NAIT celebrates opening of new boreal research facility
NAIT is developing innovative technologies to reclaim abandoned oil and gas well sites in northwest Alberta. This research is being conducted in NAIT’s new Boreal Research Institute facility. NAIT celebrated the opening of the office, laboratory and greenhouse complex today.
“As a leading polytechnic in applied research for forest reclamation, public education and industry training in Alberta’s boreal region, NAIT is committed to developing sustainable solutions with our industry partners,” said NAIT President and CEO Dr. Glenn Feltham. “With the new facility, the institute is able to expand essential research in well site reclamation while promoting stewardship of the boreal forest.”
In Alberta, oil and gas companies are responsible for reclaiming well sites that have reached the end of their lifespan, so the sites blend into the surrounding forest. Currently, there is a lack of knowledge and supply of native plants for large-scale reclamation. This is where NAIT is focusing its boreal research efforts. Staff are performing field research and investigating various seed collection, storage and planting techniques, using native plant species.
Since moving into the facility last fall, NAIT researchers have initiated germination trials on a variety of boreal tree, shrub, and forb species, which will help commercial greenhouses and industry better understand re-vegetation requirements. Trials on forbs such as fireweed and aster are underway and hold promise as a natural ground cover for well sites.
“Our government recognizes the importance of science, technology and innovation to create jobs and improve the quality of life for Canadians,” said the Honourable Ed Holder, federal Minister of State (Science and Technology). “NAIT’s Boreal Research Institute will create positive economic and environmental impacts in Alberta by developing our resources responsibly.”
“Reclaiming industrially disturbed lands to natural forest conditions is a critical and challenging research area for Canada,” said Canada Foundation for Innovation President and CEO Dr. Gilles Patry. “NAIT’s Boreal Research Institute is already a leader in this field. The new facilities opening today will allow researchers here to continue to work at the leading-edge to find solutions for the sustainability of important Canadian industries.”
“The Boreal Research Institute has incredible potential to help Alberta develop sustainable solutions that will enhance and accelerate our reclamation efforts,” said the Honourable Frank Oberle, MLA for Peace River and Minister of Aboriginal Relations. “Our government was proud to partner with NAIT and industry, as we know that research and innovation are key to building a stronger and more innovative Alberta.”
The 9,000-square-foot facility includes two laboratories, office space for 15 people and a three-bay greenhouse. Before moving into the facility staff worked at three offices in Peace River and used greenhouses as far as 600 kilometres away.
“There’s nothing else in northwest Alberta that approximates a research greenhouse or lab, certainly not in the forest and reclamation areas,” said Hugh Seaton, director of the Boreal Research Institute.
The total cost of the project was $4.4 million, including facilities and research equipment. Approximately half the funding came from NAIT. Support was provided by the Government of Canada, through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) ($800,000) and Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education ($800,000). Key industry partners include Shell Canada Limited and Penn West.
The NAIT Boreal Research Institute was established in 1995 in partnership with the forest industry. While maintaining its forestry partners, the institute has diversified to become a leader in the reclamation of oil and gas sites.
The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) is a leading Canadian polytechnic, delivering education in science, technology and the environment; business; health and trades. With more than 60,000 credit and non-credit students and a 98 per cent employer satisfaction rate, NAIT grads are essential to Alberta’s prosperity. Known for hands-on, technology-based learning, NAIT engages with business and industry in applied research and innovation and provides corporate training around the world. Recognized as one of Alberta’s top employers, NAIT provides outstanding returns on investment for its graduates, partners, the provincial government and the people of Alberta.
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