TORONTO — A contribution of $100 million from Ottawa will assist with the commercialization of new products from Canada's oil and gas industry, as well as help reduce its environmental impact, according to the head of a consortium that will administer the money.
The funding, first announced in the federal budget in March 2019, is to be provided over four years to the Clean Resource Innovation Network, said Navdeep Bains, minister of innovation, science and industry, on Thursday.
"With the $100-million commitment ... and matching leveraged investments from CRIN members, we are able to accelerate technology development and support innovators who bring forward transformational solutions to our challenges," said CRIN president Joy Romero, who is also the vice-president of technology and innovation for oilsands producer Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.
About $80 million has already been earmarked for three technology competition challenges for "high-impact projects with clear paths to commercialization," she said.
The challenges are aimed at creating alternative value-added products, reducing environmental footprints and exploring new digital solutions for the oilpatch.
"For example, rather than combusting bitumen, generating carbon fibres to create stronger cement and lighter car bodies," she said from Calgary during a virtual conference call.
"There's also the option to convert greenhouse gases to valuable products like hand sanitizer and soap, our two most basic weapons in the fight to flatten the COVID-19 curve."
According to CRIN's website, the other $20 million will be aimed at ecosystem development and administration and management.
Bains said the contribution through the government's strategic innovation fund supports Canada's plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
"Funded projects are expected to create highly skilled jobs and develop the workforce of the future through co-op positions, work-integrated learning and skills training," he said. "Again, this is part of building a truly sustainable energy ecosystem, so we are very excited about it."
The funding was condemned by Greenpeace Canada as a subsidy for the oil and gas industry that would be better spent on renewable energy projects.
"Calling it clean tech can't hide the fact that this is still about expanding oil production at a time when we need to be putting people to work on real climate solutions," said senior energy strategist Keith Stewart in an email.
Romero said CRIN will track and report on the effectiveness of the program annually over the next four years and is required to provide followup reports for another decade.
At least half of the funding is to go to small and medium-sized businesses.
CRIN aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100 megatonnes by 2033, the equivalent of taking 1.5 million cars off the road.
Created in 2017, CRIN's membership includes nearly 1,700 companies, not-for-profit organizations, government departments and agencies, researchers, academic institutions and economic development agencies.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2020.
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