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Posted: March 12, 2007

Nanotechnology will help reduce water use in oilsand development

(Nanowerk News) A new University of Alberta research centre will dig deep to find ways of improving oilsands development, with an eye towards environmental sustainability.
Water use in oilsands development is currently a significant concern for Albertans and Canadians, particularly as the industry grows over the next 20 years. The innovative U of A centre is poised to tackle this issue through a new partnership with Imperial Oil and Alberta Ingenuity.
"I don't think there's any issue on this planet that's going to be more important in the next 20, 30, perhaps even 100 years, as the inextricable link between energy and the environment," said U of A President Indira Samarasekera. "So, as often has been the case in the past, industry and government stand with us in our endeavour."
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 oilsands resources, one of the largest crude oil deposits in the world. The centre will be led by scientific director Dr. Murray Gray.
The centre expects to invest more than $15 million in research over the next five years, and recruit more than 50 faculty, graduate students and researchers. It will encourage interdisciplinary research and apply the emerging tools of nanotechnology to the oilsands.
"The centre is the first of its kind in Canada and its focus is of critical importance to our industry and our country. And it brings with it potentially game-changing technologies," said Randy Broiles, senior vice-president, resources division, Imperial Oil. "At Imperial Oil, we strongly believe that investing in research and innovation is of critical importance to satisfying energy needs, but this path towards successful and environmentally responsible oilsands development is just too important and too urgent for any one company to undertake alone."
In addition to evaluating the use of non-aqueous solvents to separate and extract bitumen from oilsands, 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.
Source: University of Alberta
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