News and Events
Volume 1 - Edition 11
April 2005

WFG secures several research grants

The Western Fluidization Group (WFG) develops and applies fluidization technologies to areas of critical importance to Canada: the upgrading of Alberta tar sands into synthetic crude, the transformation of agricultural waste into environmentally friendly fuels, and the optimization of petrochemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing.  WFG activities concentrate on the training of students, the advance of knowledge and knowledge transfer to industry.  These objectives are achieved through close collaboration between WFG and industry leaders.  The group consists of 30 members including three professors (Franco Berruti who is also Dean of Engineering, Cedric Briens, and Lauren Briens), one research associate, two visiting scientists, seven PhD students, seven MESc students, five Accelerated MESc students and five summer students. 

WFG works closely with Syncrude Canada and Imperial Oil to develop new fluid coking technologies for the upgrading of bitumen from tar sands to a low sulfur synthetic crude oil.  Recent funding includes an NSERC CRD of $617,309 over a period of five years, matching a contribution of over $1.06 M from Syncrude, and a $20,000 grant from Imperial Oil.  As part of their research, five students from WFG have worked at the Syncrude facilities in Alberta where they obtained first-hand experience in industrial operations. 

The group applies its expertise in petrochemical refining to the development of new processes for the production of fuels from agricultural waste.  These new fuels are environmentally friendly, producing no net carbon dioxide emissions and no sulfur.  A blend of these fuels with traditional fossil fuels results in a cleaner burning product.  Recent funding to support this initiative includes a $195,000 contract from Dynamotive Energy Systems and an ADF major grant of $60,007 to re-assemble and provide full instrumentation to a thermal cracking pilot plant that has been donated to WFG by Syncrude Canada.  Students are excited to be working on such a rapidly developing area that will benefit society and protect our environment. 

WFG helps industrial partners develop and optimize petrochemical processes.  Recent funding includes $80,000 from Total to build a high pressure fluidized bed column, on which two French visiting scientists will work to develop new technologies to monitor high pressure fluidized bed reactors.  A Canadian student recently returned from France where she worked on the development of a process for the industrial production of carbon nanotubes.  A second student is working in France at a Total research center to optimize pneumatic transport lines.  A third student will soon leave for Belgium to work with Total on another aspect of pneumatic transport. 

WFG also contributes to the pharmaceutical and related industries.  A student is developing new monitoring techniques for two of the operations leading to the production of tablets, in partnership with a major pharmaceutical company and with financial support from an ADF grant of $7,220.  Another project involves the optimization of the production of soft gelatin capsules.  Although its findings could be applied to pharmaceutical capsules, current investigations focus on the production of paintballs in partnership with Zap Paintball (a division of Accucaps Industries Ltd) and MMO, with funding of $128,450.

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