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University Research Awards

Awards for specific research projects are made to full-time faculty members to support research work carried out by university students under their direction.

For more than a decade, this program has provided funding for research projects carried out by faculty members and their students. In 2017, we invested $500,000 to sponsor 20 projects at 10 universities across Canada.   

Areas of interest


  • Remediation of soil impacted by recalcitrant petroleum hydrocarbons, salts (mostly NaCl) or both, to as close to pristine conditions as possible.
  • Improved delineation of soil impacted by petroleum hydrocarbons, salts or both.
  • Boreal forest wetland reclamation
  • Fundamental understanding of the interactions of minerals and residual hydrocarbon in the aqueous phase and what causes enhanced separation (e.g., use of additives such as polymers).
  • Enhancements in SOx, NOx reduction technologies

In-situ bitumen recovery

  • Bitumen-hydrocarbon-steam phase behaviors (VLLE) with temperature and pressure variation (up to > 200°C)
  • Formation of hydrates upon depressurization of C2-C3-C1-bitumen-HC mixtures
  • Miscible and partially miscible finger modeling (using macroscopic parameters)
  • Mass transfer in solvent finger/bitumen matrix networks (diffusion and dispersion)
  • Modeling of heat and mass transfer boundary layers in steam-thermal-solvent processes
  • Modeling of asphaltene or asphaltene-rich heavy phase transport in heavy oil recovery process 

In-situ facilities

  • Improvements in multiphase pumps, novel water softening, water hardness analyzers, waste heat utilization, external heat source engines, abrasion resistant materials

Analytical Techniques for petroleum products

  • In-use online analysis of petroleum products
  • Failure modes of in-service petroleum products
  • Failure modes of industrial components that are lubricated with petroleum products
  • Forensic analysis of lubricants and related industrial equipment
  • Analytical techniques for new and used lubricants

Refinery products, processes and facilities

  • Novel approaches for the removal of sulphur, phosphorous and nitrogen from hydrocarbon streams
  • Improved understanding of fouling and corrosion mechanisms in process equipment both hydrocarbon and inorganic, and means to mitigate same
  • Novel approaches for quality enhancements for fuel products, oxygenate containing fuel products, and asphalts
  • Improvements in yields, run lengths, and molecular composition of product streams in refinery processing equipment
  • Improved production of basestocks from crudes
  • Breakthrough technology for energy efficiency improvement in refinery processing equipment, namely fired heaters and heat exchanger
  • Enhanced process control system - modeling of refinery systems (improved molecular characterization, reaction kinetics, hydrodynamic modeling)
  • Novel techniques for water conservation within a modern refinery
  • Novel techniques to predict cold flow properties of fuels from feed qualities and operating conditions in fixed bed reactors
  • Novel quench system designs for fixed bed reactors providing uniform fluid flow and quick installation and inspection


  • Improvements related to polyethylene manufacturing
  • Improvements related to polyethylene products particularly polyethylene for injection and rotational molding applications
  • Improvements related to ethane/propane gas cracking to produce ethylene
  • Improvements related to manufacturing of vinyl intermediates, aromatics and naphtha based solvents

Some potential areas include:

  • Investigate the effect of different bio sources in biofuels (gas and diesel) on polyethylene physical properties
  • Investigate and improve the organoleptic properties of polyethylene
  • Investigate methods to improve the barrier properties of rotational and injection molded parts
  • Investigate methods to improve the paintability of rotational and injection molded parts
  • Explore applications of polyethylene combined with bio-based materials
  • Investigate methods to evaluate and improve the Environmental Stress Crack Resistance performance of polyethylene
  • Safe transfer of synthetic polymer particles and dust properties
  • Investigation into and new methods to characterize the long term performance of polyethylene


  • Diagenetic history, cementation, clay formation, burial history and petrographic studies of the McMurray Fm to determine the variation in ore quality
  • Emplacement variability and degradation of Northern Alberta bitumen using novel approaches
  • Resolve the stratigraphy and sedimentology of Post Cretaceous sediments in the Athabasca region
  • Applications of remote sensing to mine development
  • Investigation of mud sedimentation in shallow water clastic depositional environments
  • Modeling of oil migration pathways through the Palaeozoic sediments of the Athabasca basin
  • Application of geophysical methods in predicting oil sands reservoir properties

Additional Info - Researchers interested in work on oil sands (including extraction, mining, upgrading, tailings, materials) should review the Institute for Oil Sands Innovation website ( and apply directly to IOSI for funding. 

Similarly, researchers interested in working on innovative solutions to improve environmental performance in the oil sands should review the Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance website (

Criteria for selection

The awards are funded by Imperial Oil Resources Limited and Imperial Oil, a partnership of Imperial Oil Limited and McColl-Frontenac Petroleum Inc ("Imperial Oil").

Award winners are chosen by Imperial Oil. The selection committee considers business relevance of the proposed research, opportunities for knowledge transfer and potential significance of results to the company. Preference will be given to self-contained research projects, although projects delving into a definitive segment of broader research will be considered.

How to apply

Application for a new award shall be made on the application form for university research awards. Although individual faculty members may take the initiative to apply, each application must be endorsed by the authorities of the participating university

A progress report (as part of the renewal form) is required at the end of the year for which an award has been received. Failure to submit a report acceptable to the selection committee will prevent award renewal. The renewal form must be submitted to the selection committee contact.

Applications must be submitted by December 15.

Recipients will be notified in February; funding begins in March.

Successful award applicants and their universities will be required to sign the non-negotiable terms and conditions of the award.

For more information, contact:

University Affairs Administrator
Imperial Oil Limited
Research Department
453 Christina Street South
Sarnia, Ontario
N7T 8C8

Tel: (519) 339-2298
Fax: (519) 339-4436