Many universities and research institutes around the world have huge investments in energy-related R&D “Research and Development” programs. Much of such R&D programs are primarily related to Renewable Energy Resources that can meet future demands for lowering the emissions of GHG “Green House Gases”, for mitigating the impacts of global warming and for achieving sustainable socio-economic development around the world.
However, the world energy market in terms of demand and supply is forcing other realities where the use of conventional fossil fuel resources will be gradually shifting towards increasing utilization of unconventional fossil resources. With such trends the world is facing “tectonic” challenges for “safe-clean-secure” shifts towards new extraction techniques from the so-called UHRs “Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources” with minimal environmental impacts. It is believed that UHRs is the future of the fossil fuel industry not only in North America, with the major part of UHRs, but likely globally as well. UHRs are composed of heavy oil, oil sands, unconventional gas, light-tight oil and liquid-rich shale. While, the Middle East is facing up to end ‘Easy Oil’ it is, also, turning to a much tougher and complex reality to tap their huge heavy-oil reserves (http://m.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704436004576299421455133398?mobile=y). A wide-range of investments and pilot studies are being carried out to develop appropriate technologies to boost heavy-oil production in several places in the Middle East. Such trends will expand to other regions around the world with gradual transformation to a worldwide utilization of the global UHRs.
The technology to tap heavy-oil, and to make use of, is not a new one and has already started in the US several decades ago. However it needs to be up-dated, developed and refined to meet not only the environmental and economic demands but also the diversity of UHRs in the complex geo-formations, including coupled litho- and hydrospheric ones. The University of Calgary has clear strategic direction to become one of Canada’s top five research universities by year 2016 where research and innovative teaching go hand in hand with full engagement of the communities they both serve and lead. Among the six research themes of the university’s roadmap to achieve its future goals is “Energy Innovation for Today and Tomorrow”.