Report on Sustainability 2019

Our approach to technology and innovation

In today’s complex and rapidly changing world, it will take new technologies and innovative thinking to further reduce our environmental footprint.

Suncor’s approach to innovation includes not only technological innovations to change our methods and processes of extraction and production but it also includes an innovative mindset to work with and learn from others.

We take a balanced approach to technology development, focusing on continuous improvement technology (step-change improvements in existing processes) and strategic technology (game-changing, disruptive). In 2018, we invested approximately $635 million in technology development and deployment and digital technologies as part of a robust strategy to optimize current assets and develop next-generation facilities.

Our technology development efforts largely focus on four specific outcome areas in environmental impacts and cost management:

  1. In situ
  2. Mining and tailings
  3. Upgrading and refining
  4. Closure

Learn more about the technologies we are advancing in each of these areas:

Suncor's technology development and deployment funnel
Click to enlarge

Collaboration in technology

In some cases, we lead development and deployment of new technologies on our own. In most areas, however, we collaborate through consortiums or with third parties. Collaboration is a key enabler to the oil sands industry’s efforts to develop and deploy new technologies.

COSIA

Suncor leads or participates in many technology studies and projects through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), an alliance of companies representing 90% of oil sands production. By focusing on five environmental priority areas – greenhouse gases, land, tailings, water, and monitoring – COSIA brings people together to face specific environmental challenges in an attempt to shorten innovation timelines across the oil sands industry. To date, COSIA’s combined efforts have involved:

  • $1.4 billion portfolio of nearly 1,000 technologies
  • 294 current, active projects
  • Suncor participating as a COSIA member company in the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE
  • Suncor is currently leading 88 COSIA studies and Joint Industry Projects, including the Water Technology Development Centre which began operations in June.

Evok Innovations

Suncor is a co-founder of Evok Innovations, along with the BC Cleantech CEO Alliance and Cenovus Energy inc. to accelerate early-stage technologies.

Evok is a Vancouver-based fund that offers a unique approach to innovation, combining the pace and creativity of a Silicon Valley startup with the experience and insight of industry insiders. They drive innovation by deeply understanding industrial challenges, leveraging a global network of entrepreneurs to find solutions, and providing the investment, mentorship, and market access to accelerate deployment for game changing results.

Through the partnership, Evok invests in a global portfolio of innovative companies to address the most pressing and environmental challenges of the oil and gas industry. An important feature of Evok is the access provided to the end customers (Suncor and Cenovus) at an early stage in the life of the start-up companies.

Since 2016, Evok has funded 12 technology companies:

  • DarkVision Technologies new ultrasound-based imaging technology for delivering ultra-high resolution 3D models of oil and gas wells
  • Ekona Power: a new solution to produce industrial scale hydrogen that is both cheap and clean by converting natural gas into hydrogen, clean power and pure CO2 that can be easily storied or used
  • Expeto Wireless: offers a software-based platform that removes barriers to digital transformation, by providing enterprises with their own private, agile and scalable cellular networks but deploy it like Wifi – globally
  • HARBO Technologies: developed the world’s smallest and lightest containment system for marine oil spills
  • Kelvin: uses the collective intelligence of human observation and sensor information to improve critical decisions, enabling physical systems to optimize and operate themselves
  • Metabolik Technologies: developing an efficient and scalable bioremediation platform that enables microbes to reduce the concentration of naphthenic acids and other components found in oil sands tailings ponds
  • Mosaic Materials: utilizes metal-organic frameworks to selectively remove impurities such as CO2 from gas mixtures for a range of applications; from life support systems on submarines to the emissions of power plants
  • Opus 12: developing a device that recycles CO2 into cost-competitive chemicals and fuels
  • Osprey Infomatics: enables industrial customers to reduce operational costs and mitigate environmental and safety risks through intelligent visual monitoring. The company’s cloud platform is powered by artificial intelligence and integrated with industrial sensors and systems
  • Quidnet Energy: leverages mature oil and gas technology to develop wells into energy storage facilities for large-scale renewables integration and grid management
  • Rotoliptic Technologies: developed a revolutionary method to move high viscosity fluids with high solids content. Its pump design dramatically improves fluid transfer efficiency and pump durability, resulting in increased productivity, reduced downtime and lower total cost of ownership
  • Syzygy Plasmonics: develops chemical reactors to provide a low-cost, low-emission hydrogen production system for light and heavy-duty transportation

Clean Resource Innovation Network

Suncor is an active member of the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN), which aims to position Canada as a global leader in producing clean hydrocarbon energy from source to end use.

The network brings together oil and gas industry professionals, innovators, investors, start-ups, policy-makers, incubators and accelerators, researchers and students to advance technologies aimed at improving our economic and environmental performance.

The network focuses on creating the connections for our resource sector to advance technologies for use in Canada and with the potential for export to global markets emphasizing the potential impact our country can contribute to help address global challenges.

Strategic investments and partnerships

Suncor also monitors technologies being developed by external parties to determine if, and when, an investment by us could make sense to advance a technology and adapt it for our business. This involves funding outside companies whose technology ideas align with the needs of our operations or businesses.

This type of technology development is carefully managed to ensure it provides economic and environmental benefits to Suncor. It is a key strategy in a world of fast-changing products and services.

Examples of investments include:

  • Emerald Technology Ventures: a global leader and investor in emerging industrial technology investments
  • Enerkem Inc.: a company which manufactures biofuels and renewable chemical products from household garbage that would otherwise be landfilled
  • LanzaTech a biofuels firm based in the United States that is advancing a proprietary gas phase fermentation technology to recycle waste gas and greenhouse gas emissions into low-carbon fuels and chemicals.
  • Academic partnerships: Suncor is a long-time supporter of research and program work at leading Canadian universities

Digitalization

We’re already extensively using information technology in our business but the increasingly digital world brings new and exciting opportunities. As part of our approach to innovation, we are harnessing digital technology in areas such as improved data, advanced analytics and automation to help improve the safety, productivity, reliability and environmental performance of our operations.

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