Ever since she joined as an engineering co-op student in 2011, Jessica Huynh knew she had found a home at Suncor.

“I started off with a 16-month internship at Base Plant,” says Jessica, Technology Development Coordinator for the Non-Aqueous Extraction Project at Suncor. “As soon as I graduated, I returned to Suncor, working at the Fort Hills site. I transitioned to working on the Non-Aqueous Extraction Project in 2020 and I’ve been here ever since.”

How Suncor currently treats and reclaims tailings
How Suncor currently treats and reclaims tailings

Jessica’s current focus is advancing the development of an innovative oil sands technology known as non-aqueous extraction (NAE). NAE technology has the potential to replace conventional hot water extraction processes in the oil sands. If successful, NAE is anticipated to recover bitumen while significantly reducing the environmental impact of the oil sands. Implemented on a large scale, the technology has the potential to lower water use in the oil sands, reduce the amount of land needed for oil sands operations, and simplify mine complexity to reduce costs. Tailings ponds are currently one of the main environmental issues with oil sands extraction, and this project could potentially eliminate these ponds. The technology is an innovative solution for oil sands operations.

Watch the video below for an overview of the non-aqueous extraction process.

Technology announcement video from the CRIN competition announcement on March 9, 2022

Suncor, Syncrude, Imperial, and Exergy Solutions are developing a field demonstration unit for NAE technology here in Alberta. This field demonstration unit will serve to generate data and advance the NAE technology further. It's an innovative collaboration between these industry producers.

“Each of these companies have independently conducted significant research work on various aspects of this technology to date,” adds Jessica. “We want to use this co-development to arrive at the best technology option and move forward with building the demonstration unit, which will then feed into commercial deployment of the technology.” 

The Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN) announced the NAE project would receive $10M in funding through its latest technology competition— the Reducing Environmental Footprint oil and gas technology competition, with finalists for the competition announced on March 9. It is the third competition CRIN, with the support of the Government of Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund, has funded this year. CRIN’s overall investment in new technology projects for clean energy now totals $80M across 27 projects.

If the NAE project could be deployed on a large scale for our operations, it would greatly reduce the environmental impact of the oil sands overall. Learn more about our journey to net zero.