Technology Transfer and Commercialization

The IOSI Model for Wealth Creation

The Clark hot water process, based on research undertaken by Dr. Karl Clark at the Alberta Research Council and the University of Alberta, has generated a significant resource in Alberta. From the initial research to the first full commercial operation took almost 50 years. The slow pace at that time was due to a lack of commercial interest and commercial partners in oil sands production ― which only emerged in the 1960’s. The modern oil sands industry has incorporated a number of new technologies which have had a development time from conception to implementation on the order of five to seven years. The latest technology to be implemented is high-temperature paraffinic froth treatment, which is used by Shell at its Jackpine mine, and by Imperial Oil and ExxonMobil at the Kearl project. This technology produces clean, dry bitumen with a substantially lower capital cost than the first generation process, started by Shell in 2001.

Taking inventions from the laboratory bench to full-scale commercial operation is an expensive proposition that requires many different skills. IOSI facilitates partnerships between university and government researchers, as well as industry partners. Imperial Oil was the original industry partner, a company which has valuable experience and interests in oil sands development, as well as a track record in Alberta of strong environmental stewardship. IOSI follows a shared benefit model for new, commercialized technology. Such relationships provide incentive to IOSI’s industry partners to deploy IOSI findings expeditiously, and, when field tested, to deploy the technologies through licensing to other oil sands companies, using Alberta’s regulatory framework to speed up deployment of those technologies.

Capacity Building

At a time when Alberta’s oil sands development needs to establish a smaller environmental footprint, IOSI provides a superb capacity-building environment coupling the best research facilities – the National Institute of Nanotechnology (NINT), Nanofab and the Alberta Centre for Surface Engineering and Science – with able research leaders – Canada Research Chairs, NSERC Industrial Research Chairs and respected research scientists, graduate students and undergraduates are currently in our programs. IOSI currently funds projects at mulitply universities and institutions throughout Canada and abroad. 

Imperial Oil provides a critical role in the development of IOSI’s capacity. The company provides the practical guidance to our research community and the ability to deploy new research and technology as they are discovered within IOSI.