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Clement Willis Bowman

 

The Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority (AOSTRA) only ever paid the full price of a pilot project once. In 1978, when the oilsands industry was all about surface mining, AOSTRA's leadership, Clement Bowman and his vicechairman Maurice Carrigy, received a paper from Gerry Stephenson detailing how steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) could work. Inspired by research by Roger Butler of Imperial Oil Limited, AOSTRA decided to pursue the project, and offered to split the cost with any industry partners who were interested. Industry, however, viewed the project as a "boondoggle" and declined. Clement was undeterred. AOSTRA built the underground test facility, and the venture became the most important innovation in the oilsands since Karl Clark's hot water separation process. Industry so thoroughly latched onto the innovation that today, you might be forgiven for thinking AOSTRA invented it.


As chairman of AOSTRA, pursuing SAGD was Clement's decision. A University of Toronto chemical engineering product, Clement cut his teeth as a researcher for Imperial Oil in Sarnia, Ont., and for Syncrude Canada Ltd. He researched molecular properties of the oilsands and the mechanism behind Clark's separation process, and by the mid-1970s he was one of Imperial Oil's senior researchers and a candidate for directing the Sarnia Research Centre.


Before leaving to join AOSTRA, Clement convinced Imperial to guarantee that he would be able to return as vice-president of research for Esso Petroleum Canada at the end of his 10-year term. That 10-year term was prolific.


"SAGD was the jewel of the crown, but all kinds of advancements were made on things that are now standard," says Maurice Dusseault, who credits Clement with making his career. Dusseault was the first young person, but not the only one, to be awarded an AOSTRA chair, another of the authority's contributions to the petroleum industry. AOSTRA also created a similar program for distinguished professors. Grouping Clement with Carrigy, as people frequently do, Dusseault says "these people had the authority to make decisions and made them very wisely. It's rare that we have officials who do that."


Ted Cyr, who spent many years as a researcher at AOSTRA, emphasizes Clement's negotiating skills, strategic thinking and leadership skills. For example, Clement was "able to convince industry to provide information," which resulted in publications like the Oil Sands Composition and Behaviour Research, which was based on Imperial Oil data from 1957 to 1965.


Clement also fiercely defended the funding for people like Cyr, so that they could afford the best people from around the world.


In 1984, Clement returned to Imperial Oil in the position he was promised. Two years later, he became president of the Alberta Research Council, where he served an influential five-year term. His tenure saw non-government contract revenues quadruple to $20 million per year. At the end of the term, he started a consulting firm.


Clement served in an executive role with the Canadian Research Management Association, the Chemical Institute of Canada and the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering, and is an active contributor to the Canadian Academy of Engineering.


At 61, Clement's career changed direction, and, inspired by Alex Lowy and Phil Hood's book The Power of the 2x2 Matrix, he founded ProGrid Evaluation Solutions. ProGrid, a methodology for evaluating intellectual capital, is used by venture capitalists and more than 20 Canadian scientific and technical organizations. "He hasn't slowed down," says Cyr.


As Dusseault says, Clement is "in no small part responsible for the dynamic nature of oilsands technology today."

 

   
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