NGIF, ERA Named Energy Excellence Awards Co-Champions For Speeding Numerous Technology Innovations To Market

The second annual Energy Excellence Awards (EEAs) program, presented by the Daily Oil Bulletin, uniquely recognizes energy excellence and focuses on the advancement of collaboration within Canada’s energy industry.

For 2020, the DOB received close to 90 nominations in four broad awards categories — Project Execution Excellence; Innovation & Technology Excellence; Exporting Excellence; and Environmental Excellence — recognizing work completed last year. The nominees were further broken down into 12 subcategories across the four groupings, before being judged by a committee of industry leaders.

In the following days we will present the champions in each subcategory. Today, we feature two co-champions in Project Execution Excellence in the subcategory of Industry Accelerators.

The Champions stories are compiled here, and access all the Finalists stories here.


Champion Announcement Podcast: Listen to our podcast announcing the champions of this category and a panel discussion on what makes these organizations stand out in relation to project and environmental performance, collaboration, unique technologies and corporate social responsibility.

Joining DOB editor Richard Macedo in discussion is Mark Brown, Vice President and General Manager of Fluor Canada, which is the Gold Sponsor of the Energy Excellence Awards. Also with us today is Caralyn Bennett, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, GLJ Consultants.

Click here to listen.


Collaboration has become a hallmark of the Canadian oil and gas industry in recent years as a number of industry and government organizations pool their resources to advance new technologies and maintain sustainability in an increasingly competitive energy environment.

Partnerships and alliances of various kinds have helped to bring down costs and improved emissions intensity in the challenging phase that followed the oil price collapse of 2014. A further stretch of potentially even more devastating oil and gas prices — brought on by the coronavirus pandemic — portend more co-operation ahead.

Having already strengthened its collaboration muscle, the industry stands to benefit from past experience. Such strength was found in the Energy Excellence Awards nominations that judges settled on a tie in the Industry Accelerator subcategory, with co-champions the Natural Gas Innovation Fund and Emissions Reduction Alberta.

The champions focus on the vital issues of maintaining Canada’s lead in sustainable natural gas production throughout the value chain and tackling the oilsands sector’s twin challenges of high emissions intensity and production costs.

Natural Gas Innovation Fund: Filling technology gaps, clearing the air

In recent months, Ontario-based Solistra Corporation was approved for $100,000 in to demonstrate solar conversion of natural gas and carbon dioxide into synthetic gas; New York-based Thermolift Inc. received $426,500 for the demonstration of an advanced natural gas-driven heat pump and air conditioner in Canada; and Quebec-based GHGSat Inc. was handed $258,000 for the demonstration of a satellite-aircraft hybrid system in B.C.’s Montney region to detect greenhouse gas emissions.

Several other companies received funding to advance technology to produce renewable natural gases from woody biomass, landfill gas and sewage sludge; to produce hydrogen from natural gas and from renewable sources using nanocatalysts and electrolysis; to improve carbon capture, utilization and storage using new algae and membrane technologies; as well as to advance new processes to cut methane emissions and to adapt the transportation sector to operate on natural gas.

Funding has also been directed toward advanced clean technologies in liquefied natural gas, including LNG production and export (gas processing, liquefaction, natural gas liquids recovery), LNG refueling and fuel transfer, LNG from stranded natural gas reserves and dual fuel engines operating on LNG.

What all these investments have in common is the backing of the Natural Gas Innovation Fund (NGIF), an industry-led, industry-funded granting organization created by the Canadian Gas Association to accelerate cleantech innovation in the production, pipeline transmission and end-use of natural gas.

The first-of-its-kind industry collaboration model aims to improve the environmental and economic performance of all in the sector throughout Canada’s natural gas value chain. It recognizes technology gaps and works to define a strategic investment focus for its funding calls and competitions through a comprehensive “industry priority setting” process.

“NGIF has a unique opportunity where its investors are also the customers and have the unique opportunity to demonstrate and validate the technologies in their own respective operations — significantly accelerating the start-up from the discovery to customer creation,” said John Adams, NGIF managing director. “These investors are working together in NGIF in a first-of-kind industry collaboration model supporting cleantech start-ups in Canada.”

Since NGIF became operational in 2017, it has launched seven funding calls and received 207 applications showing continued demand for NGIF funding. It has approved for funding $7.9 million into 27 cleantech companies with total eligible project cost investments of $82.4 million and with co-funding from industry and provincial and federal governments.

“We are now recognized as an integral part of Canada’s innovation and cleantech ecosystem and demonstrated increased confidence on the natural gas industry’s actions on environmental performance in cleantech innovation,” said Adams.

NGIF projects ideally receive federal and provincial project funding in addition to industry funding through NGIF. This allows for a leveraging of industry dollars, and greater co-operation between private and public sector players in the innovation marketplace.

That means applicants don’t have to apply to several funding organizations for the same project via separate and unconnected submissions. Whenever funding partnerships can be established between these prospective government funders and NGIF, duplication can be reduced and the prospects for joint funding increased.

“Our goal is a situation whereby any project vetted and approved through one trusted partner’s application processes could be expeditiously fast-tracked for co-funding by another trusted partner,” Adams said.

Further expanding its relationships, NGIF teamed with Geoscience BC in April to work together to co-invest in cleantech research that could deliver GHG reductions and boost economic development. “A big part of NGIF’s success comes from our trusted partnerships which enable cleantech co-investments in Canada’s natural gas value chain where we are aligned on mandate and target outcomes. Trusted partners share risk, cut down the red tape, and accelerate cleantech development,” noted Adams.

NGIF reports on the performance and results of what NGIF achieves to define the value its portfolio provides. It uses quantification methods for GHG emissions for the project and a business as usual case (baseline scenario) according to best practice GHG quantification approaches and standards.

It has developed a spreadsheet adapted from Natural Resources Canada’s GHG project-level quantification template to harmonize with government. Its current projection of GHG reductions to 2030 of NGIF approved projects to date is 3.4 megatonnes CO2-equivalent. “Our methodology will be consistent, defensible and in alignment with best practice GHG project accounting principles,” said Adams.

Emissions Reduction Alberta: Reducing emissions — and costs

Alberta’s oilsands may represent the world’s third biggest crude oil reserves, but size may not matter in an increasingly price conscious — and climate crisis aware — world. On average, its high cost of production and GHG emissions intensity continues to challenge the sector.

Emissions Reduction Alberta’s (ERA) Oil Sands Innovation Challenge was launched to mitigate both shortcomings. Originally slated to invest $60 million in eight projects, the challenge grew to $70 million in funding to nine potentially game changing technology advances.

“ERA’s mandate is to identify and accelerate the technologies that secure Alberta’s successful lower-carbon future. The challenge is really about solving problems and where we have successes, scaling up those technologies across the industry,” Steve MacDonald, chief executive officer, said of what was ERA’s largest challenge yet. “Our funding is leveraged, and with that leveraging we expect industry to invest approximately $723 million in these projects.

“The reason we are so excited about these projects [is] that if they are successful and they are deployed across the industry, they have the potential to fundamentally change both the carbon footprint and the cost profile of Alberta’s oilsands industry,” added MacDonald.

The oilsands sector alone emits more than 70 megatonnes of GHGs each year, accounting for more than a quarter of Alberta’s annual emissions, which at 273 megatonnes in 2017 represented almost 40 per cent of total Canadian emissions — and growing.

“Alberta’s industry must continually find innovative ways to remain competitive in a global, low-carbon commodity market,” said ERA. “The need to do better is not just environmental — Alberta’s industry must continually find innovative ways to remain competitive in a global, low-carbon commodity market.”

If the technologies funded by the challenge are adopted at commercial scale, by 2030 the nine projects are estimated to lessen the growth in emissions from business-as-usual by potentially 4.1 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent annually.

Proposals were invited for technology solutions related to in situ or mined oilsands operations, including both new developments and retrofit opportunities for existing operations. Areas eligible for challenge funding included oilsands production, upgrading, land reclamation, tailings management and steam generation.

Applicants also had the opportunity to have their idea considered for additional funding by ERA’s partners, including federal and provincial governments and agencies, allowing technology innovators greater exposure to possible funding streams and access to later stage funding opportunities beyond ERA’s scope.

All of the technologies are in the final stages of development and each has the potential to transform Alberta’s oilsands development by significantly reducing emissions, capital and operating costs. To date, 75 per cent of completed projects are ready to be commercialized and will deliver up to 50 per cent reduction in operating costs. The investments have also created more than 1,000 new jobs.

Enlighten Innovations Inc. was among those funded for its sodium-based oil upgrading CLEANSEAS demonstration project. Enlighten (formerly Field Upgrading Ltd.) mixes sodium with oil, explained Neil Camarta, Enlighten director and founder.

Sodium has the same physical properties and density as oil and mixes well with it, he said. “And what it does when it gets in the oil, it reacts specifically with the nasty stuff, exactly the stuff you want to get out of oil, the dirty stuff. You want to get out the acid, you want to get out the metals, you want to get out the sulphur. That’s what the sodium goes for and the sodium removes that stuff from the oil, so it cleans up the oil in one step.” The project received $10 million in funding.

Other funding recipients included: Suncor Energy Inc. (high temperature membranes for steam-assisted gravity drainage water treatment); Canadian Natural Resources Limited (in-pit bitumen extraction process); Cenovus Energy Inc. (multi-pad pilot of a solvent-aided process); Cenovus (flash steam generation field prototype); Heavy Oil Solutions Inc. (partner with Cenovus, partial upgrader with integrated water treatment); MEG Energy Corp. (eMVAPEX pilot, phase 3); Imperial Oil Limited (enhanced bitumen recovery technology pilot); and ConocoPhillips Canada (non-condensable gas co-injection for thief zone mitigation).

Since 2009, ERA has invested the price on carbon paid by large industrial emitters directly into later-stage emissions reducing technology solutions. In total, the Alberta government agency has committed more than $564 million in funding to 165 projects with a total value of more than $4.3 billion. It is estimated these projects will bring 20,900 jobs to Alberta by 2024 with an overall GDP impact of $3 billion.


The Champion Series is brought to you by Fluor Canada, our Gold Sponsor, and Spartan Controls, our Silver Sponsor.

Fluor Canada: Since 1949, Fluor Canada has been involved in the engineering, procurement and construction of a wide range of energy related projects that are spread across the Canadian landscape. Fluor provides local, regional and international clients with full-service capabilities, which include economic evaluations, conceptual engineering, feasibility studies, program management, detailed engineering, procurement, transportation and logistics, modularization, fabrication, direct-hire construction, construction management, commissioning, start-up, operations and maintenance.

Spartan Controls: Spartan Controls was founded in 1963 and is an employee-owned company with people and infrastructure in 14 towns and cities across Western Canada. Spartan Controls provides a very broad range of industrial automation products & solutions to all the process industries.