“They’re excited about some of these other initiatives that I think are important in Alberta. Recently, for example, there’s a push for more hydrogen; we hear these cool stories related to geothermal, we hear stories around investment into wind and solar, and so they want to know about all of these things.”
At a higher level, the university is maintaining its masters’ and doctoral level programs in petroleum engineering — training that can have real results improving the industry’s environmental performance and cost competitiveness.
“At the PhD at MSC levels, we’ve got students that are working on awesome projects that are related to oil and gas,” Sen says.
“I think that maybe it’s not always clear to everyone how innovative these companies have been already. And a lot of that innovation was done in conjunction with universities.”
For example, work with UCalgary is advancing the use of constructed wetlands for reclamation in the oil sands.
This March, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) and the Natural Sciences Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) committed a total $2.5 million over five years to support work by UCalgary wetlands expert Jan Ciborowski.
The program will develop measures to assess the success of oil sands wetland reclamation.
“We’ve learned enough so that companies could start building full scale wetlands on disturbed land at mining sites,” Ciborowski said in a statement.
“Now the wetlands are four or five years old they look really good, they are lush, green and full of wildlife, but there isn’t a framework or a standard set of measures we can use to assess young constructed wetlands and predict their future success, which is what this effort will seek to establish.”
Faculty at the Schulich School of Engineering are working on research to improve oil sands production processes. For example, the Gates Research Group under professor Ian Gates reports it has developed operational and downhole strategies that lower GHG emissions and water use for steam-based drilling projects.
“All of that is going to continue; we want to maintain and even strengthen our ties to these companies and contribute to that particular sector to making it better, stronger, cleaner,” Sen says.
“We’re going to continue supporting that, while at the same time adding other types of knowledge.”