University of Calgary

Global Research Initiative in Sustainable Low Carbon Unconventional Resources

The University of Calgary’s scientific strategy will significantly reduce the carbon footprint of unconventional resource development. Canada’s enormous endowment of heavy oil, bitumen, and tight oil and gas can continue to contribute to national economic well-being; their development needs not be inimical to Canada meeting its climate goals.

With world-leading researchers in these resources, collaborating with organizations in China, Mexico and Israel, the University of Calgary’s strategy tackles the core features that make extraction of these resources so carbon-intensive—namely, the high viscosity of heavy oil and bitumen, and the extremely low permeability of tight oil and gas reservoirs. Moreover, the university will address post-extraction carbon emissions by developing and testing, at field-scale, new CO2 storage and conversion pathways.

The key elements of the university’s research are as follows:

  • Reduce the amount of energy and water used to decrease oil viscosity by combining novel materials, well configurations, and chemical transformations, via innovative, moderate-temperature, catalytic/biological routes.
  • Recover viscous oil more efficiently, by combining new and nanomaterial-enhanced geophysical imaging strategies with coupled reservoir/wellbore/fluid chemistry monitoring and simulation, to create next-generation control systems.
  • Reduce the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, by adaptively controlling fracture growth in selectively targeted reservoir interval—using novel diagnostics, geophysical data, materials and fluids demonstrated at the university’s unique field-research site.
  • Recover more oil within the same development footprint for tight reservoirs, by deploying novel combinations of fluids, materials and innovative fracturing stages.
  • Eliminate CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, by extracting alternative energy carriers from reservoirs and exploiting low-temperature mixed catalysis (metals, oxides, subsurface microbial communities), electrochemistry and nanomaterials to achieve in situ energy transformations.
  • Reduce the amount of energy and materials needed for CO2 capture and conversion, by greatly increasing the activity, longevity, economy and scalability of recently demonstrated catalytic, electrochemical and microbial routes from CO2 to CO and fuels, and combining them with novel materials and coupled capture processes.