Cleaner Energy

Alberta is rich in energy opportunities, including oil and gas, and renewable such as wind, and solar.  

NAIT applied research supports the responsible development of these resources by providing services and expertise to help reduce, mitigate or eliminate negative impacts of energy industry activities.  

Through this, we support companies doing their part to help Canada meet global commitments including net zero emissions by 2050.

Learn more about the NAIT applied research centres doing work in this area:

Distributed energy

Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) are small scale electricity generating resources distributed on a wide scale. 

This is in comparison to the traditional unidirectional model where electricity is generated far away from population centres and transmitted over long distances.

Distributed electricity generation, transmitted and managed locally on microgrids, can mitigate these challenges. They also support Alberta’s energy transition plans toward increased efficiency, resilience, and sustainability.

Learn how NAIT works with companies to develop and test new technologies and prototypes. Under realistic field conditions, these technologies:

  • Generate, manage, and store energy 
  • Reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions 

Storms and wildfires can cut electricity, but microgrids help communities take control
New microgrid research facility to spark energy innovation

Site remediation

Site remediation is the removal or treatment of contaminated soil and groundwater. Remediation can be costly, requiring specialized equipment and significant expertise to complete. 

Learn how NAIT works with companies to develop, scale up and validate technologies to remediate hydrocarbon and salt impacted sites, using lower cost, in-situ and low-carbon emissions approaches.

Reclaiming the gas station
Cleaning up contaminated land using tools from nature

Tailings management

In mining, tailings are the waste materials remaining after extraction of the economic fraction from the ore.

In Alberta, the mining of oil sands for bitumen is a major economic driver.  Tailings generated from oil sands extraction are a slurry of sand, clay, silt, hydrocarbons and water.

One of the major challenges with oil sands tailings is the time required for the natural settling and stabilization of particulate solids before reclamation can proceed.

For oil sands tailings, the end goal is to design treatment methods that permit the re-establishment of functional landscapes once industrial activity is complete.

Learn how NAIT is working with Industry to develop better ways to measure clays, helping to monitor and optimize tailings management strategies.

Clay poses perplexing challenges
From making wine to managing mine waste, clay is important for many industries

Drawing on our leading research, NAIT hosts courses focused on oil sands tailings management:

Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions

Gases in the atmosphere that trap heat from the sun are known as greenhouse gases (GHGs).  The concentration of these gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, has been steadily rising. Activities such as burning fossil fuels and land disturbances lead to an increase in overall global temperatures and climate change.

Developing solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including energy efficiency and storage, and electrification are critical in achieving net zero by 2050.

Applied research at NAIT provides several opportunities for greenhouse gas emissions reduction.  Improvements to industrial processes can reduce the dependence on energy and the emissions required to generate it.  

Capturing fugitive emissions such as methane and reusing them in process can have dramatic impacts.  

Waste reductions reduce the need for disposal and transport, thereby reducing fuel needs.  

Finally, restoration of disturbed landscapes including forests and peatlands can help reabsorb greenhouse gases. Peatlands, which account for about 20% of Alberta’s land base, play a critical role in the prevention and mitigation of the effects of climate change.  

NAIT is working with industry partners to develop new methods for GHG emissions reduction.

How scientists are restoring boreal peatlands to help keep carbon in the ground

NAIT is also working with industry to develop beneficial management practices for reforestation to facilitate carbon sequestration and offset emissions, and with the trucking industry to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by replacing diesel fuel with a clean-burning, non-toxic alternative, dimethyl ether (DME).

NAIT investigates cleaner fuel for trucking industry

Process water management

Water is a scarce resource, essential to all life. As such, water management is one of the most important challenges for industries in Canada and worldwide.

Innovative water treatment processes are required to address the environmental issues associated with large amounts of industrially produced water.  

Developing solutions to increase water-use efficiency, helping to reduce the industry's environmental impact, and enhancing its sustainability is key.

NAIT is working with COSIA to develop a one-of-a-kind Membrane Technology Assessment Program (MTAP), to help to validate water technologies applicable to treating industrial produced water from Alberta’s in-situ oil sands operations.

Sustainable energy and mining

The recovery of valuable oil and mineral resources is a complex and integrated process requiring significant expertise and investment.

 In Canada’s oil sands, 20% of the deposits are in areas where they can be recovered using mining processes, with the remaining 80% recovered using “in-situ” methods.  

Both approaches require energy, create land disturbances and waste streams.  NAIT and its partners collaborate on the development of new methods that reduce energy consumption, improve extraction rates, improve product quality and help reduce the impact of waste streams leading to reduced environmental impacts.