Helping to Clear the Air on Oil Sands Emissions: Natural Gas Decarbonization



Do you want to play a game-changing role in the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions?

Climate change is one of the most significant issues of our time with scientific, societal, economic and political implications. Recognizing the importance of this issue, COSIA members are working hard to address the climate-related risks of their operations, while also meeting growing global energy demand and supporting economic development. 

It’s a tough challenge, but one we are up for. 

Through the development and application of innovative technologies, COSIA is investigating new ways to reduce energy use and associated GHG emissions for oil sands ‘in situ’, meaning in place, and mining operations. 

Our latest area of focus calls on innovators, like you, to submit new ideas or technology on natural gas decarbonization to materially reduce oil sands GHG emissions. 


A common oil sands production process involves the injection of steam into a reservoir to heat the bitumen, reducing its viscosity so it can be pumped to surface facilities for further processing. Natural gas is used to generate the steam.

Natural gas is also used to heat the water for the bitumen separation process. While natural gas is cleaner burning than other fossil fuels, it does produce some emissions.

COSIA is investigating a number of carbon capture technologies, including post-combustion and pre-combustion CO2 capture to reduce in situ process emissions. In the past, high capital and operating costs have hindered deployment of these technologies.

An alternative capture technology is to remove the carbon from natural gas before combustion through thermal, electrical or mechanical means. Thermal is the basis of carbon black manufacturing while the others are emerging approaches to decarbonize the gas. In both cases, the carbon is removed as solids, which is sequestration ready or better, can be sold as a value-add product, while the remaining gas has a higher hydrogen content. the emissions from combusting the decarbonized gas will be less than the emissions from combusting natural gas. 

Decarbonizing the natural gas used in the production and processing of bitumen will help oil sands producers continue to reduce the emissions intensity per barrel of oil produced.

About this innovation opportunity

COSIA is looking for technologies that 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. 

The ideal technology will: 
•    Reduce the GHG emission intensity of the carbon-depleted gas in steam generation, including the energy used in decarbonizing the gas. 
•    Remove the carbon and transform it into a form that is sequestration ready or a saleable product
•    Not be natural gas gasification or steam reforming to make syngas. 

Evaluation metrics for the technology developed include GHG emission intensity and CO2 avoidance cost. GHG intensity will include any change in combustion efficiency that may result from the decarbonized gas. The second metric will account for the costs required to achieve GHG reduction including CO2 or carbon sequestration.

Further information, technical details and requirements are outlined in the challenge document COSIA has developed to enable potential solution providers to help us meet the challenge of advancing natural gas decarbonization technologies.

Submit an idea for consideration

Your knowledge could help us improve the environmental performance of Canada’s oil sands energy. If your idea could be applied to this innovation opportunity, please follow the below process:
•    Review the challenge document and the related links for more information. 
•    Evaluate your research idea, solution or technology to see if it could be applied to decarbonize natural gas.
•    Submit your idea through COSIA’s Environmental Technology Assessment Portal (E-TAP). This step requires filling out a simple form to provide us with basic, non-confidential information. 

Submissions will be viewed by all COSIA members. If even just one COSIA member is interested in the idea, commercial discussions will begin. 

What’s in it for a potential solution provider?

As an academic, researcher, innovator, inventor, entrepreneur, large company, or if you have other technical expertise, we can help turn your idea into a real-world solution.

There are many benefits to working with COSIA, which can include opportunities to develop or test new technologies. The oil sands are one of Canada’s largest industries. There are significant market opportunities for any technologies that are commercialized for use by one or more COSIA members. Many technologies advanced through COSIA can also find markets in other industries. 

Our approach

COSIA is an alliance of oil sands producers focused on accelerating the pace of improvement in environmental performance in Canada’s oil sands through collaborative action and innovation. 

In an effort to improve environmental performance, COSIA members analyze their operations to identify possibilities that, if realized, would contribute towards achievement of COSIA’s aspirations. We call these Innovation Opportunities, which incorporate focused, actionable descriptions of the current state of the opportunity and desired results. 

Our full list of Innovation Opportunities (in GHG, Land, Tailings, and Water) includes research and technology opportunities, from incremental – because the small things add up – through to game-changers with the potential to propel industry forward. 

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