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Univ. of Alberta and Helmholtz Association Partner to Develop Oil Sands Technologies to Address Environmental Issues

The University of Alberta and the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres signed a memorandum of understanding that will create a five-year agreement, the Helmholtz Alberta Initiative (HAI). The goal of the initiative is to transform oil sands production processes by developing technologies that address sustainability challenges.

The University of Alberta, recognized as a global leader in oil sands research, will work with the Helmholtz Association, a collection of 16 science and technology centers across Germany. The association, with its staff of 28,000 and its experience with coal industry hydrocarbons, will add capacity to the near 50 individual oil sands research projects currently underway on campus.

The partnership will seek to transform oil sands production processes by developing technologies that address the following issues:

  • Managing (e.g. capturing and storing) the carbon dioxide produced as a result of current oil sands production processes;

  • Replacing natural gas with geothermal energy sources as the fuel for oil sands production processes; and

  • Developing recycling technology for fresh water and reclamation of lands disturbed by oil sands mining and lands taken over by tailings ponds.

Because of the similarity of key issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, surface mining disturbances and water usage, HAI research and development can also be adopted for coal industry operations in both Alberta and Germany, the partners say.

This is a project that is much larger than the sum of its two parts. This is also a partnership between government and industry that we hope to build upon in the years to come.

—Lorne Babiuk, U of A vice-president, research


Henry Gibson

Canada has its well designed CANDU 600 reactors; just build one or more for process heat. CO2 from the refineries can be piped to existing oil fields to increase recovery by a large amount.

Recovery of bitumen from tar sands with liquid CO2 is a very good possibility. Vast amounts of liquid CO2 can be stored in old deep oil fields until it is needed for bitumen recovery. Bitumen transport pipes might also mix liquid CO2 with the bitumen for easier transport of both of them. The CO2 in the old field will also recover more oil from such fields whilst it is being stored. ..HG..

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