Materials & Geomaterials

Our research in materials and geomaterials is leading to exciting breakthroughs that will change the landscape of the oil sands. Advanced and engineered materials such as nanoparticles, ionic liquids, and engineered composites are attractive for a wide-range of long standing problems in oil and gas exploration and production.

Our ionic liquids approach allows the design of unique compositions of matter which are expected to be safer and more effective than the traditional solvent-based technologies. The tunability of ionic liquids provides a unique innovation platform from which to rethink many engineering processes, especially in the context of modern developments in the oil and gas industry, to approach its three major challenges: reduce costs, optimize the performance of its industrial base assets, and improve its environmental footprint. 

Some of the applications we are exploring:

  • Oil recovery from unconventional reservoirs: We are exploring the synergy of nanomaterials and ionic liquids to generate structured fluids (e.g. emulsions and foams) and/or novel ultra-low IFT systems to find economically feasible and environmentally sustainable solutions for oil recovery from unconventional reservoirs.
  • Treating tailing ponds: Our research has shown that ionic liquids and nanoparticles can be tuned to separate the particulates from the aqueous phase in a faster and efficient way, in comparison with traditional methods using salts or polymers, through a completely different mechanism than other materials in current use. The resulting separation performance opens the door to processes that could remediate the tailing ponds much faster and with much less expense than current processes.
  • Valorization of “waste” materials: We are designing ionic liquids capable to recover valuable materials from “waste” generated from bitumen and heavy oil extraction and processing, including tailing ponds, fly ash, and coke.

Gel-induced emulsions: Combination of nanoparticles and ionic liquids can be used to prepare emulsions that turn into gels within a few hours, with potential applications in the oil and gas industry.