Advanced information and communication technologies could help Alberta’s oil and gas industries operate more efficiently, ensuring responsible development that is performed at lower costs. Pedram Mousavi, a professor in the University of Alberta Department of Mechanical Engineering, is working on new intelligent wireless sensors and antennas that would have an impact on the energy industry and would help the province’s growing ICT sector.
Specific challenges the energy industry faces include getting all of the oil or gas from a reservoir. Present technology only allows for a certain percentage of natural resources to be brought to the surface economically. Mousavi says the amount of oil being left in reservoirs worldwide represents the total reserves of a new major oil producing country.
Mousavi and his team are developing sensors and intelligent wireless devices that will connect multiple sensors together, gathering data about an oil well’s operation and the quality of oil it is pumping from the ground. This data would be transmitted in real time to experts off the drilling site, who would be able to react to the information and make real-time decisions about how the well should be operating.
This team is also developing an ultra-wideband radar system to monitor oil in transit on rail cars or in tankers hauled by trucks, or in storage tanks.
The team is also developing antennae and front-end circuits for an emerging 5G network, working on ways to wirelessly power remote sensors, and developing a new type of 3-D printer capable of manufacturing electronic devices, sensors and antennas in one integrated process.
Energy plays a vital role in the global economy and if resource companies were able to access all of the oil or gas in a given reserve, they would be able to produce more energy in a more economical manner.
“The impact of the work we are doing is that it could increase the operational efficiency for companies, meaning lower costs of extracting oil and gas. If you consider the way things are being done right now, it’s very expensive. If we could make a small difference on the cost of one barrel of oil, it would have a huge impact in the long run,” Mousavi says. “We’re also educating a new generation of engineers who have expertise in energy and ICT, to help expand Alberta’s high tech sector.”