Natural Resources Canada

Oil Spill Response Challenge

Back to all challenges
challenge banner

The Challenge

1. Overview

The Oil Spill Response Challenge will advance innovative and rapidly deployable solutions to effectively detect oil spills and improve response time or to increase the oil spill recovery rate when compared against conventional tools in diverse Canadian aquatic environments. The Challenge is important to expand the suite of available oil spill response technologies for use in Canadian marine and freshwater environments, which supports Canada Energy Regulator recommendations.

It is mobilising innovators to spur the rapid development and deployment of new oil spill response technologies.

2. Challenge Objectives & Assessment Criteria

Natural Resources Canada is calling on innovators to submit applications for technology solutions that:

  • Can improve oil spill response effectiveness: by reducing time elapsed to detect oil spilt in water and/or by increasing the recovery of oil spilt in water;
  • Are innovative and disruptive to status quo: the design offers impactful solutions to oil spill detection and recovery compared to conventional approaches;
  • Are applicable to the Canadian context: solutions that can be applied within the environments and conditions present across Canada, such as operating environment, oil type, challenging conditions, scalability;
  • Improve our environment and community safety: reducing adverse environmental impacts and improving marine safety is a priority.
  • Are ready to use: operational effectiveness and practicality of solution for end-users, including logistics and resource requirements. The deployment of the solution is safe, realistic and feasible;
  • Have a strong plan to scale to market: innovators understand their market and have the partnerships and plan to scale their technology for deployment.

For more information on the assessment criteria, please see the Applicant Guide

3. Challenge Streams

Stream 1: Technologies that Improve Detection

Purpose: Accelerate the development of innovative solutions that reduce the amount of time elapsed between the start of an oil spill in fresh or saltwater and the time in which it is detected, decreased, and/or eliminated. The type and accuracy of oil spill-related data being collected and aggregated to inform spill response is significantly expanded.

Detection covers all technologies involved in the detection, collection and analysis of data to inform timely and evidence-based decision-making during an oil spill emergency response. For the detection stream, solutions are expected to achieve at least one of the following results:

  • Real-time detection of an oil spill
  • Collect / model oil spill data such as the spatial extent (breadth and depth) of the spill, estimate the magnitude of the release, the rate of release, and determine the composition of the spilled oil, salinity of water (for estuarine environments), or a combination of these capabilities
  • Provide a data analytics solution to facilitate the aggregation, consolidation and analysis of data pertinent to an oil spill response such as weather data, oil spill data (as described above), and emergency response crew location

This could include, but is not limited to, technologies such as surface (i.e. satellite, aircraft, glider, other remote sensing technologies, etc.) and subsurface (i.e. autonomous or manned underwater vehicles, etc.), sensors, laboratory analytical methods transferrable to spill responders, AI, computer modelling, and data analytics products to aggregate data sets necessary to inform response during and after an oil spill.

Innovators are encouraged to consider adapting their technologies to overcome challenging situations that could impede detection, such as cloud cover, remote or difficult to access locations, and pipelines immersed in water.

Stream 2: Technologies that Improve Recovery

Purpose: Accelerate the development and deployment of innovative solutions that increase and expedite the recovery of oil spilt into Canada’s diverse aquatic environments.

Recovery covers the wide breadth of technologies that can be deployed to recover oil to the fullest extent possible thereby minimizing the amount of oil polluting aquatic environments. Solutions could include, but are not limited to, innovative adaptations to conventional containment and mechanical recovery technologies (e.g. skimmers, booms), chemical treatment, and alternative response measures (e.g. spill treating agents, herders, in-situ burning, surface washing agents, advanced sorbents) and biodegradation treatments suitable for marine and freshwater environments.

Innovators are encouraged to consider adapting their technologies to overcome challenging situations that could affect recovery operations, such as oil type (light, medium, heavy), salinity of water, turbulence, immersed or sunken oil, ice or icy waters and remote locations.

4. Challenge Application

The Oil Spill Response Challenge is open to innovators that are commercial and non-commercial organizations and individuals, registered to do business in Canada. 

Specifically, eligible applicants to the Challenge include the following:

  • Businesses or other for-profit organizations;
  • Not-for-profit organizations;
  • Indigenous organizations and groups located in Canada;
  • Post-secondary/academic institutions;
  • Individual or group of individuals;
  • International individuals and entities.*

* Must have, or partner with, a legal entity in Canada.

Challenge details

Who can apply

Eligible applicants to the Challenge include the following:

  • For-profit and not-for-profit organizations such as companies, industry associations and research centres
  • Indigenous organizations and groups located in Canada
  • Post-secondary/academic institutions
  • Individual or groups that are recognized legal entities
  • International individuals and entities*

*Must have, or partner with, a legal entity in Canada.


  • Ten semi-finalists will be selected to receive up to $300,000 each to support the development of their technology prototype
  • Five finalists with the top solutions will be selected for up to an additional $1 million each to continue to scale and demonstrate their technology
  • $2 million Grand Prize will be given to the team with the best demonstrated technology

Key Dates

  • March 9, 2022: Applications Open
  • June 1, 2022: Deadline to apply
  • Summer 2022: Selection of ten semi-finalists