The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) is receiving nearly $600,000 from Western Economic Diversification Canada and $200,000 from Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) to design and construct a high temperature, high pressure testing unit that western Canadian companies will use to implement water technologies in oilsands.

The funding announced Wednesday in Edmonton will help establish a Membrane Technology Assessment Program (MTAP) at NAIT’s Centre for Oil Sands Sustainability to support the design and construction of a membrane technology unit. The unit will test membrane and other water treatment technologies designed by companies in controlled conditions that simulate oilsands in situ operations.

The testing unit will help develop 12 industrial water technologies used in the oilsands and train and develop 12 highly qualified people, said the government. It also will enable at least six western Canadian oil companies the opportunity to test their technologies and more quickly implement innovations that create environmental and economic benefits.

“Thanks to this partnership and our government’s commitment, we are advancing the testing and development of a new generation of oilsands technology that we believe offers a potential solution for oilsands water treatment,” Dan Wicklum, chief executive officer of COSIA, said in a news release. “This project is a demonstration of how collaboration brings us closer to reaching our goals for finding solutions to our biggest challenges,” he added, noting that NAIT is an important partner for COSIA in advancing its clean resource innovation.

“Today’s investment will enable NAIT and western Canadian oil companies to test ideas and apply cutting-edge solutions that will bring about environmental and economic benefits and reinforce Canada’s global competitive advantage in clean technology,” said Randy Boissonnault, Member of Parliament for Edmonton Centre. He made the announcement on behalf of Navdeep Bains, federal minister of innovation, science and economic development, who also is responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada.

A focus on clean technology, innovation and growth is a core element of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, said the government. Through the framework, Canada will focus on creating and maintaining globally competitive Canadian businesses as it transitions to a low-carbon economy, it said.