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Sean Sanders, PhD



Chemical and Materials Engineering

About Me

Dr. Sean Sanders is an award-winning educator and researcher whose scientific interests intersect with his concern for the environmental aspects of resource extraction. He received his BSc in Chemical Engineering in 1990 from the University of Saskatchewan. After completing his PhD at the University of Alberta, Sanders joined Syncrude Canada Ltd. and held a number of technical and leadership positions within the company’s Research and Operations’ divisions over the next 9 years. 

Since 1997, Sanders has conducted research to develop improved oil sands extraction processes that recover more bitumen, consume less water and operate at lower temperatures. He was part of the research team that commercialized Syncrude’s Low Energy Extraction process. 

Sanders joined the University of Alberta’s Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering in 2006 and received the student-nominated Faculty of Engineering Undergraduate Teaching Award that year. He has since received the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. His passion for teaching is largely a gift given him by his mentors, Jacob Masliyah and the late Clifton Shook. His teaching style and ability to engage his students is influenced by his wife, actress April Banigan, who regularly attends lectures and gives him valuable feedback on his in-class “performances.”  

In 2008, the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Pipeline Transport Processes, a multimillion dollar research collaboration among the University, industry and government agencies was established, under Dr. Sanders’ direction. The research programme specifically addresses important questions in heavy oil production and oil sands mining and extraction by developing processes that use less energy and water. In 2012, he received the Alberta Science and Technology (ASTech) Award for Innovation in Oil Sands Research for his work.

Sean and April have two amazing sons, Jezec and Avram, and a collection of badly-behaved pets.


The current focus of my research is pre-competitive, exploratory studies of pipeline transport processes important to the resource industries. Our research makes significant contributions to the science of multiphase transport, including novel measurement techniques to observe in situ flow conditions and the development of the next generation of multiphase flow simulation tools.

Keywords: Pipeline hydrotransport; scale-up of multiphase processes; CFD; rheology of industrial, non-Newtonian mixtures; Erosion-corrosion in particle-laden flows