Dr. Steven Bryant was named Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Materials Engineering for Unconventional Oil Reservoirs at the University of Calgary in October 2014.
Dr. Bryant is leading a $10 million effort over seven years to develop a new era of unconventional oil technologies that balances the world’s energy needs while reducing the environmental impact.
Modern societies rely on intensive energy consumption, which, now and for the foreseeable future, will be met largely by fossil fuel production. The scale of consumption is large enough to affect the planet’s biosphere and continues to grow, thereby presenting the greatest technical challenge for humankind in the 21st century: a Hobson’s choice between meeting energy demand from available fuels and drastically reducing society’s environmental footprint. Over the next few decades Alberta’s oil sands will be a crucible for this challenge: a world-class petroleum resource, whose exploitation has left a legacy of environmental problems on the surface and increasingly in the subsurface. Current exploitation methods require large inputs of energy and water and emit substantial volumes of greenhouse gases. Dr. Steven Bryant, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Materials Engineering for Unconventional Oil Reservoirs at the University of Calgary, is working to bridge the gap between the current technological status of the oil sands industry and where it needs to be for a sustainable, globally competitive future.
To achieve this goal Dr. Bryant is bringing together, leading and coordinating the cross-disciplines of nanotechnology and materials science research with chemical and petroleum engineering, geoscience, chemistry, and geomicrobiology. The CERC lab space was completed in Summer 2016 with custom-built equipment for cross-faculty use including equipment which are not commercially available and are one of a kind in North America. CERC has established collaborations with multiple domestic and international academic organizations including the Technion (Israel), Imperial College (UK), University of Texas at Austin (USA), University of Bergen (Norway ) and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). The NTNU partnership is for advanced research and education within carbon storage (CS) and enhanced oil recovery (EOR), providing the opportunity for the exchange of students and principle investigators.
Nanomaterials and emerging capabilities in mesoscale science offer an extraordinary opportunity to address a wide spectrum of oil sands challenges. The CERC enables a focused application of these capabilities to reduce the process footprint for current extraction platforms, and to develop new platforms for energy extraction that minimize environmental impact and maximize productivity.
The CERC will accelerate transformation of the industry’s approach to in situ extraction of energy from the oil sands through dissemination of research as well as industry collaboration. Already industry collaboration has resulted in 3 contracts and a filed patent. Dr. Bryant has been active through publications, and as an invited speaker at high profile meetings and conferences such as: the US DOE Energy Frontier Research Center All-Hands Symposium in Berkeley, California; the Center for Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Future Challenges in Austin, Texas; and the UK Science and Innovation Network in Newcastle, Edinburgh and London. Although inspired by industry application, the research is also designed to produce significant advances in basic science. This will result in bigger picture uses beyond the energy industry, much as biomedical nanomaterials advances are now being explored for oil recovery applications.
The CERC Research Themes outline what needs to be done in order to solve the challenges of reducing process footprint for current extraction platforms, and to develop new platforms for energy extraction. The research themes are:
"Using Bacteria to Clean Up Oil" featured on CNBC – Special Report. September 22, 2016