Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) recognized years ago that the Government of Canada could not meet its environmental commitments by acting alone — that the support of industry, clean technology leaders, and other innovators were critical.

“So when the Natural Gas Innovation Fund (NGIF) was created by the Canadian Gas Association in 2017 to support the funding of cleantech innovation in the natural gas value chain, we knew that it had the potential to help fill an important technology development gap for that sector,” explains NRCan in a statement prepared for ENERGY Magazine.

In recognition of that shared clean technology mandate, NRCan and NGIF formalized a trusted partnership in 2017, recognizing mutual interest in jointly funding innovation and clean technologies, sharing information on markets and best practices, improving environmental performance, and enhancing cleantech investment in Canada.

(Emissions Reduction Alberta, Alberta Innovates, and the Province of British Columbia’s Innovative Clean Energy (ICE) Fund also became initial partners in the NGIF initiative.)

“Since then, the NGIF has become an excellent example of industry leaders coming together to solve a collective challenge,” says the department. “NRCan believes CGA and NGIF have a great story to tell about the level of cooperation they have forged between downstream utilities, upstream natural gas producers, and other adopters.”

“When we travel abroad and meet with our international counterparts, we frequently point to the NGIF model as one that could make a real difference in other gas-producing countries.”

“The Canadian government believes natural gas can be a game changer for the environment.”

Canadian government believes natural gas can be a game changer for the environment

The Government of Canada is a firm supporter of NGIF because of its strong belief that natural gas can play a critical role in the global transition to a low-carbon economy.

Natural gas is 50 per cent less carbon intensive than coal, highly transportable and the only fossil fuel expected by the International Energy Agency to maintain its share in the energy mix to 2040.

In fact, some of Canada’s most important environmental emissions reductions have come from converting coal to gas-fired electricity— a trend which the rest of the world is following.

The department says that natural gas has also proven to be a credible transportation fuel. It will play a central role in Canada’s hydrogen story, and coupled with Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS) can be a low-carbon source of hydrogen.

And through novel technologies such as methane decarbonisation, natural gas could open the door to many carbon-based products such as carbon fibres or graphite.

LNG also an important factor

Just as important, natural gas can play a transitional role when transported worldwide in the form of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

NRCan believes LNG exports can play an important role in supporting the global transition to a cleaner energy future, as natural gas can have the lowest emissions profile of any fossil fuel and can complement renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

“Canada is already the fourth largest producer of natural gas in the world, and home to one of the most dynamic cleantech sectors on the planet,” the department notes. “When combined with non-emitting electricity, we know that Canadian LNG exports can be the cleanest in the world and displace higher carbon power elsewhere.”

Towards that end, NRCan is working bilaterally with key LNG export markets like China, Japan, Korea and Europe, supporting energy market diversification and strengthened international relations.

“Some of Canada’s most important environmental emissions reductions have come from converting coal to gas-fired electricity— a trend which the rest of the world is following.”

“Exports of Canadian LNG will help growing economies like China displace coal and make the shift to cleaner energy, helping to reduce net global greenhouse gas emissions,” the department adds.

“Beyond the value of LNG in displacing coal, Canadian LNG will be among the most responsibly produced in the world. Canada’s electrification strategy for natural gas and LNG, and our robust environmental regulatory framework, should make Canada the supplier of choice for customers and countries looking to minimize the environmental impacts of their energy sources.”

“So, there is no reason to believe we can’t continue to grow our natural gas leadership.”

“NRCan believes LNG exports can play an important role in supporting the global transition to a cleaner energy future.”

Long history of support for clean technologies innovations

Innovations in clean technologies for the natural gas sector is nothing new to NRCan. Through its programs and partnership with CanmetENERGY labs, it has a long history of support for innovation in clean technologies that address environmental (air, water, land) and competitiveness issues in the oil and gas sector.

And for more than a decade, NRCan has also worked with industry, all levels of government and academia to foster greater use of natural gas in transportation. The department’s work with the CGA through NGIF has helped lead to more inroads to advance the use of natural gas through technological advancements.

In the meantime, NGIF has continued to provide funding for important cleantech solutions. Late last year – following a $1-million funding call targeting clean technology for the distribution of natural gas – approval of $542,000 in funding towards two downstream finalists was announced.

Enviro Power Inc. is a Connecticut-based company that was approved for $292,000 for the demonstration of a residential natural gas SmartWatt Boiler micro combined heat and power (mCHP) system.

And Hiller Truck Tech Inc., an Ontario-based truck repair and performance facility specializing in natural gas conversions, was approved for $250,000 for the demonstration of a dual fuel technology using natural gas in heavy duty vehicles.

In 2018, NGIF also launched a $3-million funding call targeting clean technologies in the development and production of natural gas, with $1.33 million in funding going towards six upstream finalists:

Alberta’s Winterhawk Well Abandonment Ltd. was approved for $339,000 to demonstrate emissions reductions at an abandoned well through the operation of their Surface Casing Vent Flow (SCVF) technology.

Distributed Gas Solutions Canada LP is a Quebec company that was approved for $351,000 for the deployment of a natural gas treatment and micro liquefaction technology to displace diesel fuel with LNG for mine haul trucks and for remote/off grid/indigenous communities.

Other funding recipients included Luxmux Technology Corporation, an Alberta-based company; GHGSat Inc., located in Quebec; Washington-based RadMax Technologies; and British Columbia’s Saltworks Technologies Inc.

Dennis Lanthier is an award-winning writer and corporate communications specialist with almost two decades of experience in oil and gas. He earned an International Association of Business Communicator’s Gold Quill in 2011 for the creation of a magazine distributed to TransCanada Pipeline’s employees and retirees. Dennis is now a freelance writer working with several oil and gas associations in the energy sector.