University of Alberta
Natural resources are valuable only if you can get them out of the ground. That is why developing research and technology to unlock the bitumen within Alberta’s Grosmont Formation—a vast area of carbonate rock lying under central and northern Alberta—will lead to jobs and growth for the region and for Canada.
The Energy Resources Conservation Board of Alberta estimates that 406 billion barrels of bitumen may be found within the formation. The challenge has been to extract the bitumen economically. It has been tried before with pilot projects dating back to the 1970s but, so far, the resources have remained untapped.
That may change with the help of geotechnical engineering student Alma Ornés, winner of a master’s level 2012 NSERC André Hamer Postgraduate Prize.
She is studying the geomechanical characteristics of Grosmont carbonates to help with future reservoir research and development. As part of her graduate studies at the University of Alberta, Ornes will create a computer simulation showing rock mass behaviour that will lead to a better model of the variations in the carbonate rock in the Grosmont Formation. This will improve our understanding of how fluids move through carbonate rock, a vital consideration when retrieving bitumen from unconventional sources.
Ornés’s research will also further knowledge in the fields of rock mechanics and geotechnical engineering, with potential applications that could help improve operations throughout the natural resource industry.