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U of A and leading German researchers team up to build oil sands sustainability

The University of Alberta and one of Europe's largest scientific research organizations are teaming up to develop technology aimed at increasing the sustainability of Alberta's oil sands resources. The U of A and The Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres have entered a five year agreement called the Helmholtz Alberta Initiative (HAI).

HAI's goal is to transform oil sands production processes by developing technologies that address these sustainability challenges.

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

HAI will expand the U of A's current capacity of nearly 50 oil sands-related research projects by sharing the work load with the Helmholtz Association's staff of 28,000 at 16 centres across Germany.

U of A President Dr. Indira Samarasekera signed the Memorandum of Understanding today in Edmonton with executives from the Helmholtz Association, saying, "Together, we can push forward with discoveries and innovations needed to reach a sustainable role for the oil sands in helping to meet the global demand for energy."

Lorne Babiuk, the U of A's Vice-President of Research said HAI ushers in new growth for the university. "Our partnership with this premier research agency opens up countless opportunities for our faculty and graduate students and will initiate new industrial partnerships."

Funding for the Helmholtz Alberta Initiative will be sought from a variety of sources and is expected to exceed $20 million per year. HAI will seek out industry involvement both as funders and as collaborators in the development of new technologies. It is anticipated that approximately 2/3 of the funding will be spent in Canada.


Contact: Brian Murphy
University of Alberta

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