Over the past decade, increasing global energy demands, combined with sharp increases in environmental pollution, have created a dilemma for governments and communities everywhere. As they find themselves on the user end of the very energy sources they fear, they ask themselves one important question: At what point should they be motivated to impose increasingly stringent environmental regulations on the global energy industry? At what point should they say enough is enough?
For many trying to figure out an answer to the question, and for others watching from the sidelines, the answer is simple enough. That "point" is now. Sensing a shift in sentiment, the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Calgary is ahead of the curve by calling for the development of integrated technologies for both the upstream and downstream sectors of the energy industry. It's hoping this technology development can begin to take place through the university's Integrated Thermal Characterization Unit, an initiative made possible through infrastructure support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
The CFI support is helping the university put together the equipment, infrastructure, and highly qualified personnel it needs to show how methods could be developed and used for the economic and environmentally acceptable use of Canada's oil and bitumen reserves. The goal is to convince the oil industry that it's possible to take a "green" approach and still be productive.
Led by Brent Young, researchers with the Integrated Thermal Characterization Unit plan to get Raj Metha and Gord Moore point across through five research projects. The projects will have a number of goals ranging from understanding the thermal processing of oil shale to determining the combustion characteristics of reservoir oils.
The CFI-supported infrastructure is important because it will allow Canada to develop a unique national facility that will be used by engineers, scientists, research associates, postdoctoral fellows, as well doctoral and masters students. It will also encourage cross-disciplinary research, and encourage partnerships with other research institutions, government agencies, and private industry.
But perhaps most important, the facility will undertake innovative projects that will greatly contribute to improvements in human health, quality of life, sustainability of the environment, and that will promote economic growth and jobs, and will save money.