User:Meagan/Oil Sands


A group of leading energy companies in Alberta are collaborating with the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy (University of Calgary) and the School of Energy & The Environment (University of Alberta) on a new iGEM initiative. Sponsorship is offered in iGEM's "Energy & Environment" track.

Oil Sands Initiative is looking to fund any iGEM-registered teams wanting to do something positive in the world. The projects should appeal to groups working in the "Energy & Environment" track.

To participate simply send an email to iGEM [dot] oilsands @ GMX [dot] com

Biological Solutions for the Oil Sands

The Oil Sands and the Challenges

The Canadian oil sands, located in northern Alberta, contain the second-largest recoverable oil reserves in the world (after Saudi Arabia's). The oil sands are an important, secure and reliable energy source for North America and abroad, but their sustainable development presents challenges.

Bitumen is a heavy viscous form of crude oil, with a consistency similar to peanut butter at room temperature. The vast majority of oil sands deposits are too deep to mine from the surface (called in situ deposits. A common way of recovering this bitumen is to burn natural gas to produce steam, which is injected into the reservoir to heat and loosen the bitumen so it flows into producing wells.

A smaller percentage of the oil sands resource lies within 75 metres of the surface. These deposits are mined and the bitumen is extracted using hot water and chemicals. Typically, 90 per cent of the water from mining operations is reused and the remaining 10 per cent (contaminated with fine clays, small amounts of hydrocarbons and other compounds) go to tailing ponds.

After bitumen is recovered, it is either pre-processed (called "upgrading") which burns more natural gas, or a diluting agent is added so the product can be shipped via pipeline for further refining. Breakthrough energy saving processes are sought to reduce the environmental impacts of oil sands extraction, upgrading and refining. Biological processes are particularly attractive, since bitumen itself is the result of past biological activity.

There are two rounds available for proposals, which must be received by either May 1 or June 14, 2010 at 16:00 MST

For application form and more information email: igem.oilsands AT

Global Energy Context

The world's demand for energy is forecast to double by 2035 as countries develop higher living standards that increase their per capita energy consumption. Electricity, transportation, heating and cooling homes, clothing, plastics, etc. all use fossil fuels. Until we find reliable, cost-effective alternative sources to keep up with our increasing demand, we will continue to rely on oil. Alberta's oil sands will continue to play an important role in meeting energy demand.

"Energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy will certainly help to address the challenge of climate change. But fossil fuels will continue to dominate global energy systems in the near future and we must quickly transition these fossil energy systems to greatly reduced and, ideally, zero carbon emission."

-Steve Larter, Canada Research Chair, University of Calgary

To make the oil sands truly sustainable, the industry needs more energy-efficient, cost-effective extraction, upgrading and refining that has minimal environmental impacts. This requires investment in a new technology such as synthetic biology, which has the potential to transform the oil sands industry and significantly reduce its environmental footprint.

    What's in it for YOU?
  • Get sponsorship for your team.
  • Generate exciting iGEM project ideas.
  • Receive oil sands samples available to all participants upon request (you may also work with existing microbial strains).
  • Network with petroleum industry leaders.