Alberta Research Council
Dr Henry Marshall Tory founded the Scientific and Industrial Research Council of Alberta, later called the Alberta Research Council (ARC), in 1921. It was Canada’s first provincial research council. Located on the University campus, the Council was supported by John Allan, a University geologist; Norman C. Pitcher, a professor of mining engineering; and John Stirling, the chief mines inspector.
In the early years, ARC drew chemical engineering researchers (such as Edgar Stansfield) together with oil sands researchers like Dr Karl Clark.
Today, ARC is a not-for-profit corporation owned by the Government of Alberta. Governed by a nine-member board of directors from the public and private sectors, ARC employs over 500 research and development specialists in the areas of innovation, energy, life sciences, agriculture, environment, forestry, and manufacturing. The Council is housed in five facilities located in Edmonton, Calgary, Devon, and Vegreville.
ARC promotes innovation by working with over 900 different clients through joint ventures, research and development, joint industry projects; consortia, or strategic partnerships. By introducing new products and services to the marketplace, business is developed and technology commercialized. It is the development component of ARC’s work that truly allows it to make an impact on Alberta’s economic growth; ARC excels at taking innovative, early-stage ideas and working with industry and partners to develop them into marketable products. Some examples of this far-seeing approach, in each of the research and development areas, are outlined below.
Canada’s cold winters and warm summers make us major energy consumers. ARC is working to develop environmentally sound and sustainable solutions to prepare us for tomorrow’s energy needs. For example, industry has identified a problem with extracting oil and gas from the ground; estimates say that 60 to 70 percent of the oil and gas is unrecoverable at present. As such, industry can use the help of research and development teams to devise more efficient extraction processes. Researchers have responded with innovative approaches, such as using CO2 injections underground, to recover more the precious resource. There is no question that Canada’s economy and high quality of life are driven in large part by science and technology working to provide for the country’s energy needs. By working on alternative and renewable energy sources, carbon and energy management, bitumen upgrading, conventional oil, and natural gas; fuels and lubricants; clean coal, CO2 management, and recovery, ARC is focused on supporting a sustainable energy future.
Integrated Resource Management
Through environmental monitoring, environmental technologies, sustainable ecosystems, and toxicology, ARC’s resource management team works to develop Canada’s natural resources. It also serves to strengthen communities and provide sustainability in the areas where the resources are being developed.
Engineered Products and Services
ARC’s Engineered Products and Services line is driving important innovations in many areas, including those dealing with forest products; advanced materials such as ceramics, polymers, and composites; and sensors engineering, which develops sensors that determine bitumen lost during oil sands extraction (a project for which ARC received the Syncrude/ASTech Innovation in Oil Sands Research Prize). Services extend to the agriculture, energy, environment, forest products, manufacturing, and mining sectors.
At ARC’s Advanced Materials lab, for example, researchers develop, build, and evaluate advanced materials for projects like the test rig built in conjunction with Suncor Energy Inc. Evaluation of the impact resistance of the test rig is being conducted at ARC’s lab, the only facility in North America capable of using technology to evaluate the resistance of tungsten-carbide and chromium-carbide based overlays and wear-resistance cast alloys. Other Advanced Material projects include investigating how to turn rubber crumb from waste tires into new products such as flooring and manhole collars—a project that ARC is working on for Alberta Environmental Rubber Products of Edmonton; and a project with Resin Systems Inc., also of Edmonton, which seeks ARC’s help in evaluating the superiority of its fibreglass boat, deck, and auto accessories.
ARC’s Life Sciences develops strategies for sustainable agriculture, industrial markets, and services for human, animal, and plant health. These services include Bioproducts and NuRx Services. Just a few of the bioproduct services in development are reverse genetics, disease resistance tests, work with pulse crops, and agrifibre development. With the latter, for example, ARC’s Edmonton facility is developing processes to create paper and packaging and construction material from barley, flax, hemp, straw, and wheat. Through NuRx Services, ARC assists the nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology industries in the innovation and development of new products.
ARC’s 80-year history of working for and with research and technology is building on its history of taking ideas and turning them into innovative enterprises.
For more information about the Alberta Research Council, visit its website.