ISEEE looks forward

By Nawar Belah

Apart from being a proud sponsor of the University of Calgary’s solar car project, the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy has a busy agenda to meet over the next few years.

ISEEE Managing Director, Dr. Robert Mansell stressed the U of C has some core strengths in various departments and faculties, which the institute is building on.

“Perhaps not surprising, being located in the energy capital of Canada, we already have strengths in the areas of energy and the environment. [ISEEE] will provide leadership and coordination for energy and environment related initiatives at the U of C. I see it as a vehicle for better integrating research, education and policy in these areas.”

ISEEE has recently set in place its five-year business plan calling for the fulfillment of a number of key milestones, including the development and equipment of the new ISEEE building, the procurement of further funding, and bringing forth tangible progress in energy and environment related research.

ISEEE was established in 2003 with a mission catering to collaboration and integration between the numerous degree programs in energy and environment offered at the U of C. The institute comes as an answer to a call for innovative, technically sound, and environmentally conscious solutions to the challenges faced by Alberta’s energy industry.

“Shrinking reserves of oil and gas, shifts in the geopolitical landscape and environmental concerns are all challenges limiting the energy industry. At the same time, a wealth of opportunities exists in developing innovative and cleaner ways to tap energy resources in Canada,” said Dr. Mansell.

ISEEE is currently being run out of the Calgary Center for Innovative Technology building on campus, located west of Engineering Block D. Work on the development and completion of the new building is running in phases.

The complete building will provide research and education space for ISEEE’s research teams, faculty, students and support staff working on energy related projects. Research teams will carry out work in the institute’s four areas of research focus, advanced recovery and upgrading, sustainable petroleum development technologies, Carbon management and water management.

Dr. Mansell explained that the completion of the building would have several implications for U of C students and faculty.

“You will see new programs in the areas of energy, environment and economy. ISEEE is very much focused on building capacity and quality. This translates into more resources for faculty and staff, equipment and space, and this will benefit all students in existing and new programs. At the graduate level, you will see more research opportunities and more funding for graduate students.”

The new building will create nearly 1,000 new student spaces including 600 seats open for graduate students, 350 for undergraduate students and 50 for new faculty across disciplines. While graduates will be involved in research efforts, undergraduates will have some exposure to research and will get an opportunity to get involved in educational activities through their faculties.

“[The building] will constitute a major new facility on campus,” stressed Mansell. “As we become recognized as a premier institution in the world for energy and environment research, this as well will certainly help our students get the best jobs.”

Another critical item on ISEEE’s agenda is the provision of long-term funding needed to fulfill the institute’s vision of clean and innovative energy. The institute has estimated a total of $500 million in funds required over the five-year business plan timeline.

Alberta Ingenuity announced $9 million in funds for the new Alberta Ingenuity Centre for In Situ Energy. Another $3 million was granted for a number of initiatives in areas such as advanced recovery of conventional oil and unconventional gas, and water and carbon management. In August, Alberta Energy announced a $1 million government grant to ISEEE, while the Alberta Energy Research Institute has advanced around $2.3 million in funding to support a number of key research projects.

Moreover, ISEEE has entered a formal agreement among the U of C, University of Alberta and University of Lethbridge to spearhead coordination of research efforts on sustainable energy, environment and economy. A critical part of this agreement is the National Institute for Sustainable Development Technologies, which involves $65 million of shared federal and provincial funding over five years.

So far, ISEEE has secured $51 million in its budget. This constitutes ten per cent of the total funds sought after.

“Initial funding to get the programs started is in place,” said Mansell. “What we now require is longer-term program funding.”

The institute will also be looking to add three new research chairs, including two in the near future.

“In some areas, we already have in place internationally renowned champions and leaders,” said Mansell. “In other areas, we have some very good people, but certainly not the critical mass or capacity we need.”

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