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Home > About > News > Learn how Alberta is innovating in energy & resources
November 26, 2023
Alberta Innovates supports and highlights innovation across Alberta.
Here are some of our favourite stories of energy and resources innovation from the last few years.
Canada Pump and Power’s award-winning Mighty Dredge is the world’s only autonomous dredge. It works continuously with no recovery cycle — even in toxic environments — as an underwater robot fully controlled and remotely monitored by computer.
Reducing operating costs up to 75 percent, this technology is less expensive, more efficient, and safer.
Canada Pump and Power tapped into Alberta Innovates’ Micro Voucher program to complete a patent assessment and filing for the Mighty Dredge. Leveraging provincial and federal agencies to explore international markets, they have connected with clients and economic development people in Germany and Brazil.
Jeremy Leonard was recognized in 2017 and 2018 with a Top Ten in Canada Growth Award by the Chamber of Commerce, and as a Prairie finalist in the 2018 EY Entrepreneur of the Year.
More than 840,000 kilometres of pipelines criss-cross Canada. While they remain the safest way to transport oil and gas, the environmental impact of undetected leaks can be significant. Developed at the University of Calgary, Direct-C uses a proprietary, nanocomposite-sensing coating to help monitor pipelines, tank farms, production wells, and reclamation sites. The coating immediately reacts to liquid hydrocarbons making it sensitive enough to instantly alert operators to even the smallest of leaks. In 2020, Direct-C raised $2.2 million in equity and non-equity financing. At that time, it also utilized Alberta Innovates’ Executive Business Advisor program to review deal structures and expand its investor network. Today, its product line up includes rapid deployment ground and berm sensors as well as flexible pipeline wraps.
Global demand for water is rapidly increasing, with 40 percent more water required to sustain communities and the economy. To meet demand, it’s critical to address inefficient water systems, particularly desalination, which is the only climate-independent water source. Synauta successfully combines desalination and artificial intelligence to treat more water with less energy and fewer chemicals, while saving customers up to 20 percent of operational costs. Synauta is optimizing reverse osmosis, which is the most energy intensive step of the desalination process. Since 2018, its patent-pending software has been enabling plant operators in Australia, the Middle East, and Spain, and helping with new water reuse optimization projects in Singapore and North America. To date, Synauta has saved 9.7 percent energy over six months and increased production by five percent by optimizing cleaning schedules.
Synauta won a distinction at the prestigious Global Water Intelligence Awards and is proudly working with the world’s largest water companies.
Producing diesel fuel by conventional means generates approximately 100 grams of carbon dioxide per megajoule in terms of lifecycle carbon emissions. Expander Energy’s process produces a higher quality fuel that can be used in existing diesel engines with net-zero lifecycle carbon emissions.
For the past 14 years, Expander has been developing technologies to produce liquid fuel from cellulose and other low-carbon-intensity energy sources. Now they’re focused on transforming wood waste from the lumber industry into fossil-free diesel and aviation fuel, providing a sustainable alternative to fuel generated by oil and gas.
“We helped show that the technology was scalable,” says Michael Kerr, director of Regional Innovation at Alberta Innovates. “Ultimately, Expander’s technology will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create new jobs that support a net-zero carbon economy.”
Expander Energy is currently planning to build its first commercial facility in Slave Lake, Alberta. The facility will use bark and waste wood to generate net-zero carbon intensity renewable diesel fuel.
Cities create a lot of trash. Even with recycling programs and other trash reduction strategies, most ends up rotting in landfills.
Enerkem creates new life for trash with a biofuels facility that turns it into renewable biofuels. The company’s Edmonton-based plant is the first commercial-scale trash-to-biofuel facility in the world. It takes waste that can’t be recycled or composted — things like plastics and styrofoam — and turns it into synthetic gas. From there, the gas can be refined into biofuels like methanol or ethanol or used to create industrial chemicals.
Enerkem has partnered with Suncor to provide biofuels for their industrial vehicles, providing a greener alternative to traditional fuels; and with the company hoping to expand its biofuels production to other cities in Canada and worldwide, company representatives say the success of its Alberta-based plant will serve as a model for its future.
2Point0 is located in Lethbridge and is part of the Regional Innovation Network of Southern Alberta. The company takes recyclable materials and turns them into low-carbon fuel, biomass, and energy to power its facility and the community and to provide energy for EV vehicles.
Materials diverted from landfills include cardboards, plastics, construction and demolition waste, textiles, woods, and yard waste. 2Point0 provides a green solution for commercial and industrial businesses as well as for those doing construction and demolition projects.
“Because waste isn’t just our problem, it’s everyone’s problem… and now the solution.” – 2Point0
Alberta is well known for its oil and gas as well as the the associated carbon waste that can arise from its development. Where others see only a problem, AdvEn Industries sees an opportunity. Following years of research, they have developed a proprietary process or “recipe” that transforms low value bitumen by-products into high value activated carbons with competitive, environmentally sustainable applications. One commercial use for this super activated carbon is the ability to create supercapacitor electrodes and modules. Once assembled, they can potentially be used as a more efficient energy storage device for electric vehicles, or as power regulators for renewable energy generation, like solar panels and wind turbines.
AdvEn is prepared for a pilot production of carbon fiber before progressing toward commercial production.
Confined Space Robotics (CSR) is eliminating the need for humans to enter dangerous confined spaces such as the tanks and vessels used in the production of petrochemicals and fertilizers. Its technology includes robots for inspections, abrasive blasting, vacuuming, and coatings.
Founded in 2020, CSR’s technology can scan areas in complete darkness and plan the optimum trajectory in less than two minutes, leaving the operator ready to localize everything with a detailed 3D image and blast using a handheld remote.
CSR’s robotic solutions save lives, and that’s job number one. But they also save time and money by getting work done quicker, safer, and with better results. This allows companies to take on larger projects and see higher returns.
CSR offers a rental program which allows companies to rent a fully functioning robotic solution for blasting or coating projects. There is also a buy or lease program that includes a warranty and staff training.
It’s critical for industrial companies and mines to continually monitor their tailing ponds and other hazardous terrains; however, doing so can be costly and dangerous. Copperstone Technologies Inc. offers Robots As A Service (RaaS) to help companies investigate water storage and mine waste tailing ponds as well as other remote site investigations without risking human health. Founded by three University of Alberta graduate students, the company’s HELIX family of amphibious cleantech robots can be programmed or remotely controlled by humans. The robots use a patented combination of screw-propulsion and four-wheel drive technologies to float on water or scroll across any terrain, including mud, ice, snow, and rocks. Equipped with state-of-the-art tools, they collect samples and perform geotechnical measurements all while keeping employees safe.
“In many cases, industrial waste is considered a ticking time bomb and there’s a huge push to do a better job of environmental monitoring.” – Nicolas Olmedo, Chief Technology Officer
It started with a desire to better understand pipeline control room challenges and identify which parts are labour-intensive, prone to error or subject to changing conditions – all with a thorough grounding in safety standards.
With these objectives in mind, Vicki Knott, a process control expert, and Roger Shirt, an industry automation control and simulation expert, launched Crux OCM (Operations Control Management).
By combining advanced physics-based methodologies with machine learning, CRUX software helps ensure operators stay safe while contributing to seamless plant operation.
Crux OCM helps operators at pipelines and other large oil and natural gas facilities execute process commands significantly faster, all while supporting safer reliable system performance.
In 2019, Crux OCM received the Innovation in Process Controls Award at the June Global Petroleum Show in Calgary.