Alberta’s oil sands industry uses diluent to reduce the viscosity of bitumen so it can be efficiently transported in pipelines. Most of the diluents – typically hydrocarbons such as naphtha or condensate – are produced by U.S. refineries and must be imported. An algae-based biomass grown in Alberta to produce diluent and hydrogen has the potential to reduce GHG emissions while still providing key products for the petroleum industry.

The intent of this project is to arrive at costs associated with using algae as a feedstock to produce diluent and hydrogen and compare it to other production methods with consideration to several factors including cost and lifecycle GHG emissions. Potential benefits include reducing the costs and GHG emissions associated with diluent production, which in turn reduce the cost associated with Alberta bitumen. By producing diluent and hydrogen from locally sourced algal biomass, a renewable resource, the project has the potential to reduce the oil sands industry’s GHG footprint and help make the industry more environmentally sustainable.

ERA funded this project through the Biological GHG Management Program, administered by Alberta Innovates. Other project partners include NSERC and Symbiotic EnviroTek Inc.