A C$15 million research facility at the University of Alberta, Canada, will investigate ways to recover unconventional hydrocarbons, including coalbed methane (CBM).
The laboratory will facilitate the undertaking of cutting-edge research into new ways of recovering bitumen, CBM, shale gas and other unconventional hydrocarbons.
Rick Chalaturnyk, a University of Alberta professor of geotechnical engineering, was named as the inaugural holder of the Foundation CMG Endowed Chair in Reservoir Geomechanics.
The research chair is an integral component of a new research programme aimed at developing hydrocarbon recovery technologies that are economically, environmentally and socially sustainable, said David Lynch, the University of Alberta’s dean of engineering. Pulling together the programme’s components took seven years.
“This is, as we would all recognise, an incredibly important area of research for the development of Alberta and beyond,” Lynch said at the announcement. “This is a worldwide phenomena and the importance of it cannot be understated in terms of the safe and responsible development of our resources.”
Chalaturnyk and his team of 39 researchers and technical staff are investigating the properties and behaviours of oilsands, caprock and other materials during the process of recovering unconventional oil and gas from deposits deep underground.
“At the heart of it, it really is about conducting some complex, high-temperature, high-pressure testing on all these classes of materials — oilsands, shales, carbonates — to improve our understanding of how these behave,” said Chalaturnyk.
This world-class laboratory — the Geomechanical Reservoir Experimental Facility — includes Western Canada’s only beam centrifuge, a high-temperature/pressure testing facility, as well as a 3-D printer that can create uniform rock samples from sand.
According to the Edmonton Journal, the beam centrifuge can spin a 500 kg payload at 280 RPM, simulating high-pressure conditions under which caprock can fail.
Funding partners include Athabasca Oil, BP Canada Energy, Brion Energy, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Cenovus, ConocoPhillips, Foundation CMG, Nexen, Shell Canada, Statoil Canada and Suncor Energy.
Government funding is from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Alberta Innovates — Technology Futures, and Alberta Innovates — Energy and Environment Solutions.
Calgary-based Foundation CMG, which funds research into oil and gas reservoir modelling, gave Chalaturnyk bridge funding in 2010 to get the programme started.
“Today is a fun day,” Foundation CMG president Duke Anderson said. “I’m thrilled this day has finally arrived.”
Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson