Government of Canada Invests in Country’s Clean-energy Sector

Athabasca Oilsands

By Arman Kazemi

June 26, 2014

The Canadian Government has allocated $10 million in funding to five enterprises focused on developing innovative technologies in Canada’s green energy sector.

Sustainable Development Technology Canada is a non-profit created by the federal government in 2001 to oversee the distribution of government investment in “the research, development and demonstration of innovative clean energy technologies.”

To that effect, government and SDTC representatives on Monday announced the recipients of the latest round of funding through the organization’s SD Tech Fund.

According to Natural Resources Canada, global clean technology demand is “estimated to grow from $1.1 trillion in 2012 to $2.5 trillion by 2022,” creating “enormous potential for Canada's clean technology industry” in international markets.

The recipients are all Ontario-based, ranging from solar tech companies to an enterprise developing environment-friendly aircraft paint remover.

One organization set to receive over $2 million from the SD Tech Fund is ElectroKinetic Solutions. The company develops cleaner, more cost-effective technology for remediating tailing ponds, the mixture of water, clay, sand and residual bitumen that result from mining activity in Alberta’s tar sands.

Tailing ponds cover 176 square kilometers of land surrounding the tar sands. Past studies have estimated that seepage from these ponds into adjacent ecosystems, including the crucial Athabasca River, may be as high as 6.5 million litres per day from a single pond, according to the CBC.

The current methods for redressing tailing seepage, as described in the Globe and Mail  earlier this year, are costly and environmentally invasive.

“Operators use ditches and cut-off walls to capture seepage and runoff water, and install groundwater interception wells,” writes journalist Bob Weber. “Captured water is pumped back into tailings ponds.”

ElectroKinetic’s method involves virtually no additional infrastructure. Their technology separates water from oil sands tailings using a low-current electrical field, compacting tough solids into an easily disposable form.

According to the SDTC website, the process “could allow oil sands operators to meet stringent tailings reclamation requirements at a lower cost . . . and recycle over 200 million cubic meter of water annually by 2023.”

Canada’s unique dependence on resource extraction industries may require increasingly innovative solutions for managing the impacts resource industries have on the environment.

Given its recent investment portfolio, the SDTC may prove to be a key platform for the federal government to begin proactively addressing these issues. One that other resource dependent economies might be taking note of as well.