together with 11 other oil sands producers, COSIA member companies have identified four areas of focus – land, water, tailings and greenhouse gases – each governed by its own Environmental Priority Area (EPA) joint venture agreement. In 2017, Cenovus was elected Chair of COSIA’s Shareholder Steering Committee, which consists of senior leaders from each of the 11 member companies who meet monthly to discuss key issues and concerns and set COSIA’s strategic direction.
Since COSIA was formed, about 936 technologies and innovations that cost about $1.3 billion to develop have been shared among its members. Examples of technologies that Cenovus is working on or has contributed through COSIA are:
- Blowdown boiler technology3, which allows us to more efficiently use and recycle water to make steam at our oil sands operations. This results in reduced fresh and saline water use as well as reduced waste water for disposal
- Linear Deactivation project (LiDea), which uses innovative techniques to regenerate forest growth along old seismic lines to help protect and restore wildlife habitat
- Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell technology, which has the potential to reduce the GHG intensity of production at oil sands drilling operations by capturing carbon and using it to generate electricity. We expect to complete the joint industry project study, which will explore the feasibility of the technology for oil sands development, by the end of 2017. After the study is complete we will explore a path forward to continue the development of the technology.
- Amphibious vehicles, which are machines that can drive on land and float on water. These vehicles allow us to conduct restoration work in any season, at a faster pace, potentially at a lower cost and with minimal environmental impact
3 Patented technology
NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE
In 2015, with support from eight member companies, including Cenovus, COSIA teamed up with NRG Energy to sponsor the US$20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. The competition is a cross-border, cross-industry effort, designed to promote and advance the discovery and development of technologies that could launch an entirely new commercial industry — converting CO2 emissions into valuable products — while also potentially contributing to a cleaner energy future.
In 2016, 27 out of the original 47 teams that entered became semi-finalists in the XPRIZE competition. These semi-finalists are working on a wide variety of innovative approaches that include converting captured CO2 into everything from fish food to fertilizer to carbon nanotubes and building materials.
These teams are pushing the boundaries of innovation to create breakthrough CO2 conversion solutions that could ultimately contribute to the fight against climate change.
Read more about where each team is from and what they're working on »
Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre
In early 2017, plans were announced to build the Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre (ACCTC) in Calgary. The centre, which is expected to be operational in 2018, will initially serve as a testing ground for XPRIZE finalist teams. The federal and provincial governments have committed up to $20 million combined to help build the centre, which will become one of the few places in the world where carbon conversion technologies can be tested at a commercial scale. Also contributing to the project are Capital Power and ENMAX, whose Shepard Energy Centre in southeast Calgary will host the ACCTC. Finalists aiming to commercialize their solutions in the natural gas track of the Carbon XPRIZE are expected to be the first tenants at the new centre.
Learn more about the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE »
Cenovus is co-founder, along with Suncor Energy and the BC Cleantech CEO Alliance, of Evok Innovations, a first-of-its-kind investment partnership. Evok’s mission is to connect the energy industry and the global clean technology community to accelerate the development and commercialization of cleantech solutions to address the toughest economic and environmental challenges facing the oil and gas industry. That includes the challenge of significantly reducing or eliminating CO2 emissions from the production of oil to its end use.
Learn more about Evok Innovations ».
In 2016, Evok’s first full year of operations, the company invested in the following clean technology solutions:
- DarkVision Technologies Inc.
- The Institute for Breakthrough Energy Technology
- Kelvin Inc.
- Metabolik Technologies
- Mosaic Materials
- Opus 12
- Rotoliptic Technologies Corporation Inc.
These ventures address an array of environmental and economic challenges in the energy industry, from wellhead to wheels, and include technologies for carbon capture and conversion, industrial efficiency and the treatment of oil sands process water. For example, Opus 12 is developing a device to recycle CO2 into cost-competitive chemicals and fuels.
Partnering with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
In 2016, Cenovus joined the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), the energy-focused innovation hub of MIT, through its Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS) Low-Carbon Energy Center. The Center presents an unparalleled opportunity to play a vital role in catalyzing the transition to a low carbon energy future.
This partnership with MIT demonstrates our commitment to work with the world’s foremost research institution, and other like-minded companies, to tackle this global challenge. We will also gain access to a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, economists and policy experts at MIT. The intent of in-depth interactions between industry and academia is to significantly shorten the time required to make early-stage breakthroughs and deploy new technologies.
Other ways we’re collaborating on innovation
We worked with other oil sands producers and leading environmental organizations to help inform the Government of Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan which was announced in 2015. We will continue to engage with government, other industry leaders and academics to support the development of GHG emissions regulations that address climate change while also enabling a robust future for Alberta’s economy. Read our discussion paper on Alberta's climate change leadership and learn about our support.
Cenovus is also a private sector partner of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, a voluntary organization that brings together leaders from across government, the private sector and civil society to work collaboratively to inform carbon pricing policy.
Through our Environmental Opportunity Fund, we have invested in several companies over the years that are developing technologies designed to minimize the environmental impact of producing and consuming energy. Many technologies we’re working on or support may benefit not just Cenovus and the energy industry but all Canadians. In 2016, we continued to steward our previous investments through the fund.
One of the companies we’ve invested in is General Fusion, which is developing fusion technology using hydrogen atoms from water. The company achieved a research milestone in early 2017, announcing that one of the most critical and complex areas of its research and development – plasma injector technology – has now reached the minimum performance levels required for a larger scale, integrated prototype. This marks a significant step in the company’s progress toward development of its fusion energy technology.
We support academic research into technologies that could benefit the oil industry. We have ongoing relationships with universities and research institutes around the world. Through these collaborations, our technology development team has been working with university professors on topics such as solvents, robotic welding, bitumen beyond combustion, 3D printing, oil and water separation, bitumen solidification, robotics inspections and pipeline leak detection.
In 2016, we were a sponsor of the PROPEL Energy Tech Forum, which brings together innovative energy technology companies, venture capitalists, academics and government-funding organizations, creating a platform to build the energy industry of the future. Our sponsorship also supported University of Calgary Haskayne School of Business’ Energy New Ventures, a one-day Dragon’s Den style competition showcasing innovations and technologies developed by promising entrepreneurs for the energy sector.
We worked with Evok Innovations and Suncor to host the Cleantech Pitch Session at GLOBE 2016. Entrepreneurs from around the world pitched cleantech solutions to the environmental and economic challenges facing the oil and gas industry. The top five finalists were invited to pitch their technology to a panel of judges at GLOBE 2016 in front of an audience of over 100 GLOBE delegates. The winner of the Cleantech Pitch Session was Emily Hicks from FREDsense Technologies. Learn more about the finalists for the Cleantech Pitch Session at GLOBE 2016.
In 2016, we participated in a number of other engagement opportunities outside of Cenovus to discuss how to boost innovation and strengthen Canada’s cleantech and energy industries. These included pan-Canadian innovation workshops and cleantech leadership summits where industry, government, cleantech entrepreneurs, business leaders and academia came together to explore how Canada can be a leader in clean resource innovation.
We’re providing the location for a carbon capture and storage (CCS) field research station near Brooks, Alberta. The research, led by Carbon Management Canada (CMC) Research Institutes and the University of Calgary, is focusing on technology development for CCS in the energy industry as well as the monitoring and commercialization of CCS.
We’ve also contributed to the advancement of carbon capture and storage at our enhanced oil recovery project in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, where we’ve safely injected 30 million tonnes of CO2 underground since 2000, the equivalent of taking more than six million cars off the road for an entire year.4
4Note: Based on an estimate of 4.75 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions per car per year according to a U.S. EPA GHG Equivalencies Calculator (updated March 2014).
Call for technology solutions
Research and development is fundamental to how we do business. We have dedicated employees working on technology development to drive innovation in our business, and we’re always looking for ways to further improve our technologies or to find new technologies to enhance our current techniques. That’s why we’ve added an online submission form to our company website, encouraging bright minds from across the world to submit technology solutions that could help improve our operations. Since launching the form in November of 2015, we have received and reviewed 79 technologies from vendors, individuals and academia. Some of the technologies have showed potential and are currently being pursued by a subject matter expert from our Technology Development team.
Learn more about the technology submission tool »