CALGARY -- A dozen of the largest Canadian oil sands producers agreed Thursday to share funding for environmental research, saying pooling their resources will speed the creation of new technologies to reduce the negative effects of oil-sands development.
The 12 companies involved in the new organization, called Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance, have agreed to jointly fund environmental research and then share the intellectual property rights for environmental technologies.
"We will remain competitors and will continue to compete aggressively in the market with our products, but when it comes to the environment, we know we'll all win when we start working more closely together," Suncor Energy Inc.'s (SU) chief operating officer and incoming chief executive, Steve Williams, said before signing the charter of the new group at a press conference in Calgary.
Oil sands development is being targeted by environmental groups and politicians for the higher greenhouse gas emissions it creates, as well as the land destruction and waste ponds created by strip mining in northern Alberta. Resistance to the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas - rejected by the U.S. government earlier this year - focused in part on what the environmental groups called "dirty" oil from Canada's oil sands.
The oil sands in northeastern Alberta is the world's third-largest oil reserve and is expected to roughly double in production to 3 million barrels a day by the end of this decade.
The companies that signed onto the agreement include BP Plc (BP), Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNQ), Cenovus Energy Inc. (CVE), ConocoPhillips (COP), Devon Energy Corp. (DVN), Imperial Oil Ltd. (IMO), Nexen Inc. (NXY), Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA), Statoil (STO), Suncor Energy, Teck Resources Ltd. (TCK) and Total SA (TOT).
The group is already working on two technologies to improve environmental performance, executives of the companies said. One technology will speed up the land reclamation process after oil sands strip mining, the other is a new fuel technology to reduce the carbon-dioxide emissions from oil sands produced from underground steam-injection.
"A technology that has the potential to substantially reduce reclamation times would traditionally be held very close by an individual company, while other companies would work to develop something very similar," Devon Canada President Chris Seasons said at the signing. "This slows down progress, is redundant, and ties up valuable people and resources," he said.
The seeds of the new group were started in 2010, when seven of the companies agreed to share technology specifically related to the clean-up of tailings ponds - large pools of waste water created from oil sands mining. That group will be merged into the new group, the companies said.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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