(Calgary, Alberta) April 12, 2018... Alberta Innovates, in partnership with industry, government and other organizations, released the results of a study that investigates the best opportunities for "Bitumen Beyond Combustion" (BBC).  Following a 2017 report that identified potential products that could be made from Alberta oil sands bitumen, this new study identifies the top potential uses to help Alberta diversify its economy - outside of conventional fuels and chemical feedstocks.

To further accelerate this work, Alberta Innovates today announced $2 million in funding is available to advance the most innovative research and development activities related to BBC.

The main objectives of the BBC Phase 2 study were to identify high potential non-combustion products that could be manufactured from oil sands, and assess the market potential for these products. This study provides insights into high-value products that can be made by, or in partnership with Alberta's oil sands industry.

These products help ensure the resiliency of the sector and the province's economy under varying market conditions in a carbon-emissions constrained future. They can accommodate increasing bitumen production in Alberta by creating bitumen-derived products that are not intended for combustion such as carbon fibers and biodegradable polymers.

Bryan Helfenbaum, Executive Director of Advanced Hydrocarbons at Alberta Innovates

The study focuses on four promising areas:

  • Carbon fibers and products incorporating carbon fibers
  • Asphalt and asphalt transportability
  • Vanadium flow batteries for electricity storage
  • Polymers.

"Developing these products ensures Alberta continues to derive value from its oil sands products, while significantly reducing GHG emissions associated with fuel uses of bitumen," says Axel Meisen, former Chair of Foresight and now Advisor, Alberta Innovates. "These products offset the potential reduction in the demand growth of bitumen from factors such as increased global oil supplies, environmental concerns about fossil fuels, energy conservation, and electric vehicles. Commercial-scale manufacture of high value-added products not intended for combustion is a sound strategy. It ensures the value of our bitumen resources."

"As a chemistry company driven by innovation, BASF is committed to helping Canada's oil industry address environmental challenges with more sustainable solutions that help improve efficiency, save energy and reduce costs and waste," said Marcelo Lu, President of BASF Canada.

"This work highlights the role of innovation in bridging environmental performance with economic development of Canada's vast oil sands resources, for the welfare of society", says Nestor Zerpa, Senior Advisor at Nexen Energy ULC.

The Open Call offers up to a total of $2 million in funding for research projects that build on the findings of the previous studies by supporting work on:

  • Producing and characterizing previously identified and/or new BBC products and demonstrating their production technologies, on laboratory or pilot-scale
  • Validating technical, logistical, environmental, and market solutions to accelerate the commercialization of BBC products
  • Assessing the business, marketing, energy, environmental, and greenhouse gas (GHG) issues related to BBC products and their production technologies.


Following the development of the BBC Phase 1 report, Stantec was retained and authored the Phase 2 report with input from a Project Advisory Committee. The Committee consisted of representatives from sponsoring organizations: Alberts Innovates; BASF Canada; Bowman Centre for Sustainable Energy; Canmet ENERGY Devon Lab of Natural Resources Canada; Cenovus Energy; Canadian Natural Resources Limited; MEG Energy; Nexen Energy; and Suncor Energy.

Alberta Innovates is a provincially-funded Corporation with a mandate to deliver 21st century solutions for the most compelling challenges facing Albertans. We do this by building on our province's research and technology development strengths in the core sectors of health, environment, energy, food and fibre and platforms such as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and omics. We are working with our partners to diversify Alberta's economy, improve our environmental performance and enhance our well-being through research and innovation.

Media inquiries may be directed to:

Dwayne Brunner
Media Relations Manager
Alberta Innovates (780)-423-5727 Ext. 224