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New research chair to make sands oil mining safer and more efficient


Ottawa, ON – April 5, 2004 – A new research chair, the iCORE-NSERC-Syncrude-Matrikon Industrial Research Chair, has been formed at the University of Alberta. Information and communications technologies will be central to the five- year program of the new chair.

The new chair will tackle several challenges in oil sands mining by using information and communications technologies to monitor and improve the performance of oils sands operations remotely. A massive 50 megabits per second optical network will stream live video footage from the Syncrude mine in Fort McMurray into the Centre for Intelligent Mining Systems (CIMS) laboratory at the University of Alberta. Researchers will analyze oil sands fragments to develop accurate measurement of their sizes so that equipment can be improved to produce less waste. Modelling designed to improve and automate the safety of mining activities is planned. The more problems that can be identified before they occur, the fewer times someone has to climb onto the machines and potentially put his or her life at risk.

“Mining the oil sands presents challenges that are far removed from those faced by conventional drilling practices,” said Dr Hong Zhang, the chairholder. “Our research will use new technologies to enhance both the safety and efficiency of oil sands exploitation.”

The breakdown of the funding for this new $2.25 million research chair is as follows: NSERC is contributing $800,000; iCORE (the Alberta Informatics Circle of Research Excellence) $750,000; Syncrude $500,000; and Matrikon $250,000.