February 27, 2007

An innovative research centre at the University of Alberta is poised to tackle the issue of water use in oil sands development.
Water use in oil sands development is currently a significant concern for Albertans and Canadians, particularly as the industry develops and grows over the next 20 years. An innovative research centre at the University of Alberta is poised to tackle this issue through a new partnership with Imperial Oil and Alberta Ingenuity.

The Imperial Oil-Alberta Ingenuity Centre for Oil Sands Innovation’s mandate is to find more efficient, economically viable, and environmentally responsible ways to develop Canada's oil-sands resources, one of the largest crude oil deposits in the world. The Centre will be led by Dr. Murray Gray, Scientific Director.

The Imperial Oil-Alberta Ingenuity Centre for Oil Sands Innovation expects to invest over $15 million in research over the next five years, and recruit more than 50 faculty, graduate students, and researchers. The Centre will encourage interdisciplinary research and apply the emerging tools of nanotechnology to the oil sands.

“This is exactly how the ingenuity of Albertans like Dr. Gray will be felt. He is taking on problems that are crucial to Alberta – the oil sands and our limited water supply – but that also have impact around the world,” says Dr. Peter Hackett, President and CEO of Alberta Ingenuity.

“At Imperial Oil, we strongly believe that investing in research and innovation is of critical importance to satisfying increasing energy needs, all the while meeting increasing environmental expectations. We share the commitment of the University of Alberta and have long recognized that research and technology is the key to developing Alberta's oil sands,” said Randy Broiles, Senior Vice-president, Resources Division, Imperial Oil.

“I congratulate our partners Imperial Oil and Alberta Ingenuity for their generosity and their foresight in the creation of the Centre and in sponsoring Dr. Gray. This is a tangible demonstration of our partners’ commitment to innovation and confidence in our joint ability to manage Alberta’s oil sands resource investment wisely well into the future,” said Dr. David Lynch, P.Eng., Dean, Faculty of Engineering, University of Alberta.

In addition to evaluating the use of non-aqueous solvents to separate and extract bitumen from oil sands, research activity this year will also focus on bitumen extraction and upgrading projects. One of the projects involves nanotechnology, where technologies are scaled down to a minute scale by modifying the structure of catalysts. The use of nano-structured materials holds promise to both reduce energy requirements and improve operating efficiencies in bitumen upgrading.

Imperial Oil Limited has been a leading member of the Canadian energy industry for more than 125 years. One of the largest producers of crude oil and natural gas liquids and a major producer of natural gas, the company is also Canada's largest refiner and marketer of petroleum products, sold primarily under the Esso and Mobil brands, and a major producer of petrochemicals.

The Alberta Ingenuity Fund supports science and engineering research of the highest calibre to create a strong and prosperous future for the province. It draws funding from a $1 billion endowment established by the Government of Alberta to build the capacity for innovation in areas with enduring social and economic impact.

The University of Alberta's Faculty of Engineering is among North America's leading engineering research and teaching centres, currently recruiting 100 new academics. For further information on the Faculty, visit engineering.ualberta.ca.