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Supporting Canadian heavy oil research

A comprehensive collaboration to seek more environment-friendly ways of recovering heavy oil and oil sands has been forged by StatoilHydro with three Canadian universities and one in Norway.

The group will support PhD students at Canada’s University of Calgary, University of Alberta and Vancouver Island University, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim.

Margareth Øvrum, executive vice president for Technology & New Energy (TNE), believes that this partnership could be a key to finding good solutions for Canadian oil sand production.

“We see that great opportunities exist for solving some of the challenges we face with heavy oil production in Canada in terms of both recovery factor and the environment,” she says.

“New technology and expertise are needed to overcome these, and they in turn must be created by people. So this type of collaboration with universities is very important.

“Through cooperation agreements, we want to involve both Norwegian and Canadian academics in helping us with this work. Our ambition is to find better and more environment-friendly solutions for our involvement.”

Torbjørn Digernes, rector of the NTNU, believes that heavy oil will be important in tomorrow’s global energy scenarios but that the energy companies must deal with the consequent challenges. In his view, the cooperation with StatoilHydro will be important for the future.

“Having a company like this as a sponsor as well as a demanding client and user is something we want in such projects. Our hope is to achieve a long-term collaboration around this,” he says.

The Canadian universities have broad research experience with heavy oil, and their projects will work closely with StatoilHydro’s research activities in the heavy oil area.

“This powerful partnership in heavy oil research is a great opportunity for the Schulich School of Engineering,” says Dr Elizabeth Cannon, dean of the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary. “We have an internationally competitive energy research programme and our researchers will thrive with the investment and connections made possible here today.”

They will collaborate with the NTNU within their respective parts of the value chain for heavy oil production, with the University of Calgary specialising in recovery methods.

The University of Alberta focuses on emulsion stabilisation mechanisms for such oils, while Vancouver Island University deals with environmental monitoring of their production.