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2007-2008 Project List

Project 1) Shell Canada - Calgary

Shell Canada would like the Queen's TEAM group to investigate the applicability of a "dry" cooling system for use on future Upgraders at the Shell Scotford site near Edmonton Alberta. 

Shell is in the early stages of designing its next round of expansions to be constructed at Scotford. Those expansions include atmospheric and vacuum distillation, residue hydro conversion, hydrogen manufacture, sulphur recovery, gasifiers and possible a cogen. An assembly of this process equipment is referred to as an "upgrader." 

Existing upgraders typically use conventional recirculating water via evaporative cooling towers to remove low grade heat from upgrader processes. Water availability is becoming a significant social, political and environmental issue. Evaporative losses from the cooling tower and blowdown to remove salts and chemicals represent a significant use of water.

Completely closed loop industrial scale cooling water systems do exist in some petroleum refineries, including Shell, but in arid countries. None exist in Canada. Such systems are likely more expensive to build but may have offsetting costs such as reduced maintenance expenses due to lower corrosion rates and less fouling. Approach temperatures, especially for processes containing C3 to C6 substances may be higher than for an evaporative system which in turn leads to higher process pressures. This short coming may be addressed using industrial chillers. LiBr based systems have been used for this type of service where their is surplus low grade steam, a condition typical of upgraders and refineries. (Note, LiBr chillers work on the high endothermic heat of dilution for that salt.)

The project should explore the suitability of a closed cooling water system as a substitute for evaporative cooling. At least three cases could be considered.

Case one - determine achievable summertime approach temperatures without chillers and what that would mean to process pressures. This scenario assumes conventional waste water treatment and discharge. In other words, cooling tower blowdown, along with accumulated salts and chemicals are treated and discharged.

Case two- same as case one but installation of chillers to provide reduced approach temperatures to sensitive process units. Note, chillers will not be required for all cooling water services, only those that need low approach temperatures. The latter is typically a summertime issue which can lead to reduced throughput on high temperature, high humidity days. This scenario assumes conventional waste water treatment and discharge. In other words, cooling tower blowdown, along with accumulated salts and chemicals are treated and discharged.

Case three - is the same as case one and two except that cooling tower blowdown is treated to remove salts (reverse osmosis, evaporation and crystallization). This case is to be evaluated to determine the cost savings or offsets that could be achieved if the upgraders could no longer discharge salts.

Capital and operating costs, engineering challenges, industry experience (prototypes) and operability for each case will need to be developed. An energy balance should also be completed to determine how much low grade steam would be needed for the LiBr chillier option or how much energy would be required for a conventional Carnot cycle base refrigeration plant.

The project will examine various technical, economic, legal and environmental aspects of evaporative cooling compared to a completely closed cooling system.

(discipline mix: chem, mech, law, business)

Project 2) Nova Chemicals - Sarnia -

Nova Chemicals has model predictive control (MPC) implemented on eleven cracking heaters at their Olefins plant in Sarnia, Ontario.  The control uses Process Perfecter Advanced Control software marketed by Pavilion Technologies. 

The primary control objective is to maximize heater rates to a limitation in the recovery section (coldside) of the plant.  There is an opportunity to further maximize rates.  The improvement can be achieved by adjusting cracking temperatures to transfer production from the most heavily loaded units in the cold side to units that have excess capacity. 

This project involves:

  • Calculate theoretical sensitivity of coldside unit feedrates to cracking temperature for each of the major units in the coldside of the plant.  The sensitivity will depend on cracking heater diet.
  • Collect operating data to calculate measured sensitivity of coldside unit feedrates to cracking temperature.
  • Evaluate whether theoretical and measured sensitivities agree.  Determine which sensitivities are well defined and which require testing to accurately measure.
  • Recommend a strategy for plant testing to obtain poorly defined sensitivities.
  • Provide recommendations on how relative unit loading should be defined in the control strategy.

discipline mix (chem)


Project 3) Bantrel – Toronto -

Streamline the adoption process of new and existing technologies within the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) Environment

Bantrel is a world leader in incorporating technological advances (i.e., 3D Modeling, integrated databases, audio/visual communication etc.) into our Engineering, Procurement and Construction work processes. Due, however, to the dynamic nature of our work and the fast-paced environment within which our employees function, an investigation into how we can create greater efficiencies in adopting new and improving the usage of existing technologies is expected to provide significant benefit. This investigation will examine specific technologies currently in use, as well as new technologies not yet adopted, and will consider employee behaviours surrounding the technology adoption process.

discipline mix (chem, mech, business)

Project 4) Merck& Co. - New Jersey (website)

The presence of trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in the environment (PIE) is a concern to industry, regulators, policy makers, community groups, and patients. There is currently a large research effort addressing the fate and effects of pharmaceuticals in the environment. Much of the work done to study the fate of pharmaceuticals in the environment has been carried out in laboratory systems designed to mimic the natural environment. These systems have primarily focused on abiotic transformation processes (e.g., hydrolysis, photolysis) and biotic transformation processes. Pharmaceuticals are only one of numerous compounds that are present in the environment. Therefore, it is anticipated that a body of knowledge already exists on the fate of non-pharmaceuticals in the environment. This project will be a feasibility analysis to determine if data does exist in the peer-reviewed literature on the fate of non-pharmaceutical molecules in the environment (with a focus on the aquatic environment). If the data does exist, how can it be leveraged to shed light on the mechanisms that determine the fate of pharmaceuticals in the environment? The idea is to leverage the information on non-pharmaceuticals in the environment to refine existing or design new laboratory systems to assess the fate of pharmaceuticals in the environment. Some questions to be asked are what degradation mechanisms (both abiotic and biotic) are responsible for transforming other classes of molecules? What degradation mechanisms and sequestering mechanisms do persistent and bioaccumulative non-pharmaceutical molecules undergo in the environment? Can we leverage existing knowledge about bio-remediation to learn more about the degradation of pharmaceuticals? Can the information available on non-pharmaceuticals be used to improve wastewater treatment systems so that pharmaceuticals are degraded in the treatment plant before they enter the environment?

(discipline mix: chem, mech, law, business)

Project 5) Alberta Energy Utilities Board - Calgary - (website)

High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) pipelines are frequently used to carry gas, oil and well production fluids in the Alberta oilpatch. There is sometimes hydrogen sulphide (H2S) gas present in these production fluids

During the 2006-2007 term, Phase 1 of a TEAM project was conducted where the student team did research to determine the science behind the gas permeation of polymers, and theorize how gas permeation would be influenced by operating conditions of the pipeline. Further research also attempted to investigate how the transmission of H2S into soils and groundwaters might affect the localized environment around a HDPE pipeline. It was hoped to experimentally verify some of these assumptions by performing actual permeation measurements in the laboratory. A test apparatus was built but unfortunately was not completed in time for the practical work to be performed. This equipment should be available for use in this Phase 2 project. A report of the Phase 1 work was completed and is available for review.

For this term, it is proposed to do Phase 2 of this project: The first goal is to develop a testing protocol, and conduct lab testing of H2S permeation through the HDPE pipe to substantiate the theoretical conclusions of the Phase 1 work. A second goal is to continue development of environmental effects knowledge by conducting practical experiments exposing soils/groundwater to H2S at concentrations simulating those that might be expected from pipe permeation and evaluating for physical change and effects on vegetation or groundwater. The ultimate objective of this work is to gather necessary knowledge to propose whether limitations are necessary on the amount of H2S that should be allowed to be carried in buried HDPE pipe in order to have confidence that no detrimental environmental impacts could occur.

discipline mix (chem, mech)

Project 6) DuPont Canada - Kingston

The DuPont Research Development and Engineering center in Kingston is developing a process for making a new polymer from renewable raw materials. The current production process is batch but there is an increasing need to define potential options for a continuous process. Given some information on reaction rates, cycle times, quality and volume requirements we would like for a TEAM to research suitable unit operations, and develop flowsheet concept designs that would maximize the productivity to cost ratio and minimize capital investment. It is expected that the "plant design" aspect of this project needs to be guided by a strong cost-benefit analysis and that some numerical modeling may be required. The student group, which may include a Queen's University co-op student at DuPont, will work closely with DuPont scientists to develop several concepts, to define the criteria used to rank them, and to recommend piloting for the selected alternatives.

discipline mix (chem, mech, law, business)


Project 7) Queen's - Physical Plant Services - Kingston

(Further details of these projects are contained in this link)

discipline mix (chem, mech)



Project 8) Menova Energy - Ottawa - (Menova Energy went bankrupt in 2012, their website has been taken down)

Menova Energy is developing a Solar Energy based photo-bioreactor system to grow algae to sequester CO2 from combustion exhaust gas.  The process yields, oils for bio-diesel and nutriceuticals, oxygen, and a residual biomass. Several ideas have been advanced for the use of the biomass which can be on the order of 30 to 50% of the total product. One of these ideas is to use the biomass as a solid fuel in power plants for electricity production. This is particularly advantageous if the bioreactor is located at a thermal electric power plant where a supply of CO2 is readily available, and the potential exists to use the biomass as fuel without further transportation.     The purpose of this project is to evaluate the technical and economic feasibility of such a process.  Project goals include determination of the energy content of the dried biomass, assessment and recommendations of energy efficient processes for drying the biomass and leaving it in a form suitable for combustion.  The combustible form should require minimal adaptation of existing equipment. Equipment required for material handling and storage should also be determined.     The report should include estimates of capital cost of the major required equipment, and estimates of operating labour requirements. Samples of the biomass will be provided so the basic tests can be performed.

discipline mix (chem, mech, business)


Project 9) Imperial Oil - Toronto

The project description is unlikely to be confirmed until after our bidding deadline. However, projects currently being considered will require involvement from all disciplines.

discipline mix (chem, mech, business, law)


Project 10) Davos Pharma - Upper Saddle River, New Jersey -

{due to confidentiality, this description has been left intentionally vague}

The active substance in drugs (API) is generally manufactured using a convergent synthesis approach. The innovator's strategy is to purchase the convergent intermediates (regulatory starting materials - RSM) and assemble the drug at their facility, which is usually in a tax free zone.

The scope of the project is to evaluate the current synthesis for the RSM's of a particular newly launched API. The goal will be to find a potentially new and more competitive route of synthesis through literature search. The project will involve a review of existing patents, technical development of a process, and the development of a business feasibility study.

discipline mix (chem, mech, business, law)


Project 11) Ontario Power Generation - Nuclear Division

Through the bidding process the most popular project will be executed.

11.1. Evaluation of fish passage/fish friendly technologies at hydro plants

11.2. Methods for reducing release of mercury when flooding land areas for reservoirs at hydro plants

11.3. Disposal options for large quantities (hundreds of tons) of creosote treated wood stave penstocks

11.4. Feasibility of installing small in-stream flow hydro turbines in spillways (wasted water) to generate additional output at hydro stations

11.5. Review of central pumped storage opportunities, cost/ benefit, operational strategies, etc in Ontario to help meet peak demand periods.

11.6. Evaluation of technologies available to “green” the design and operation of remote hydroelectric powerhouses (eg., renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency measures, etc)

discipline mix (chem, mech, business, law)


Project 12) IGI International - Toronto -


IGI is a successful Canadian- owned wax refining company based in Toronto.

We have some unique olefin wax materials available and would like to explore the technical and business potential of chemically modifying these materials to provide polarity, by hydroxylation or carboxylation.

The scope of the project would include:

  • Technically identifying the most cost –effective and environmentally preferred method of achieving the functionality.
  •  Determining the market potential for the products
  • Identifying any intellectual property issues or opportunities for the technology

The students would be working together with IGI technical and marketing staff.

discipline mix (chem, mech, business, law)


Project 13) Rimon Therapeutics - Toronto -  

The aim of this project is to develop an evaluation matrix to score Theramer-based product conceptions. A key element of the work will involve developing a strong understanding of the technical, business, and legal aspects of these products. The deliverable will be a user friendly spreadsheet/database to rank products based on the underlying technology, market issues, prospective partners, IP position, regulatory issues, product development hurdles, and other relevant factors. The scoring system will be validated with a number of real-life Rimon examples for which the team will have to conduct research and use their evaluation matrix.

The students will work closely with one member from Rimon’s technical team and one member from Rimon’s business development team.

This project will require a team with a good mix of technical, marketing, legal and business expertise.

discipline mix (chem, mech, business, law)


Project 14) Cangene - Toronto -

Provide a conceptual layout and budget costs for a flexible biopharmaceutical clinical manufacturing plant to produce sterile bulk product. The project is a retrofit of an existing 4,500 sq. ft. area within an existing pharmaceutical manufacturing facility. The clinical manufacturing plant should be flexible in design to process both bacterial fermentation and mammalian cell line produced products as well as downstream purification operations to produce a bulk active pharmaceutical ingredient. Consideration will be given, as a minimum, to plant layout and budget and may also, depending on the composition of the team, encompass consideration of Intellectual Property and License issues surrounding expression technologies and methods of manufacture. In addition the scope of the project can include consideration of market evaluation and requirements for the proposed drug substances, determining the output requirements of the facility.

The facility under consideration is in Winnipeg, Manitoba and site visit(s) will be required to that location.

discipline mix (chem, mech, business, law)


Project 15) Kinder Morgan Canada, Inc. – Groundwater Remediation - Calgary/Jasper

Kinder Morgan Canada is a leader in the petroleum transportation industry. The company transports over 680,000 barrels per day of petroleum products to markets in Western Canada, the United States and offshore.

Currently, KMC is remediating a historical hydrocarbon release from one of its facilities near Jasper, Alberta using a pump and treat groundwater remediation technology. Electric pumps are installed in 5 recovery wells across the site with water being piped back to a central storage tank for treatment. The water is then treated using an oil/water separator, bag filters and an air stripper unit and is subsequently returned to the subsurface through an infiltration gallery. One of the major issues with the treatment technology is fouling of the down hole pumps, the air stripper unit, the system piping and the infiltration galleries. The goal for this project would be to determine cost effective methods for eliminating or reducing the amount of fouling on the various system components. The project may involve the following:
• Tour of remediation system and collection of fouling samples;
• Chemical analysis of fouling samples; and,
• Proposal of potential methods for reducing or eliminating fouling based on lab findings and background research.

discipline mix (chem, mech)


Project 16) Woodbridge Foam - Toronto - (website)


There is a world glut of Glycerin created as a by-product of the Biodiesel Fuel Manufacturing Processes.

Consequently, the price of glycerin is tumbling down very fast every day.


Woodbridge Foam Corporation is very much interested in using Glycerin as a platform for a cheap raw material or materials that can be used, in relatively large quantities, for the manufacturing of Polyurethane Foam.


Glycerin is a relatively small molecule with three hydroxyl groups : Two are primary and chemically equivalent and the third hydroxyl group is second

discipline mix (chem, mech, business, law)

Project 17) Monteco - Toronto - (website)

The subject technology is a facilitated transport membrane technology for olefin / paraffin separation. The incumbent technology that is targeted is the cryogenic distillation technology used in the recovery process in olefins production plants. There is a very significant opportunity to greatly reduce the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the cryogenic distillation unit operation in these plants. The technology underwent almost two years of lab scale testing at the Nova Research Centre in Calgary where promising observations were made. The current project that we are undertaking is intended to pick up where the work to date left off and to work towards industrial demonstration of the technology.

The overall objectives of the in the near term are to further validate the capability of the fundamental olefin / paraffin separation technology to withstand the varied conditions of industrial application, to develop methods and apparatus to scale up the technology and to demonstrate the viability of the technology at pilot scale. These are key next steps towards achieving significant reductions in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in one of the most energy intensive unit operations in the production of the highest volume petrochemicals. Ultimately, Imtex intends to supply equipment based on this technology for full scale applications.

This facilitated transport membrane technology is being developed for use primarily in ethylene and propylene production and potentially in the production of higher olefins as well. It is based on a proprietary polymer and transport facilitation agent formulation that allows olefin transport while rejecting paraffins. Although lab scale membrane synthesis and test results have been encouraging, there is still significant technical uncertainty surrounding the ability to scale up the membrane manufacturing, the process control and conditions required for operational longevity in industrial applications and how to prepare suitable membrane modules and related apparatus. Significant innovation is required in these areas for the membrane technology to be viable.

Olefins, and ethylene and propylene in particular, are the highest volume petrochemicals produced and among the widest ranging in application. Significant economic and environmental benefits will be derived from the implementation of the membrane technology through much greater energy efficiency and resultant reduction in GHG emissions. There are over 500 ethylene and propylene production plants in the world today and much new capacity is currently at various stages of development, particularly in the Middle East and Asia. Nova Chemicals and Union Carbide / Dow have significant production capacity in Canada. The largest volume site in the world is Nova’s Joffre, AB facility. Using this site as an example, calculations based on high level estimates show that the cost of energy specifically for the ethylene recovery process at this site alone is $73.6MM USD per year. Very conservatively, if the energy involved at this process stage is reduced by 75% through the replacement of cryogenic distillation with the new membrane technology, then the energy savings would be $55.2MM USD per year. On a similar basis, GHG emissions would be reduced by 193,270 tonnes per year or the equivalent of $4.8MM USD per year in carbon credits. The global impact is very large considering that the Joffre site provides just 2.4% of the current global ethylene production capacity. The impact is further multiplied when the production of propylene and other olefins is factored in.

TEAM Opportunity:

Some of the numbers and assumptions above are quite rough. It is important for us to gain a very clear understanding of the incumbent technology. A project for your group could consist of some important aspects of clarifying the picture:

Defining the envelope of process applications and equipment that the new technology would need to replace. This will help us define the scope limits of our ultimate product offering and even in understanding the target specifications of pilot equipment. 
Analyzing and calculating the actual energy consumption related to the incumbent technology and contrasting this with calculated estimates for the new technology based on the scope limits defined in the work above. 
Calculating the typical capital cost of the existing process equipment that would be replaced by the new technology. 
Define the typical industry standards and specifications relevant to the type of equipment proposed. 
Specifying the ancillary equipment around the new membrane systems with operability, safety and compliance with typical industry standards in mind. 
Identify C4 and higher olefins potential niche applications for the membrane technology, including:

1. Identify the existing processes in each application; technical scope and market size and description.

2. Evaluate the opportunity for the membrane technology to replace them with specifications, scope of design, etc.

3. Develop an economic analysis for each opportunity; scope out the potential savings.

discipline mix (chem, mech, business, law)


Project 18) Provident Energy Ltd. - Calgary - (Provident Energy merged with Pembina Energy Ltd. in 2012, their website has been taken down)

The company owns and operates a 65,000 barrel per day fractionation facility in Redwater, Alberta. Part of this fractionation facility involves a de-ethanization step. A refrigeration system is used to condense the hot ethane produced off the top of the de-ethanizer tower, to allow for shipment of liquid ethane to Petrochemical users (such as DOW and Nova Chemicals). The refrigeration system is made up of a 3 unit compression system, using propane as the refrigerant, with total compression of approximately 4,000hp. The goal of this project is to determine:

A)How efficient is the unit operating today? How does this compare with the design for the process?

B)What can be done with the existing equipment to increase efficiency?

C)Are there any other fixes that involve change of equipment or refrigerant that will benefit the operation of this unit?

D)With respect to (b) and (c)- develop a justification to proceed with these proposed changes. An attempt to quantify the savings to create a cost:benefit analysis would be an advantage.

discipline mix (chem, mech, business)

Project 19) Covidien (formerly TYCO Healthcare) - Montreal -

The treatment of cooling towers to control microbial contamination, scale, corrosion and fouling is typically performed using chemicals. These chemicals end up in the environment through blowdown and water mist. Alternative non-chemical treatments do exist in the marketplace but are less known. The project would involve working with the supplier of such systems to study the science behind them, and test/validate/monitor such a system if one were to be installed at this facility.

discipline mix (chem, mech)


Project 20) Axenic, Inc.- Granton On.

Pressure-flow relations for flow of aqueous solutions through Oriented fiber bundles

A limiting step in the large scale manufacturing of biopharmaceuticals is protein purification. At present, this process includes 6-8 unit operations, including several stages of column chromatography, which are the rate-limiting steps. In column chromatography, a column, typically 1 meter in diameter and 30 cm tall, is packed with absorbent beads in the diameter range of 0.1mm to 0.01mm. The aqueous solution containing a mixture of proteins including the desired protein is passed through the bed at the flow rate resulting from hydrostatic pressure. Higher pressures are not allowed because of the compressibility of the beads. Typically, the volume of protein mixture is in the order of 10,000L, and the time for a given chromatographic step in the order of 10 – 20 hours. The process is an on-and-off absorption and elution, with the desirable protein being absorbed from the initial solution, and selectively desorbed by elution with another solution of, for instance, higher salt concentration.

The following experiment is designed to give insight into one possible approach to improving the time required for such a unit operation.

If fibers with the same absorptive properties as the beads were oriented vertically in a tube so that the total surface area was the same as the packed bed of beads and the fluid flow was in the same direction as the length of the fibers, it would be reasonable to assume the following:
1) The absorption capacity would be the same as the bed of packed beads, since the surface area is the same, 
2) The fluid flow would be much higher since the flow path would be essentially straight instead of the tortuous flow through the packed bed of beads.

The primary objectives of this TEAM project are:
1) To make model columns of oriented fiber bundles suitable for this purpose, using several fiber types and diameters
2) To make comparable packed bead columns of the same materials as the fibers
3) To make measurements of the relation between pressure and flow rate for each type of system, taking into account fiber diameters, packing densities, liquid viscosity, surface tension, and other factors that could affect flow or absorption.
4) To develop a predictive model of parallel laminar flow through oriented fiber bundles and compare the model to models for flow through packed beds of beads
5) If a suitable experimental model system can be found, perform an absorption-desorption process to demonstrate the feasibility of using oriented fibers for chromatographic separations.
6) Make an assessment of the feasibility of developing such systems and give the advantages and disadvantages of this approach.

discipline mix (chem, mech, ...)

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