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NSERC Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in Oil Sands In-Situ Steam Generation

In order to work with and assist the Canadian oil sands industry in finding pragmatic solutions to the challenges associated with steam generation, SAIT has been awarded an Industrial Research Chair for Colleges (IRCC) in Oil Sands In-Situ Steam Generation. This $1.75-million project is being funded by a $1-million Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) IRCC grant, with additional contributions from Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) and Alberta Innovates. The resulting, unique once-through steam generator (OTSG) lab and applied-research infrastructure at SAIT will solve operational and environmental challenges associated with steam generation for in-situ oil sands.

Dr. Vita Martez, who holds the five-year chair position, is working in partnership with ConocoPhillips and the other members of COSIA to advance a proprietary clean-energy technology for steam generation. Originally developed by ConocoPhillips, this technology is a novel, bare-tube, OTSG that has the potential to make a significant positive impact on environmental performance. This research will result in the next generation of the bare-tube OTSG technology and innovative applied-research findings for in-situ oil sands facilities.

Ultimately, the IRCC will create a unique, world-class applied-research and innovation program that will help energy producers working in the Canadian oil sands make crucial reductions in fresh water usage, increase efficiency in steam/water recycling rates, support cleaner energy production and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  

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Feed and production system of the ConocoPhillips-developed once-through steam generation technology.

Test piping, heaters and touch controllers of original once-through steam generator developed by ConocoPhillips.


The IRCC program, and its associated OTSG laboratory and related applied-research infrastructure, will enable researchers to determine, and solve, the barriers to achieving high-energy efficiency, enhanced steam quality and water recycle, and reduced GHG emissions during in-situ oil sands production . This includes:

  • Partnering with industry and small-to-medium-sized enterprises in implementing energy-efficient clean-energy technologies
  • Providing training and hands-on experiential education through applied research to the next generation of professionals
  • Transferring new technological advancements to accelerate the commercialization of clean technologies and facilitate industry adoption

Research Themes and Services

Once-Through Steam Generation Lab

  • Intellectual property transfer from the first-generation design developed by top-notch scientists and engineers at ConocoPhillips
  • Next-generation, bare-tube OTSG for applied research - the first of its kind in Canada 
  • Steam boiler installation at OTSG laboratory - to be built in SAIT's Johnson-Cobbe Energy Centre

High Temperature and Pressure Testing

  • Energy and water efficiency testing of OTSG for produced water from steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) and other steam processes
  • Chemical instrumentation for real-time quality data acquisition
  • Chemical/environmental analysis for solid deposits in boiler tubes and liquids
  • Process optimization, process control and advanced simulation

Clean Technology Testing

  • Feed-water treatment technology validation (ceramic, polytetraflouroethylene (PTFE), nanofiltration (NF), reverse osmosis (RO), electrodialysis (ED) membranes) for water recycle with small-to-medium-sized enterprises, technology providers and industry 
  • Real-time sensor measurement, including programmable logic controller (PLC), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), etc.
  • Proactive clean technologies such as low-carbon tie-ins and natural gas decarbonization
  • Reactive clean technologies such as carbon dioxide waste-to-resource strategies and drone- and mobile-lab-based GHG emissions monitoring and measurement
  • Boiler/evaporator blowdown waste management


The expertise available through the IRCC program is diverse, with all researchers and faculty contributing their own unique skills and experiences. SAIT is also engaging several post-secondary institutions, industry associations, businesses and stakeholders - allowing us to learn, share and contribute to an even greater pool of expertise to solve key 21st-century environmental challenges.

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