Developing New Water Solutions for the Oil Sands Industry

Canada-Israel Industrial Research & Development FoundationDeveloping New Water Solutions for the Oil Sands Industry

Enabling More Responsible and Efficient Processing of Crude Oil

Canadian Company: Clean Harbors Energy & Industrial Services Corp.

Israeli Company: IDE Technologies

Sector: Energy and Environment


Today, the water treatment process employed to extract crude oil and bitumen from oil sands is costly and challenging. Mechanical Vapor Compression (MVC) Evaporators are a critical part of this practice. Comprised of a complex network of pipes that process heavy oil and sludge, these systems demand frequent chemical cleaning given scaling and the accumulation of unwanted materials. They also demand hundreds of thousands of gallons of water that cannot be recycled and reused. Moreover, processing plants must be shut down for days to cleanse the evaporator, impeding oil production. A Canada-Israel R&D team aims to address these challenges, and develop a more efficient and sustainable water treatment and cleansing process for oil sands producers.


Leveraging funding from the Canada-Israel Energy Science and Technology (CIEST) Fund managed by CIIRDF, this project brings together:

  • Clean Harbors Energy & Industrial Services Corp., the Canadian subsidiary of Clean Harbors, North America’s leading provider of environmental, energy and industrial services; and
  • IDE Technologies, an Israeli pioneer and world leader in water technologies.

This Canada-Israel R&D project aims to improve the operation, service and maintenance capabilities of MVC evaporators by integrating IDE’s unique horizontal evaporator design with Clean Harbors’ chemical expertise. The solution minimizes the evaporator downtime; improves the safety and reliability of the water treatment process; and ultimately boosts the productivity and profitability of crude oil processors. The evaporator includes a removable tube bundle that is easily accessed and cleaned by operators. Clean Harbors developed customized chemical blends and cleaning procedures to optimize the maintenance of the system.

This year, the companies conducted a bench-scale pilot program at an Alberta Innovates Technology Futures facility in Edmonton, achieving excellent efficiency at this early stage of development. Although it typically requires one week to cleanse an evaporator, the CIIRDF-supported technology achieved this objective within 24 hours. It also eliminated waste, and reduced water consumption by 97 percent, enabling recycled water to be used for steam generation. The pilot served as an excellent demonstration for prospective clients. Clean Harbors and IDE are now planning an industry-field demonstration of a semi-commercial evaporator system in Alberta’s oil sands.


“The oil sands industry represents a critical global market for IDE. This sector faces unique water and environmental challenges that are complex and costly to address. The time to market for water management solutions for the oil sands can exceed five years. It is a high risk and expensive venture to undertake independently. This CIIRDF project provides the opportunity to reduce our R&D risk by partnering with a Canadian chemistry leader, and working shoulder-

to-shoulder on a new water solution. CIIRDF’s project management structure and financing is accelerating our product development, time to market and revenue. It is also catalyzing our growth as an internationally-recognized water partner for the oil sands industry.”

Gilad Cohen, Director, Industrial Water Business Unit, IDE Technologies

“Clean Harbors possesses in-house chemistry expertise, enabling us to develop new chemical compounds for different applications. Working with the specifications provided by IDE and oil sands producers, we are developing novel chemical compounds for MVC evaporator cleansing. This CIIRDF project will enable us to add value to IDE systems and their multinational client base, increasing our global exposure and our global sales. Moreover, we can customize the chemistry emerging from this project, and apply it to a host of other challenges. This will enable the development of new products that expand our market reach into different sectors, and generate new revenue streams for our firm.”

Chris Porter, Senior Vice President, Industrial Services for Clean Harbors (Canada)