CalAgua Innovations – Holding the Line on a New Vision

CalAgua is revolutionizing energy industry processes by designing ionic liquids that decrease environmental impact (emissions, water use and tailings ponds); reduce costs; eliminate current processes and allow for access to hydrocarbon reserves that were previously unrecoverable.​ With ionic liquids we are able to develop processes that were previously thought impossible.
Brian Mellor, CalAgua Innovations.

When I first interviewed Brian Mellor from CalAgua Innovations a few weeks ago, I had intended to write a sort of ‘crisis response’ report about the impact of COVID-19 on his emerging company.

But I realized today that by writing a ‘crisis’ story, I was offering a story that was incomplete, that was less than it could be or should be. Because this story is not a crisis story. It is a story of a vision.

It’s a story of what the green recovery could be. It’s a story of how this company and its exciting technology fits into “The Five Big Ideas for Alberta’s Economic Recovery”.

It’s also a story of what could happen if we make strategic choices for how the future unfolds, if we realize that, beyond the crisis (which, yes, is really bad right now), it could be well and good.

CalAgua Innovations is tackling the energy sectors’ most difficult environmental and resource challenges delivering step changes in cost, performance and environmental impact for unconventional energy production. CalAgua was formed in 2017 to commercialize its chemical additive for cleaning up Alberta’s oil sands tailings ponds. Their expert team is also developing a waterless oil sands mining and subsurface extraction solution that would dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and would not produce tailings ponds.They are not only a Foresight Company and a semi finalist in NRCan’s $155 million Clean Growth Program, they were also (prior to COVID-19) on the cusp of major development projects to scale their low GHG, pollution-reducing solutions in the field with an international energy company.


As the The Energy Future’s Lab say in their article referenced above:

“The most strategic investments of all will leverage Alberta’s legacy assets and resources to enable the economy of the future.”

Cleantech companies like CalAgua are the economy of the future. There’s the vision. Eliminate tailings ponds in years instead of centuries. No longer taking water out of the Athabasca River. Delivering extraction solutions that reduce the environmental impact of Alberta’s oil sands industry.

Writing about their crisis response would only have obscured that vision. Clean water and low GHG emissions is a picture worth imagining for a moment, even in the midst of the chaos and the pivoting of a pandemic-induced economic crisis. It is exceptionally important to the economy of the future and worth staying the course and moving toward. We have to see the vision clearly and then step up and make it happen.

The government has made some strategic decisions and stepped up over the last few weeks on behalf of the energy industry. Foresight and our strategic partners will continue to advocate for action and stimulus packages that have sustainability principles out front.

I have faith that the CalAgua team and many other cleantech innovators will weather this storm – especially if this country sticks together, holds the line and, most importantly from an economic perspective, focuses on a strategic, clean-energy, cleantech future.

As Brian put it “While it currently feels like the sky is falling, this will provide us an opportunity where we can pick up the pieces and make something better. With courage and creativity we can make it happen together.”

Focus on Brian Mellor’s vision, what CalAgua promises this country – clean water, low GHG emissions, and a solution for creating value from the Canadian energy sector while dramatically reducing its environmental footprint. Prosperity 2.0.

That’s what the green recovery looks like.

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About the Author

Diane Currie Sam

Content & Research Manager
Foresight Cleantech Accelerator


Diane is an award-winning writer, a corporate educator, and master storyteller with hands on expertise guiding the business communications of multi-million dollar companies. Diane is a strategic communicator with a broad base of experience in technology and entrepreneurship.

Her ability to combine solid research with good storytelling has helped bring in millions of dollars in investment, tax credits and business opportunities for entrepreneurial and high tech companies across Canada and the US. She has a Bachelor’s of Science degree from the University of BC and a Masters of Arts in Psychology from Trinity Western University.