German researchers will try to help Alberta solve some of the pressing environmental problems posed by massive oilsands development — if governments and industry pay the bill.

The University of Alberta has signed an agreement to work with the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres on six projects that mainly deal with the capture and storage of greenhouse gases.

Other research would look at how to manage tailings ponds, reclaim land and replace natural gas used to fuel oilsands projects with geothermal energy.

Lorne Babiuk, vice-president of research at the University of Alberta, suggests the five-year project would help improve the image of the oilsands in Europe.

Work could begin in January and is expected to cost at least $80 million, but it depends on funding from the Alberta, federal and German governments, as well as from the oilsands industry.

Babiuk says the Germans are interested because oilsands research deals with some of the same environmental challenges Europe faces in the coal industry.