John M. Shaw

John M. Shaw

Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering
University of Alberta

Chair title

NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Petroleum Thermodynamics

Chair program

Industrial Research Chairs program


Senior Chairholder since 2001


Canada is the fifth largest hydrocarbon energy producer in the world. The upstream sector is the largest private sector investor in Canada. Capital spending in the industry totalled $54 billion in 2008, and payments to governments in royalties, fees and taxes were $26 billion. The total employment impact exceeds half a million people and is expected to double by 2050 (source: Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers). This ongoing success is based on hydrocarbon resources such as bitumen and heavy oil and industrial processes we still do not fully understand. Each new insight regarding the fundamental behaviours and properties of bitumen, heavy oil and reservoir fluids spurs innovation in production, transportation and refining, reduces industry costs and environmental impacts, and increases revenues, all contributing materially to the Canadian and global economy. The impact of pure and applied research and development is significant. Greenhouse gas emission intensity, a key indicator of process knowledge, has decreased 40 % over the past 20 years.

Significant efficiency and environmental gains remain to be tapped and knowledgeable staff are needed in the energy sector.

Heavy oil and bitumen are ill-defined hydrocarbon resources. Their phase behaviour and thermophysical and transport properties are complex. Property discovery presents significant experimental and theoretical challenges. The nature and behaviours of these materials – at the diverse length scales and in the varied environments required for their characterization, production, and processing – can only be discovered through coordinated use of diverse experimental and theoretical approaches. Global collaboration, development of new experimental measurement techniques, new materials separation and analysis techniques, and new theory are also key elements in discovery. New process knowledge and new industrial processes will arise from fundamental and applied research achievements made in partnership with industry.

The research planned for the third IRC mandate will build on the discoveries, insights, and materials and process knowledge obtained to date. Our overall goal is to integrate quantitative materials property knowledge and theory from the molecular to the nanometer to the macro scale so that thermophysical properties, transport properties, and phase behaviours identified across these length scales are better understood. Numerous theoretical, experimental and practical challenges are anticipated. As with the current research mandate, the basic and process knowledge obtained will have applications in both high and low temperature production and refining processes for hydrocarbon resources (VAPEX, SAGD and SAGD variants, mining, extraction, off-shore production, conventional reservoir management, de-asphalting and refining operations). We plan to identify and resolve knowledge gaps, and provide quantitative data and models related to knowledge needs for hydrocarbon resources at the molecular, nanometer and macroscopic length scales. Coordinated and collaborative theoretical, computational and experimental projects, including experimental technique and apparatus development, will be pursued.


  • Alberta Innovates - Energy and Environment Solutions
  • British Petroleum
  • ConocoPhillips Canada Inc.
  • NEXEN Inc.
  • Shell Canada Ltd.
  • Total E&P Canada Ltd.
  • Virtual Materials Group Inc.

Contact information

Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering
University of Alberta
Electrical and Computer Engineering Building, room W7-002
22 University Campus Northwest
Edmonton, Alberta
T6G 2G6

Tel.: 780-492-8236

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