Oct. 14, 2014

First Canada Excellence Research Chair created at University of Calgary

Federal government announces $10 million to study ways to improve oilsands production efficiency

Renowned nanotechnology researcher Steven Bryant joins the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary, as the new Canada Excellence Research Chair for Materials Engineering for Unconventional Oil Reservoirs.

Renowned nanotechnology researcher Steven Bryant is a new Canada Excellence Research Chair.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

A world-leading nanotechnology researcher has come to Canada’s energy capital to become the first Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) at the University of Calgary.

Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification) Michelle Rempel announced today $10 million in federal funding to the university over seven years to create the CERC for Materials Engineering for Unconventional Oil Reservoirs. These funds will be matched by the University of Calgary.

The CERC has been awarded to renowned researcher Steven Bryant, who has joined the Schulich School of Engineering and will integrate a team of researchers from several departments of the Schulich School of Engineering and Faculty of Science.

Bryant is leading a team that is working on developing new ways to use nanoscale technology to improve the efficiency of in-situ oil recovery in the oilsands. Part of his work will focus on Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) oil recovery; specifically, coating nanoparticles to increase the viscosity of steam, to increase oil recovery and thereby reduce environmental impact. The SAGD method is the most common way the oilsands are developed and is widely regarded as the future of oilsands development. Finding ways to improve the process is critically important.

Rempel said the federal government is focused on developing, attracting, and retaining world-leading researchers through record investment in science, technology and innovation. She added that Bryant’s application of new nanomaterials and technology will seek to develop new efficiencies within the oilsands industry while training the next generation of highly talented Canadian researchers.

“Our government is committed to ensuring advancement in sustainable energy resource technology. Dr. Bryant’s arrival at the University of Calgary will help consolidate Canada’s position as a global leader in this area. The research being conducted at the university is good for Calgary, good for the economy and good for Canada,” said Rempel.

President Elizabeth Cannon thanked the federal government for its financial support and said Bryant’s arrival vaults the university’s existing energy research to the next level.

Steven Bryant is congratulated during a ceremony at the University of Calgary on Thursday. Among those taking part were, from left: university President Elizabeth Cannon, Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification) Michelle Rempel, and Janet Walden, chief operating officer of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

President Elizabeth Cannon, Minister Michelle Rempel, Steven Bryant, and Janet Walden

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

“The University of Calgary is thrilled to have Dr. Steven Bryant join our energy research team, where he will play a key role exploring new and sustainable ways of developing unconventional resources,” said Cannon. 

“We are confident that Dr. Bryant and his colleagues, working here at Canada’s energy university, will offer innovative solutions to the pressing challenges faced by our society: meeting ever-growing energy demands and drastically reducing our environmental footprint.”   

In addition to the matching funds, the University of Calgary is planning additional support for major infrastructure and equipment for the CERC.

In 2008, the federal government launched the CERC program to encourage some of the most accomplished researchers around the world to work at Canadian universities. Bryant comes to the University of Calgary from the University of Texas at Austin where he was Bank of America Centennial Professor in the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering.

At the University of Calgary, Bryant will work together with researchers across campus. The university already boasts strong researchers in areas such as oil mobilization agents, in-situ upgrading, emissions reductions, biogeoscience, reservoir characterization and nanotechnology. The addition of Bryant creates an ecosystem in unconventional resource extraction.

“Being involved in building something big and exciting and impactful, you don’t often get a real opportunity to do that. I’m delighted at the opportunity to be part of it,” said Bryant.

“The university is close to where the action is. All the major operators are in town and there’s a chance to take things from the lab to the field. The University of Calgary is very well situated in that regard.”

The Canada Excellence Research Chair plays a significant role in the university’s energy strategy, which aims to make the University of Calgary a global leader in energy research. It is also critical to our Eyes High goal to becoming a top five Canadian research university.

Attracting world-class researchers to campus helps attract more students and post-docs to the university and exposes students and faculty to some of the world’s cutting-edge research.

Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification) Michelle Rempel addresses the gathering.

Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification) Michelle Rempel addresses the gathering.