A leader in oilsands technology innovation says that the entire sector is on its way to dramatic improvements in environmental performance.

Canadian Natural Resources vice-president of technology and innovation Joy Romero is also chair of the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN) and a board member of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA). She says the oilsands is on a pathway to an 80 percent reduction in GHGs, and points out that right now Canadian Natural’s oilsands crude has less than five percent higher GHGs than the North American average.

“Today we have technologies that are being built, others that are being piloted, and we actually have a path to below the global average barrel because that is our goal,” Joy told the 2018 Calgary Women in Tech Week Form in early May.

“We are not unique in that. Every other oil and gas producer here has the exact same path.”

Romero’s role both inside and outside Canadian Natural is to help make connections between people to bring technology ideas to life, she explained, adding that the opportunity is then for Canadian entrepreneurs to take those technologies and market them globally.

When innovation ideas fail, she said it can often be because the proposed solutions don’t match up with the actual problems the industry is facing. Industry has responsibility to improve the way it communicates problems to innovators, she added.

“What we have learned is that, inside of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance, when we give really clear challenge statements, 30 percent of the solutions that come forward then go through to commercialization. The normal percentage is two. As an industry we take that accountability to share much more clearly what our issues are; in other words creating a technology pull rather than push, which is most times [people] coming to my door saying, ‘I found the best solution for you.’ But did you really know what I was trying to solve? If we are much better at telling that message, we’ve now figured out the pull.”

Once industry moves onto a solution, it’s been derisked, she said.

“That’s exactly what capital investors are looking for. If we can do that in a much more transparent way, inside of this network, we’re accelerating that path to commercialization.”

Romero added that greening fossil fuels is just as important as developing new renewable systems — and the people who are working on the former deserve as much respect as those working on the latter.

“We cannot shame people who are working very hard to do this and to make them feel as second class citizens because this is what they choose to do. What they are in fact doing is equally as important as [renewables]. We need to give [fossil fuels] its time. Use it. Exercise that rent that’s here. Provide the jobs, provide the global leadership.”

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