Canada and France have agreed to explore the use of commercially-grown microalgae to "safely and effectively remove certain greenhouse gases from industrial emissions."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault signed the partnership agreement in Ottawa Thursday.

The agreement comes as Canada is anxious to boost its green profile in Europe, ahead of a proposed new classification system that could see fuel from Alberta's oil sands labelled as dirty.

Under the new partnership, scientists from the National Research Council of Canada and France's Commission on Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies will work together over the next two years to determine whether microalgae can be used on an industrial level to absorb harmful elements from greenhouse emissions.

"This will ultimately drive near-term applications of new technologies to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industrial sites," said a backgrounder from the federal government.

Charles Drouin, a spokesperson for the National Research Council of Canada, said microalgae is a microscopic organism that occurs naturally in water -- most commonly in swimming pools that have not been properly cared for -- but can also be grown commercially.

"It does capture already in its normal state some carbon dioxide and it produces oxygen," Drouin said. "So what this research is meant to do is take advantage of what it already does and take it further."

Scientists made a breakthrough last year, discovering a way to use seaweed as an alternative fuel source. However, Drouin said Thursday's announcement was unrelated to biofuels or seaweed.

Harper and Ayrault also signed agreements on Thursday related to a youth exchange between the two countries, harmonizing Old Age Security and pension programs, and jointly commemorating major global conflicts.

Ayrault is on a five-day visit to Canada that, in addition to Ottawa, has scheduled stops in Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City.