2004 Winner: Innovation In Oil Sands Research Sponsored By Syncrude Canada Ltd.
Organizing Collaborative Research Efforts Improves Oil Sands Development
Alberta’s oil sands industry has come into its own largely as a result of significant technological advances in the bitumen extraction process and the treatment of its by-products. Over the past 25 years, Dr. Hassan Hamza has been the driver behind many of these advances through his research activities and the role he has played in building the partnerships that made them happen.
A world-renowned expert in solid/liquid separation, Dr. Hamza has been manager since 1978 of Advanced Separation Technologies at the Western Research Laboratory of Energy, Mines and Resources Canada (CANMET), now called CANMET Energy Technology Centre – Devon. Through his efforts, the CANMET facility expanded its focus from coal processing research to include a significant oil sands research component geared to the needs of industry. Many current commercial oil sands processes and improvements are a result of fundamental research and pilot tests carried out at CANMET under his direction.
Dr. Hamza is known for his ability to organize collaborative research efforts to seek solutions to oil sands industry problems. He co-founded, with Syncrude Canada Ltd., the Fine Tailings Fundamentals Research Consortium to tackle one of the biggest challenges facing the industry – how to dispose of the fine tailings that are a by-product of the extraction process. The consortium included several industry and government players and carried out a significant portion of its research under Dr. Hamza’s direction at CANMET. The effort advanced fine tailings research and led to the development of the new consolidated tailings technology now being used commercially by Syncrude and Suncor. To continue these collaborative studies, Dr. Hamza co-founded the Oil Sands Tailings Research Facility, a cooperative effort of the University of Alberta, the oil sands industry, Alberta Research Council and Natural Resources Canada. Now under development, this research centre will be a world-class facility with an international reach.
Dr. Hamza also was a driving force in founding the Froth Treatment Consortium, formed in 1996 with participation from several industry members. Basic research and pilot plant testing at CANMET sponsored by the consortium have resulted in novel technologies including the paraffinic froth treatment process that allowed Shell/Albian to commercialize their Muskeg River plant. Dr. Hamza has long been an ardent advocate of basic research as a key to advancing oil sands technology. He collaborates extensively with the University of Alberta and has published numerous papers on his research. He is also actively involved with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Industrial Research Chair programs.