July 23, 2018

Energy researchers take developments in the lab to downtown Calgary

Oil and gas industry professionals hear first-hand about promising UCalgary research
GRI energy director Ian Gates, professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at Schulich School of Engineering, shared research developments at a recent oil and gas industry lunch and learn.
GRI energy director Ian Gates, professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at Schulich School of Office of the Vice-President (Research)

From a chemical dust that can reduce the viscosity of bitumen in the reservoir to better hydraulic fracturing, scores of people in oil and gas have heard first-hand about groundbreaking research aimed at improving the industry and reducing its environmental impacts.

Scholars working with the Global Research Initiative in Sustainable Low Carbon Unconventional Resources (GRI Energy) are meeting with industry groups to share their work toward improving resource extraction, explore potential collaboration and get feedback from people in the industry.

Dr. Ian Gates, GRI Energy director and professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering (pictured above), and Dr. David Eaton, GRI theme lead and professor of geophysics in the Department of Geoscience in the Faculty of Science, recently shared some of their research at a lunch and learn hosted by Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC), a not-for-profit industry association that promotes collaborative research and technology development.

“Ian Gates spoke about new technology that would reduce viscosity of heavy oil very cost-effectively and allow it to be shipped more easily to consumer markets, and David Eaton shared some of the work he’s doing to understand seismic activity related to hydraulic fracturing,” says Marc Godin, director of technology at PTAC, who helped organize the event. “Some of these technologies are very promising and that’s what they were showcasing in the presentations.”

Sharing information about promising research also promotes further collaboration with industry, says Alberto Alva-Argaez, managing partner of Process Ecology Inc, a specialized software and consulting company in Calgary. “What I found in the meeting was that it’s going to allow us to more easily approach researchers at the university to collaborate and to benefit from some of the work they’re doing and do things together,” he says. “First of all you have to make the connections and then you can do the projects.”

Gates agrees. “There is a natural marriage between researchers in universities and people working in the oil and gas industry. Together we are forging powerful new partnerships that will advance innovation in the field.” Gates has also presented some of his findings to members of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA). The group, which brings together producers, government and academia to collaborate and further innovation in the oilsands industry, hosted an event a few weeks ago to learn more about the research.

“GRI offers a unique opportunity for great leaps toward real and noticeable advances in our industry,” says Jackeline Urdaneta, a reservoir engineer and member of COSIA who attended the event. “Building off successful collaboration efforts between COSIA and academia, this initiative aligns research with the needs of our industry, leading to implementation of technologies that could markedly improve environmental performance and cost competitiveness.”

With more than a dozen patents issued and more pending, GRI researchers are delivering on the mandate to develop game-changing technologies — innovation that is absolutely “critical” for the oil and gas industry, says Godin. “The industry is investing time and money to deliver innovation at a higher level of performance and efficiency than in the past. It is viewed as a priority.”

The University of Calgary has built a reputation as a global leader in energy research and innovation. With a focus on our low-carbon future, diverse teams are also assessing the effects of energy-related processes while harnessing unconventional hydrocarbon resources through the Energy Innovations for Today and Tomorrow research strategy.