UAlberta tapped to help develop Mexico energy sector

Long-standing relationship and province’s renown in hydrocarbon research at the heart of $16-million collaboration.


The University of Alberta and the Mexican government signed a memorandum of understanding Dec. 4 that will act as the blueprint for a $16-million long-term partnership that promises to help Mexico grow and improve its burgeoning hydrocarbon sector.

This agreement comes against the backdrop of recent energy reforms that have seen Mexico open up its oil and gas sector after 75 years of being state-run.

The opening of the Mexican hydrocarbon sector is attracting international companies to play a role, which means Mexico needs to quickly shore up its skilled labour force—estimates of the number of energy specialists alone sit at 135,000 in the next five years—to support what could be a rapid expansion of the sector.

Highlights of the U of A’s relationship with Mexico

  • Many Mexican undergraduate students undertake research internships with U of A professors.
  • In annual field trips on agri-food trade and agricultural resource management, students explore food culture, consumption and agricultural practices in common and contrast between Canada and Mexico.
  • Food researcher Leck Ozimek collaborates with Queretaro Autonomous University on food development research.
  • Janet Fast and Norah Keating collaborate with the University of Guadalajara on research into aging.
  • Currently, about 90 Mexican students study at the U of A.

“The University of Alberta is a leading research and education institute in the energy sector and will become a key partner for Mexico,” said Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, Mexican secretary of energy.

Building on a history of collaborations with Mexico, U of A researchers will work with Mexico’s energy ministry to identify research opportunities, conduct research related to the hydrocarbon industry, increase student mobility between Mexico and Canada, develop collaborative graduate degree programs and work closely with Mexican research universities and institutions to offer high-quality training in the energy sector.

“We see this as an exciting opportunity to engage our university’s outstanding energy sector expertise and our world-class research infrastructure to promote innovation and groundbreaking technological solutions in Mexico,” said Britta Baron, U of A vice-provost (international). “We look forward to building more relationships with partners in government, the corporate sector and universities in Mexico, and to make lasting contributions to energy security, energy efficiency and sustainability with our North American neighbours.”

In accessing the U of A’s renowned expertise in the faculties of science and engineering, Mexican and U of A officials have isolated four research clusters in which capacity—from enterprising research to student experience—will be built:

  • unconventional oil recovery, based on the work of petroleum engineering professor Tayfun Babadagli
  • unconventional sandstone reservoirs, with input from petroleum geology professor Nicholas Harris
  • sequence stratigraphy, informed by stratigraphy professor Octavian Catuneanu
  • reservoir geomechanics for unconventional resources and geological storage of CO2, drawing on the work of geotechnical engineering professor Rick Chalaturnyk

As the partnership evolves, more U of A professors will be involved.

"Through this partnership we are creating an integrated and co-ordinated approach that builds upon the many long-standing individual research connections that we have with Mexico," said Steven Dew, U of A provost and vice-president (academic). "The University of Alberta is excited to collaborate with the government of Mexico in a mutually beneficial way that will allow us to contribute to the advancement of Mexico's hydrocarbon sector."