January, 2001

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Dr. Govier's Name, Research
And Enthusiasm Flow Onward


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 believed.

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 at once.
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 and partnerships."
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."



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