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Algae to the rescue

August 12, 2013

Canadian Natural Resources Inc. is investing in a bio-fuels project, using algae to reduce pollutants and to generate energy.

Canadian Natural and its project partners are investing approximately $19 million over three years to pilot a commercially viable and environmentally sustainable solution to convert CO2 emissions and other source pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) into biofuel. Based on the results of the Algae Project, commercial facilities will be built at Canadian Natural’s Horizon Oil Sands Operation (Horizon) as well as at Primrose.

Canadian Natural expects the algae project to be operating by the first quarter of 2014 and plans to share the technology with competitors. The technology may be able to reduce carbon emissions at the company’s Horizon oil-sands mining site in northern Alberta, where the first algae pond is being built, by 15 percent and by as much as 30 percent at the Primrose facility which uses a steam-injection process. The company is already lining up customers for the dried algae and is counting on the technology to be applied across Canada and the world.

Canadian Natural and rival oil producers, including Imperial Oil Ltd. (IMO) and Suncor Energy Inc. (SU), are partly aimed at convincing U.S. decision makers that the industry can mitigate the climate-change impact of TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline to the Gulf Coast from Alberta. The decision whether to allow Keystone XL to proceed rests with President Obama. It has languished for the last 5 years.

Canadian Natural Resources Limited (ticker CNQ on TSX) trades at $30.86 and has a market cap of $33.5 B.


The oil sands is a story of research and innovation. It will be interesting to see whether whether the use of algae in these operations becomes more widely accepted and used.