Canada Poised To Be A Leader In Cleantech Oil & Gas Innovation

Canadian cleantech and oil and gas companies are working together to transform the economic landscape and environmental competitiveness in areas ranging from energy efficiency, digitization, novel resource recovery, transport and value added solutions across the entire value chain, according to Global Affairs Canada. As global demand for these solutions grows there has never been a better time for Canadian cleantech businesses to seize those international business opportunities.

That was the message delivered by Jean-Philippe Linteau, director, Cleantech Sector with the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) of Global Affairs Canada, to a Cleantech Global Workshop at the Global Petroleum Show, co-hosted by JWN Energy, Clean Resources Innovation Network (CRIN), Alberta Cleantech Industry Alliance and Calgary Economic Development.

“Meeting the world’s growing needs for energy and for a transition to a low-carbon economy requires unprecedented innovation,” he said, creating extraordinary global cleantech sector opportunities. “A key message for you is to remember that Canada is an energy powerhouse, and that we are also a cleantech leader, and so there is no country that is better positioned to be out there leading the transition to the clean resources nexus. This is where we are going and it’s incumbent upon us as Canadians to help the world make that transition.”

The Canadian oil and gas industry is already a major investor in cleantech, said Joy Romero, CRIN chair and vice-president, Technology and Innovation, with Canadian Natural Resources Limited. “The oil and gas industry is the largest investor in cleantech R&D in the country,” she said. “We invest annually as aggregate companies $1.4 billion a year — the majority of that is in cleantech.”

In fact, to help the oil and gas industry reduce its footprint to be both carbon- and cost-competitive, CRIN, she said, has a vision “that Canada is the global leader in clean hydrocarbon production from source to end use.” Once their technologies are proven and commercialized, cleantech companies can serve other sectors and grow internationally, Romero said. “There is an almost endless market that is there, and you have the Trade Commissioner Service, which is also a member of CRIN, help you to then grow. It’s not just a path to commercialization, it’s the path to adoption as well.”

Global expansion

It’s clear that in order for Canadian firms to be successful, they need to look beyond Canada’s borders, said Linteau. “You simply cannot grow a firm that’s large enough to be a world leader by staying in Canada — you need to start thinking about exports, about international partnerships, quite early in your business journey.”

Linteau emphasized that Canada is the only G7 country that has free trade agreements with all the other G7 countries. In all, Canada has signed 14 trade agreements reaching over 50 countries and 1.5 billion consumers. “The momentum and support for innovation and cleantech has never been stronger — we are working to bring integrated solutions to the industry and to support innovative firms.”

The TCS and other government partners are committed to supporting cleantech companies to seize these opportunities abroad. The 2017 federal budget committed $2.3 billion over four years to support Canadian cleantech firms to increase their scale and reach new markets. “That investment includes resources for early-stage companies but it also includes resources into export, helping you with your export journey, new resources for Export Development Canada, and new Trade Commissioner Service resources to help you in cleantech exports.”

Part of Global Affairs Canada, the TCS is a network of more than 1,300 trade experts working in Canadian embassies, high commissions and consulates located in more than 160 cities around the world. “Our data says that companies that work with the TCS export 20 per cent more to 20 per cent more countries,” Linteau said.

Denver opportunities

In the U.S., some of the best opportunities could be found in Colorado, said Stan Pence, Trade Commissioner – Oil and Gas, and Consulate General of Canada – Denver. Home to mid-sized oil and gas and renewable energy companies, the region has a confluence of petroleum and alternative energy sectors that provides fertile ground for innovation in the energy space. Pence pointed to three opportunities for Canadian companies to get involved in the U.S. market. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), “the crown jewel of renewable energy R&D labs” in the U.S., is now involved in the Canadian Technology Accelerator – NREL Program. The Colorado Cleantech Industry Association Industry Challenges allow companies to make one-on-one pitches to mid-sized oil and gas companies. And oil and gas focused Energy Technology Showcases occur twice per year.

Guyana prospects

Anand Harrilall, Trade Commissioner at the High Commission of Canada in Guyana and Suriname, spoke to the cleantech market in those countries, which are pursuing sustainable development goals and have oil and gas opportunities. The countries have immense potential for solar, hydro and wind energy development and offer incentives such as duty exemptions for cleantech products, he said. Suriname already has a small oil and gas sector while oil was discovered in Guyana in 2015. Both are seeking green solutions in oil and gas. As processes can be complex, a local partner is critical. “We are there to help you to make sure you connect with the right people and help you to navigate those complexities,” Harrilall said.

Access to China

Asia also offers tremendous growth opportunities in cleantech oil & gas. For example, China has made significant commitments as part of the 13th Five Year Plan (2016–2020), said Shirley Jiang, Trade Commissioner at the Embassy of Canada in China. The estimated annual output of the cleantech sector alone as a contribution to GDP is valued at $1.35 trillion. High policy-driven priorities include air, water and soil, as there are strict standards for emission control at all government levels, she said.

International success

B.J. Min, chief executive officer, TRIUM Environmental Inc., said partnerships for expansion to foreign markets are “absolutely necessary…. Establish the relationship, spend the time, build the trust and be patient.” Of the middle kingdom, he said, “nothing is impossible in China — however, everything is difficult.”

Companies must know their value proposition, as their solutions will be just one of hundreds on the shelf, he said. They should start with small steps and, if they aim for experience first, value will follow. The Calgary-based environmental remediation technology company, which has successfully developed markets in Asia and the Middle East, has received “great support” from federal and provincial government programs and trade mission events, he said.

GHGSat Inc. is another cleantech company that has leveraged the TCS to reach a worldwide market. The Quebec-based company uses satellites to monitor greenhouse gas emissions from industrial facilities anywhere in the world, including oilsands operations in northern Alberta.

Providing a worldwide service compels tapping into worldwide markets, said Stéphane Germain, GHGSat chief executive officer. “It’s hard to solve the entire world all at once. And so the Trade Commissioner Service has been very helpful for us in that respect,” he said. “For us, having a central point of contact that helps us co-ordinate our efforts across the globe and accessing the various parts of the Trade Commissioner Service has been fantastically useful.”

The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) helps companies navigate the complexities of international markets and make better business decisions. The TCS is on the ground in more than 160 cities worldwide. We gain market intelligence, uncover opportunities for Canadian companies and help reduce business costs and risks. The TCS is a free service of the Government of Canada, helping companies to prepare for international markets, assess market potential, find qualified contacts and resolve business problems. Learn more at

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