2009 Winner: Innovation in Oil Sands Research
A Decade Of Innovation In Oil Sands Research And Development
When an oil sands company needed to determine why a new commercial-scale technology failed after laboratory studies and pilot-scale tests had been successful, experts were flown in from around the world to find the problem. When their efforts were unsuccessful, Coanda Research & Development Corporation was brought in. Using a combination of physical models and computational fluid dynamics, Coanda solved the mystery and provided a conceptual breakthrough in this new technology area.
“I’m very proud that over the last 13 years our dedicated staff have developed Coanda Research & Development Corporation into one of the most advanced industrial fluid dynamics facilities in the world, proving that top-notch research and development can, and is, being performed in the private sector in Canada,” says founder and president, Dr. Darwin Kiel.
Providing Practical Solutions
Coanda has provided fluid dynamic engineering services to oil sands companies for more than 10 years, during which time the company has had significant impact on the oil sands industry by providing practical solutions to a variety of industrial challenges. The company specializes in process flow modelling and process design optimization using sophisticated methods such as physical, analytical, and computational modelling.
Three of the greatest challenges associated with the development and improvement of oil sands technology are the massive scale, the huge costs, and the need for uninterrupted production. The techniques employed by Coanda allow oil sands companies to cost-effectively improve existing processes and develop new designs in virtually every area of oil sands technology, providing significant economic and environmental benefits to the oil sands companies and Alberta as a whole.
“I get great satisfaction from the challenge of finding technical solutions to complex problems that are of importance to the success of our clients,” Dr. Kiel says. “Solving the types of problems that we tackle requires a combination of engineering, science, and a certain ‘out-of-the-box’ creativity.”
About 18 months ago, Coanda moved into a new 34,000 square-foot facility in Burnaby, British Columbia, which has quickly been filled with many new and challenging experimental studies. The most dramatic change that will occur over the next two to five years at Coanda will be the increased capacity to operate simulations utilizing actual process materials at conditions that more closely resemble commercial conditions.
“These simulations are essentially a hybrid between traditional physical modelling and pilot plant facilities,” Dr. Kiel explains. “The great advantage of this approach is the improved similitude without the high costs associated with pilot facilities.” Even today Coanda utilizes actual oil sand ores, slurries, tailings materials, and hydrocarbons when simulating extraction and upgrading processes.
It is now commonplace for Alberta oil sands companies to employ modelling techniques for process improvements and optimization well before any steel is cut—a trend that Coanda has helped develop and which the company hopes will continue in the future.