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Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF)

Submitted by sarah.byers on Fri, 05/05/2017 - 11:40am


The Government of Canada’s Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) helps competitively selected Canadian post secondary institutions turn their key strengths into world-leading capabilities. In September 2016, the University of Calgary was awarded $75,000,000 for its proposal “Global Research Initiative in Sustainable Low Carbon Unconventional Resources”, referred to as the UCalgary CFREF. The CFREF initiative places a strong emphasis on developing solutions and building partnerships. Our central goal is to get our solutions to the field, so we are partnering with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Innovate Calgary, and domestic and international industrial and academic partners to make a significant contribution towards Canada’s leadership as a supplier of safe, secure, clean and reliable energy.

The UCalgary CFREF will significantly reduce the carbon footprint of unconventional resource development. UCalgary has established one of the world’s largest research programs in unconventional oil recovery, focusing on reservoir engineering, simulation, imaging, characterization, catalysis and upgrading, combustion, production water, fluid properties, recovery process design, biogeoscience, and the fundamentals of heavy oil/water/gas/rock interactions involved in in situ recovery processes.

Adding our Canada Excellence Research Chair's (CERC) rare combination of materials science experience and petroleum engineering expertise, UCalgary will be a world leader in realizing the next great innovations to economically and efficiently develop these resources to meet society’s energy needs and environmental expectations. Our recognized expertise in catalysts and conversion, to be focused on CO2 capture and reduction, significantly enhances this project’s potential to generate innovative clean tech solutions.

Collaborating with organizations affiliated with UCalgary’s Global Research Initiative (GRI) in China, Mexico and Israel, the UCalgary CFREF research activities will be aligned with three themes and six grand challenges (GC):

UCalgary CFREF Grand Challenges


Theme 1: Heavy Oil & Bitumen 

GC 1. Reducing viscosity of heavy oil and bitumen at moderate temperature

GC 2. Imaging/controlling in situ flow processes

Theme Lead: Ian Gates

Theme 2: Tight Oil & Gas

GC 3. Imaging/controlling hydraulic fracturing

GC 4. Enabling small-footprint recovery from low-permeability reservoirs

Theme Lead: David Eaton

Theme 3: CO₂ Conversion

GC 5. Zero CO₂ emission energy extraction from petroleum reservoirs

GC 6. Next generation CO₂ capture and conversion catalysis

Theme Lead: Marc Strous



The Global Research Initiative in Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources (GRI) is a major vehicle to translate lab-based technology innovations into field-deployable solutions. Focused on collaborative research between the world-class innovators from the University of Calgary and international partners, the GRI creates a network of global hubs for discovery, creativity and innovation in unconventional energy research.

The GRI has secured four major sites where the University of Calgary will house unique research facilities in: Western Canada, China, Mexico, and the Middle East. Each site is strategically positioned around the globe in areas that have significant unconventional energy resources and unique regulatory frameworks.

Global Research Initiative in Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources: Beijing Site

Mexico GRI

Through the launch of the Global Research Initiative in Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources the University of Calgary will take a leadership role in driving innovative research in unconventional oil and gas in China and around the world. Focused on collaborative research, education and training, the site leverages the University of Calgary’s world-class expertise in unconventional hydrocarbon resources and technologies such as shale and tight gas and oil, coal-bed methane, heavy oil, oil-sands bitumen and gas hydrates. The University of Calgary has more than 270+ faculty members engaged in energy research, who train more than 1250 graduate students and 90 postdoctoral fellows, as well as select undergraduate students. The University of Calgary has tremendous capacity to improve understanding of resources, develop methods and technologies to increase recovery, and minimize environmental impact. Through a new training program at the Global Research Initiative in Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources – Beijing Site, the University of Calgary is offering professional training courses as part of its new Energy Industry Training Program (China).

UToday: University and Kerui Group create energy research, training site in China

UToday: Global research site in China looks ahead to a bright future


Global Research Initiative in Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources: Mexico Site

Mexico GRI

In January 2016, The University of Calgary and the Mexican Ministry of Energy (SENER) signed a collaboration agreement that opens up a long-term partnership to help Mexico boost its energy sector, which will allocate 12 million dollars over the next four years to boost cooperation in energy education and research.. The future Mexico site will be a key instrument in the country’s energy reform, which will draw upon the university’s world-leading expertise to solve complex challenges in technology, governance and regulation.

UToday: University helps Mexico implement ambitious energy reforms

UToday: First Call for Proposals for Mexico's Energy Ministry with the University of Calgary


Training Opportunities

As part of the implementation of the CFREF scientific strategy and to address the Grand Challenges, projects are seeking to hire highly qualified personnel (HQP) for our three themes. 

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