Dr. Govier's Name, Research
And Enthusiasm Flow Onward
BY GEORGE LEE
Chopping the air with arms, hands and adverbs, rattling off explanations
like machine gun fire, Dr. Petre Toma, P.Eng., expresses an unbridled
enthusiasm for the flow and sensor centre. The man he leads through the
Alberta Research Council's newest addition to its Edmonton Research Park
address is none other than Dr. George Govier, P.Eng., whose name the centre
carries and whose groundwork many years ago made all this possible. On
this day the dapper Dr. Govier, sporting a polka-dot bow tie to complement
a full head of snow-white hair, is definitely amused.
"I'm very impressed with the facility. I'm sure some great research
will come out of it," says the APEGGA life member and its 1958 president.
But 83-year-old Dr. Govier seems just as happy with his tour guide, an
ARC expert in fluid dynamics, as he is with the array of microscopes,
computer screens and gurgling green goop. "We also need a lot more
people like Petre, who are enthusiastic about their work."
The work. At the George W. Govier Centre for Flow and Sensor Technologies,
it's all about complex flow systems. Finding the stuff is one thing. Refining
and developing it are another. But packing it together and moving it safely
and efficiently through pipes, vertically or horizontally? That's a science
all its own -- one revolutionized by Dr. Govier about 30 years ago, when
he insisted that a complex flow shouldn't be viewed as an homogeneous
mix. Rather, it's a map of different and identifiable patterns, Dr. Govier
Western Partnership Money at Work
These days, a lot of new dollars are backing Dr. Govier's vision. Built
with $3.98 million in federal and provincial money, through the Canada/Alberta
Western Economic Partnership Agreement, the centre is designed to test
and develop equipment and production methods using complex flow systems.
Its equipment and expertise are applied to laboratory and field testing
of a large variety of industrial fluids -- gas, water, heavy crudes, slurries,
steam and more.
Field work is important, the 200 industry, government, media and other
people attending the Nov. 16 unveiling hear. That's why the equipment
at the Govier Centre is modular and mobile: it can be loaded up, transported
and put back together in the real world.
Modular and mobile are two of the Ms in what the research council calls
an MMM facility. Add the word "multi-phase," and the third M
is in place. Multi-phase is the key to a complex flow, and it means that
various materials in various forms -- liquid, gas, solid -- are shipped
The three Ms are a direct response to industry. One of the companies that
stands to gain is Syncrude Canada Ltd., says Wayne McKee, P.Eng., Syncrude's
manager of research. Syncrude just built a facility next to ARC in the
research park in south Edmonton. "We're very close neighbours. You
could say we're just over the fence," says Mr. McKee.
Fences, however, have never been a part of the relationship Syncrude and
ARC enjoy. It's been more about open doors and partnerships. The Alberta
Research Council has played a "key role" in oilsands development,
as well as many other oil and gas industries, Mr. McKee says. "Industry
has a large stake in what happens here."
Part of Knowledge-Based Economy
Jim Fleury, acting assistant deputy minister of Western Economic Diversification,
carries it further: the whole province has a stake. Industry, and the
provincial and the federal governments are "working together to sustain
our economic, social and environmental well-being," Mr. Fleury says.
"Together we are building our economic future through excellence
Adds the Hon. Lorne Taylor, Alberta's science and innovation minister:
"The government of Alberta has long recognized the important role
that research plays in our drive for future success in a knowledge-based
economy. This facility and the work that will be done here will play a
part in that success."
John McDougall, P.Eng., ARC's managing director and CEO, says: "This
new facility is a leading example of how we work to add value to our customers'
products and services, by proving new technologies and facilitating their
introduction to the marketplace."
That's what the centre, today and tomorrow, is all about. But what happened
yesterday? Dr. George W. Govier's name is indeed an important one to attach
to the centre. You could even say Dr. Govier wrote the book on complex
flows. An industrious researcher, he's the senior author of an oft-cited
engineering textbook, The Flow of Complex Mixtures in Pipes.
A Distinguished Research Career
Dr. Govier joined the University of Alberta in 1940, serving as the founding
chairman of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering (1948-1959)
and as the dean of engineering (1959-1963). A native of Nanton, Dr. Govier
was the chairman of the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board from
1962 until 1975. He's won many distinguished awards, including two honorary
degrees. And he's an officer of the Order of Canada.
But the enthusiasm of other people -- the kind his tour guide, Petre Toma,
expresses today -- had a lot to do with Dr. Govier's success. "I
realize now that to be a good professor, what I did was surround myself
with talented engineering students. I had them do all the work and then
I shared the credit with them."