Coaching & Support
Tools & Resources
Who We Are
What We Do
Not sure where to start?
Home > About > News > Learn how Alberta is innovating in energy & resources
December 24, 2023
Alberta Innovates supports and highlights innovation across Alberta.
Here are seven highlighted stories of energy and resources innovation from the last few years.
From fryer to flight. Not long ago, it would have been impossible for used cooking oils and fats to have much value beyond their primary use. Then in 2003, University of Alberta professor, David Bressler devised a way to convert this waste into biofuels.
The idea came when he noticed some fats and oils were like hydrocarbon fuels. Except for an acid group at the end of the molecule, they were chemically very close in structure. The trick was to find a way to break off the acid group, leaving the hydrocarbon behind.
This led him to develop a new way to produce bio-based diesel without the need to use hydrogen as a catalyst, creating a viable biofuel with reduced production cost, and environmental footprint.
Forge Hydrocarbon is modifying its core technology to be able to generate sustainable aviation fuel. They have a demonstration facility in Ontario and plans are in place to build facilities across North America.
Pipelines are an essential means of transporting oil & gas to be refined into the products that we use every day. Rogue7 brings machine-learning applications to the industry to optimize operational results.
Rogue Intuition provides operators with a “sandbox” to experiment with various set-points and operating conditions to visualize how they affect the pipeline over the next one to three hours. Pipeline operators can use the application to predict how changing conditions will affect outcomes, allowing them to experiment with different set points to achieve the best operational results possible. This has multiple benefits, such as increasing the average flow rate by reducing the number of flow rate drops. Rogue Intuition can also reduce flow rate fluctuations to decrease stress and corrosion cracking in the pipeline, decreasing the likelihood of associated environmental risks and safety hazards.
Rogue7 created Rogue Intuition, software that allows operators to see into the future by extracting real-time data and generating operational predictions with an accuracy of 95 percent.
SBI BioEnergy Inc. started in 2007 to produce environmentally friendly drop-in renewable fuels, which not only perform comparably to petroleum fuels, but are chemically indistinguishable from them as well. Unlike biodiesel, SBI’s renewable fuels do not require blending with petroleum fuels or any modifications to engines or infrastructure. In addition to renewable fuels, SBI can also produce high-quality colourless biodiesel as an intermediate product, as well as a pure glycerin co-product.
Since SBI does not need to purchase hydrogen, incorporate expensive hydrogen safety features, consume water or chemicals, or build a large physical plant, it has lower capital and operating costs than its competitors. SBI uses a continuous catalytic process that converts fat, oil or grease into renewable gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.
In June 2017, SBI BioEnergy Inc. granted Shell exclusive development and licensing rights for SBI’s biofuel technology. Shell and SBI are working together to validate the potential of the technology for commercial application.
Summit Nanotech is helping lithium mining companies secure and strengthen their supply of high purity lithium to sell to battery manufacturers. Summit has developed a new method to generate battery-grade lithium compounds from brine fluids. The proprietary, nanotechnology-based extraction process uses no fresh water and less energy, which drives down operation costs and aligns better with regulatory requirements. This lithium extraction technology process is far more environmentally friendly than existing techniques around the world. Brine is a byproduct of oil and gas exploration and other mining. By developing an improved method to extract lithium and other valuable metals from brine, Summit Nanotech is helping to develop a new export commodity for the growing electric car battery and mobile phone markets, worth billions of dollars globally.
“Support from Alberta Innovates allowed us to gather the data needed to validate our process. We wouldn’t have built the prototype as quickly as we did, if it weren’t for Alberta Innovates,” says Amanda Hall, Founder.
Validere’s artificial intelligence solutions are targeted at increasing the global competitiveness of Alberta’s resource industry by transforming how products are moved and distributed. Edge is their innovative digital platform that employs machine learning to connect industry data allowing buyers, sellers and transporters of petroleum products to more easily and efficiently find one another. Because the platform connects, tracks, and audits data, customers are better able to optimize operational, marketing, and supply-chain decisions. The Edge platform simplifies the decision-making process for market participants. It reduces inefficient transport and emissions by identifying the optimal destination for specific qualities of petroleum products, reduces waste, and increases the value received for Alberta products by matching them with the right buyer.
In 2018, Canadian Innovation Exchange named Validere as one of Canada’s Top 20 Most Innovative Tech Companies.
Westgen Technologies Inc. is a remote power generation company focused on reducing development costs and improving environmental sustainability in the upstream oil & gas sector. Westgen’s Engineered Power On Demand (EPOD) technology provides cost-effective instrument air to remote wellsites.
The company is deploying dozens of units to oil & gas producers in Canada and the US including majors like Petronas and Shell.
EPOD technology developed by Westgen helps eliminate methane venting from pneumatic devices, reduce capital costs and operating costs, improve reliability, and generate carbon credits for producers of oil & gas.
Westgen works with Alberta-based suppliers to buy all components, and fabricates its EPODs in Airdrie, Alberta. There are several dozen people employed in the fabrication and deployment of EPODs.
Co-founded by a father and daughter duo in 2015, RJ Maclean Tank Services was the first company in Canada to use robotics to help clean storage tanks and rail cars for the energy and industrial sectors. Prior to using robotics, it was common to have a human worker put on a hazmat suit and shovel out waste from storage tanks – a dangerous practice. After spending time servicing tanks with her father, Kiely Maclean saw the opportunity to modernize this practice. Through RJ Maclean, they developed robotics capable of cleaning any manner of storage tank while minimizing the environmental impact and maximizing cost savings. Their company has exponentially grown from the Edmonton area into the US, where it is now headquartered.
Co-founder and CEO Kiely Maclean Kiely is a New Generation Award Winner for Veuve Clicquot Women in Business Awards and Winner of the Young Women in Energy Awards.