Centre for Oil Sands Sustainability (COSS)

The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), Edmonton, Alberta
What the facility does

Screen, validate and scale-up third-party technologies in oil sands environmental sustainability

Areas of expertise

The Centre for Oil Sands Sustainability (COSS) was formed in 2010 with an endowment of $1.5M from the Ledcor Group and seed funding from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT). COSS bridges the gap between existing oil sands environmental research and relevant solutions with an immediate impact on sustainability. The primary focus of the centre is to enable solutions developed by third-party innovators and small-and-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to be screened, validated, scaled-up, and integrated within a systems-based approach to complex mineable oil sands tailings and water management challenges.

Located on the NAIT main campus in the Productivity and Innovation Centre, COSS’s 12,000 sq. ft. fully equipped high-tech lab is complemented with an expert team of applied scientists, engineers, technologists and summer students. COSS staff work in collaboration with the oil sands industry, academia, research and development organizations, and third-party innovators to take technology ideas from concept to commercialization.

Research services

Applied research, technology verification/ validation/ scale-up and commercialization, oil sands sustainability technology development

Sectors of application
  • Chemical industries
  • Clean technology
  • Energy (renewable and fossil)
  • Environmental technologies and related services
  • Mining, minerals and metals



Ultra High Performance Liquid Chromatograph with Quadrupole Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer (UHPLC-QTOFMS)

The QTOF is equipped with 3 different ion sources, electrospray ionization (ESI), atmospheric pressure photoionization (APPI) and atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) to enable a wide variety of samples to be analyzed. The UHPLC enables the separation of components in complex mixtures

Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer (MALDI-TOF)

Capabilities include characterization of homopolymer and copolymer molecular weight distributions, composition and deconvolution of homopolymer and copolymer mixtures, hydrocarbon analysis quantification and characterization

X-ray diffraction (XRD) with small and wide angle X-ray scattering (SAXS/WAXS)

Used for materials characterization such as crystal structure, physical properties of materials and thin film

Wavelength Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer (XRF)

Capabilities include elemental analysis in different kinds of samples: solids, liquid or powder

Atomic Force Microscope – Raman (AFM-Raman)

Used to link the molecular information obtained by confocal Raman microscopy with the high-resolution surface information (structural and topographic surface imaging on the nanometer scale) acquired by AFM

Avanti J-26XP Centrifuge

Separation of solids from bitumen

Thermal Gravimetric Analyzer (TGA)

Utilized for thermal analysis in which physical and chemical properties of materials changes with temperature, such as decomposition, degradation mechanism, thermal stability, oxidation, combustion

Particle size analyzer

Used to analyze particle size distribution of different materials, such as solids, emulsion solutions

Micro Carbon Residue Analyzer (MCR)

Used for the characterization of coke formation tendency

UV–vis Spectrophotometer

Analyze a variety of samples by conventional spectroscopy but advanced techniques can be implemented using the fibre optic accessory

Bruker 450 Gas Chromatograph (2)

Equipped for high temperature simulated distillation

Bruker Varian 3900 Gas Chromatograph

Equipped with a split/split less injector and flame ionization detector (FID) and is used for the analysis of lower boiling point components

Bruker Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer (FTIR)

FTIR with fixed path; attenuated reflectance and diffuse reflectance cells for the analysis of wide variety of organic compounds, films and powders

Anton Paar SVM 3000 Viscometer

Used to measure the dynamic viscosity and density of oily samples and is equipped with a 48-position auto-sampler

  • Canada Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA)
  • Alberta Innovates (AI)
  • Ledcor Environmental Solutions Ltd.
  • Suncor Energy Inc.
  • Enbridge Inc.
  • RJ Oil Sands
  • Apex Engineering
  • Nalco Champion (Ecolab)
  • Conetec Investigations Ltd.
  • Switchable Solutions Inc.
  • Oil Sands Research and Information Network (OSRIN)
  • University of Alberta
Title URL

Catalogue of Analytical Methods for Naphthenic Acids Related to Oil Sands Operations, OSRIN Report No. TR-21. 65 pp.


Summary of 2013 Tailings Technology Development and Commercialization Workshop


COSS overview (video)


NAIT is re-launching its Centre for Oil Sands Sustainability with a new applied research chair


NAIT Leading the Way for Oil Sands Wastewater Research


Andrea Sedgwick named Led Ledcor Applied Research Chair in Oil Sands Sustainability


Trudeau on hand to open NAIT’s new Productivity and Innovation Centre


Support for clean water technologies to benefit the oil and gas industry


NAIT: Improving methodologies in measurement could improve oilsands efficiencies