Professor Ian Gates named director of the Global Research Initiative

A message from Ed McCauley, vice-president (research)

I am pleased to announce the re-appointment of Dr. Ian Gates, PhD, as the director of the Global Research Initiative in Sustainable Low Carbon Unconventional Resources (GRI), for a three-year term, effective July 1, 2018, following the initial one-year interim appointment.

GRI aims to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of unconventional resource development and contribute to a climate-neutral energy system. Generating clean tech solutions by seeking new, innovative fossil-based energy systems that are low- or zero-carbon, and rapidly advancing and deploying technologies that actively store or convert CO2, GRI is a major vehicle to translate lab-based technology innovations into full-scale solutions.

“My priority over the next three years is to focus on converting what we are doing in university labs into industry-based solutions, and to see that our research is having an impact on policy,” says Gates. “With the way the world is going and the concern about carbon emissions on the environment, especially in Alberta with the amount of oil and gas we produce, we must show that we can deliver these products more cleanly.”

Under Gates’s leadership, GRI will focus on three grand challenges:

  • Heavy oil and bitumen — reducing viscosity of heavy oil and bitumen at room temperature
  • Tight oil and gas — finding solutions to make hydraulic fracturing greener while assessing the associated safety risks of seismic activities
  • CO2 conversion — discovering how we can get zero-carbon oil out of the ground and hydrogen or power from oil and gas reservoirs

“What drives our research and what we do at the university is taking what we do in the lab and transforming it to useful outcomes beyond us,” says Gates. “Success is not just measured by published papers and grad students graduating, it’s about the community we serve, and the world being able to use our discoveries for the betterment of humankind. The act of commercializing what we do is a real measure of success for the endeavour we are in — producing cleaner energy.”

Multidisciplinary collaboration is key to the success of GRI. In 2016, UCalgary, in partnership with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, received $75 million over seven years from the federal Canada First Research Excellence Fund to implement the GRI. The initiative currently involves multidisciplinary research by more than 120 UCalgary faculty members along with over 36 domestic and international partners, including industry and government.

UCalgary has secured four major sites as part of the GRI: Western Canada, China, Mexico, and the Middle East. Each site is strategically positioned around the globe in areas that have significant unconventional energy resources and unique regulatory frameworks. UCalgary has also partnered with Innovate Calgary to accelerate the commercialization of research and the Containment and Monitoring Institute that will provide opportunities to deploy and test new technologies at an actual field site.

Gates has been a professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering since 2004. His research interests include heavy oil and oilsands recovery process design and optimization. His experience both at the University of Calgary as well as in industry will help us drive our energy research forward and help us to take lab-based technology innovations to full-scale solutions. 

Please join me in congratulating Ian on his new appointment.

Dr. Ed McCauley
Vice-President (Research)