Canadian Manufacturing

Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance: a novel approach

by Dan Wicklum, CEO of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance    

Cleantech Canada
Manufacturing Cleantech Energy Oil & Gas CCEMC COSIA GHG oilsands

COSIA can help unlock the vast potential of the oil sands for Canada and for the world

CALGARY—It has been almost two years since the CEOs of 13 oil sands companies signed a charter, committing their companies to accelerate the pace of environmental improvement in Canada’s oil sands, thereby creating Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA).

When I think back to that day I had one main thought, and that was potential. The potential of the oil sands to help fill a growing global energy demand, the potential opportunity COSIA presented us, and the potential challenges we would face making COSIA a success.

Laying the foundations
Since the launch, COSIA member companies have been working diligently to lay down the foundations for long-term success to support our four Environmental Priority Areas (EPA) of land, water, tailings and greenhouse gases (GHG), plus the work we do on environmental monitoring.

COSIA is an innovation in its own right. It’s a unique Canadian solution to improving environmental performance. But because it is novel, we had to start from scratch in many areas, such as creating legal agreements allowing unprecedented levels of collaboration between our 13 member companies.


One of our early priorities was to integrate the work of predecessor organizations to ensure continuity of effort and investment while removing duplication. We folded three predecessor organizations into COSIA while keeping their good work going. These three organizations formed the foundations of our land, tailings and water EPAs. In 2013 our member companies finalized agreements for our fourth EPA, GHG.

To date, COSIA companies have shared 560 environmental technologies that cost over $900 million to develop, and they are moving forward some 185 projects at a cost of nearly $500 million with new initiatives coming on stream regularly.

Collaboration lies at the very heart of COSIA and it is happening at a number of levels.

Our Associate Membership (AM) program with 24 members continues to develop. We are looking forward to evolving the AM relationships in coming weeks and months as we look for new projects to implement.

Perhaps most important of all is the collaboration taking place within COSIA members companies. They launch projects, share and assess results, implement technology or best practices and they realize performance improvement.

Despite progress, collaboration also needs to take place with an ever more diverse group if we are to fully leverage the interest and capacity of third party innovators. This is in line with COSIA’s Charter commitment to “listen, respond to, and work with stakeholders who aspire to our vision.”

Our Aspirations
As the number and diversity of COSIA stakeholders increase it will become more important to articulate our ambition while building alignment and effort towards a common purpose. Our EPA Aspirations are the mechanism we use to build that shared vision. They are as follows:

We strive to:

  • Produce our oil with lower greenhouse gas emissions than other sources of oil.
  • Transform tailings from waste into a resource that speeds land and water reclamation.
  • Be world leaders in water management, producing Canadian energy with no adverse impact on water.
  • Be world leaders in land management, restoring the land we disturb and preserving biodiversity of plants and animals.

2014 and beyond
With our planning framework and Aspirations in place, our aim is to build on the success of 2013 and make 2014 an even more productive year.

I believe we have come a long way since our launch. I believe that with the quality of people we have involved we will keep driving progress; fulfilling COSIA’s potential and helping to unlock the vast potential of the oil sands for Canada and for the world.

Dan Wicklum is the Chief Executive Officer of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA). For more information on COSIA, visit


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