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National lab researches cleaner oil sands

A team of 130 experts investigate new ways to make fossil fuels a cleaner energy option.

Just outside Edmonton in the town of Devon is CanmetENERGY Devon, one of the country’s leading energy research centres. Here, a team of 130 experts are investigating the latest science to make fossil fuels a cleaner energy option.

The engineers, technologists and researchers who work here have an intimate knowledge of the science behind oil sands and heavy oil production. In the past they’ve used this in-depth knowledge to help develop such innovations as a new treatment technology to clean bitumen froth, or new approaches to treat oil sands mine tailings.

One of the latest technologies they’re helping to develop is a new process for oil sands mines called hybrid extraction. This process, invented at the University of Alberta, involves adding a hydrocarbon solvent at the start of the process, then adding water. By adding solvent up front, the bitumen can be extracted from the oil sands at room temperature. This significantly reduces energy use, which reduces GHG emissions from mined oil sand bitumen extraction.

“Much of what we do at the lab is to look for efficiencies so we can create better outcomes and less impacts in the production process,” says Cécile Siewe, the research centre’s director general.

About CanmetENERGY Devon
  • National lab within Natural Resources Canada
  • Dedicated to developing cleaner fossil fuels and environmental technologies, with a focus on oil sands and heavy oil
  • Looks for opportunities to improve production, processing and upgrading processes while minimizing environmental impacts
  • Works closely with industry, government and academic partners on more than 150 research and development projects each year.