Developing Sustainable Techniques for Oil Sands Recovery
The massive landscapes of Alberta's oilsands represent a multi-billion dollar economic operation. And yet, the key to whether the oil they hold can be successfully extracted and refined lies in micro-scale chemical processes, such as the complex interaction of water and bitumen, and of sand and clay. If scientists can understand more about the complex processes happening both underground and during oil recovery, they will be able to develop cheaper and more energy-efficient methods of extraction.
Thomas Thundat, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Oil Sands Molecular Engineering, is developing new detection and extraction technologies to improve the overall efficiency of how Canada’s oilsands are processed. These tools will help establish a basic understanding of oil sands interfaces and will eventually lead to extraction processes that are more energy-efficient, use less water, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
His research program will enhance the University of Alberta’s existing expertise in oilsands research, and will bring together leading-edge researchers in nanotechnology, biomedical engineering, information communications technologies, and natural and energy resource management.
The work being done in Thundat’s lab is leading to more sustainable techniques for oil extraction and refinement, greatly reducing the environmental impact of the oil industry and helping Canada better meet its emissions reduction targets.