John M. Shaw, PhD


Faculty of Engineering - Chemical and Materials Engineering Dept
(780) 492-8236
12-360 Donadeo Innovation Centre For Engineering
9211 116 St
Edmonton AB
T6G 2H5


Area of Study / Keywords

Thermodynamics Oil Sands Energy Surface Science and Engineering


John Shaw obtained his B.A.Sc. degree in Chemical Engineering and his Ph.D. in Metallurgy and Material Science at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada in 1981 and 1985 respectively. In 1985, he joined the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto, where he rose to the rank of professor. In 2001, he joined the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Alberta where he holds the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Petroleum Thermodynamics.

During his career he has developed expertise in the phase behavior, physiochemical and transport properties of hydrocarbon mixtures from coal liquids, heavy oils and condensate rich reservoir fluids to pure compounds. He has held visiting scientist/professor positions at the Technical University of Delft (Delft, The Netherlands), the Institut Francais du Petrole (Rueil-Malmaison, France), the Syncrude Canada Research Centre (Edmonton, Canada), the ITESM campus of the Technical University of Monterrey (Guadalajara, Mexico), UPPA (Pau, France) and the TOTAL Research Centre (Pau, France).

In his current role he develops enabling technologies, and methodologies for measuring and calculating thermophysical properties of hydrocarbons, and for selecting industrial processes related to the hydrocarbon production, transport and refining sectors.


The research carried out by the Petroleum Thermodynamic group focuses on understanding the thermophysical properties of hydrocarbon resources, and on the implications for process design in both batch and continuous systems that these properties impose. The phase behaviors are examined at bulk, colloidal and more recently at nano length scales and frequently, the interaction between hydrodynamics and thermodynamics on outcomes is also assessed. Emphasis is made on the importance of physical phenomena such as hydrodynamics, interfaces, phase equilibria in the design and operation of both batch and continuous multiphase. For example, our pioneering work on X-ray view-cell technology development and its application in the petroleum and heavy oil sectors set the stage for the creation of an industrial research chair in petroleum thermodynamics. The x-ray view cell system permits simultaneous phase density and composition measurement. We are untangling the complex phase behaviour and kinetic phenomena associated with heavy oil/bitumen production, transport and refining. 

Issues related to liquid-liquid dispersions and emulsions are also a recurring theme in the research carried out in the group. Over the years the Petroleum research group has tackled a number of difficult issues from dynamic vs. steady state drop size distributions in continuous vs. batch reactors where gas bubbles or impellers are used to agitate the fluids, to the impact of packing on the creation of secondary drop distributions in coalescers to behaviors in unconfined media. This work has found numerous applications, e.g., from challenging the validity of a standard in the metallurgical industry to showing how oil slicks break-up and or emulsify in breaking waves - a contribution that provides a basis for the creation of a priori models for slick dispersion/emulsification in marine environments that formerly eluded practitioners. 

Our work in both areas is leading to the development of sensors and better process definitions that continue to spark interest in industries as diverse as pharmaceutics, nonferrous metallurgy and hydrocarbon production, transport and refining.

We have recently begun work on phase diagram and thermophysical property measurement and prediction for near critical solvent + nanoparticle mixtures. While, appearing esoteric with complex interplays between depletion flocculation driven critical phenomena (temperature independent) and molecular ones (temperature variant), such fluids may prove useful with respect to the understanding of hydrocarbon phase behaviour in fine + rough channels in rocks; development of a new class of heat transfer fluids; improved oil production and transport.