Helmholtz funds will help make oilsands cleaner
The U of A, in partnership with the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, is on a five-year mission to drive technological innovations towards cleaner energy production. The provincial grant money is the first major cash injection for the Helmholtz Alberta Initiative, which was formalized in September.
Indira Samarasekera, U of A president, says the university’s researchers will put the money to good use. “We must focus on the here and now, on finding the energy solutions that will be needed for the next generation, which is why the Alberta Helmholtz Initiative is so important.”
The key technological and environmental issues facing oilsands development are also concerns for coal operations in both Alberta and Germany. Technology fixes will be shared by both countries, which Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach says is a positive sign of the way the university and the Helmholtz Association plan to work in concert towards environmental sustainability.
“I am encouraged that leading scientists at both the U of A and Helmholtz Association share the belief that we can achieve a more sustainable global energy future by working on these challenges together,” he said.
Samarasekera added that the province’s commitment to the U of A and a sustainable energy future is welcomed. “The Alberta government’s ecoTrust grant is such a critical and welcomed part of the search for real solutions.”
Alberta’s granting funds come from Ottawa’s ecoTrust program, established in 2007. The federal government has distributed $1.5 billion to the provinces for self-directed spending on clean air and climate change programs.
The U of A is well acquainted with the initiative’s focus on the oilsands, which includes cleaner alternatives to tailings management and developing more efficient methods of reclamation. The university’s expertise, with an annual budget of more than $1.4 billion and attracting more than $498 million in external research funding, will be shared with the 16 research centres that fall under the umbrella of the Helmholtz Association. It is Germany’s largest scientific organization with an annual budget of $2.8 billion euros (C$4.4 billion).