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C.W. (Clem) Bowman, FCIC: for the love of research.

Clem Bowman's, FCIC career in the chemicals and petroleum industries in Canada was never far from the front of emerging technologies, regardless of the particular position held. Recently retiring as president of the Alberta Research Council, earlier positions included DuPont's nylon plant in Kingston, Ont., several stints with Imperial Oils' research department in Sarnia, Ont., and founding chairman of the Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority (AOSTRA).

Bowman claims he is envious of those who set well-defined goals early in their career. His own career involved five major and unexpected moves between eastern and western Canada, bridging the private and public sectors. A short three-week assignment in oil sands, with Esso in 1962, led to a deepening involvement in this enormous Alberta energy resource, and ended up dominating much of his remaining career.

Bowman claims the really fun times were at the bench, helping develop the first commercial nylon tire yarn initial pilot tests for DuPont's lowpressure polyethylene process, working with colleague John Bichard in developing the sand-reduction process for oil sands, and helping Syncrude establish efficient bitumen separation processes, based on an understanding of the chemical and interfacial properties of oil sands.

The movement to research management kept getting in the way', but even in his last position at the Alberta Research Council, Bowman was happiest in his Wednesday morning sessions with the staff, reviewing research programs, and throwing out ideas for new experiments.

Bowman was the fifth leader of the Esso Research Centre at Sarnia, Ont., and participated with his predecessor John Tiedje, FCIC, in undertaking a thorough technical audit of 60 years of history of that laboratory. Bowman points out that the analysis showed that many of the major accomplishments were made by researchers who 'marched to their own drums', who did not quite fit the standard corporate mould. His support for those with off-track ideas continued during the balance of his career.

The Esso Research Centre was a superb training ground for learning the best practices in research emphasis on safety, team building, the importance of technology transfer, and recognition for high performers. Esso was one of the first multinational companies in Canada to initiate world mandates in selected areas, which put the centre at the leading edge of important areas of petroleum technology.

Bowman's interest in the oil sands was heavily influenced by Karl Clark, who developed the hot-water extraction process at the ARC in the early 1930s. Bowman was convinced by pouring over Clark's old papers and manuscripts that Clark has uncovered the basic principles for bitumen extraction. These principles were lost' for many years, and early attempts by industrial groups ignored Clark's work and followed different paths leading to blind alleys. The current oil sand commercial plants have long since gone back to Clark's original ideas. Stories recited by Clark's contemporaries have convinced Bowman that Clark was another researcher who marched to his own drum. Clem notes his pleasure in working with Clark's daughter in preparing her book on her father and the early years in the oil sands industry.

The Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority (AOSTRA) was a unique undertaking by the Alberta Government, and a personal initiative of then premier Peter Lougheed. The $100-million initiative (later augmented to several hundred million dollars) was designed to establish, with industry, jointly funded major field demonstration projects. AOSTRA pioneered new procedures for handling intellectual property. Most governments at that time insisted that technology developed with public funds should be made available for free to the public. This was a seemingly common sense approach, which missed the point that technology available to everyone is useful to no one. Bowman loved to reverse the principle - AOSTRA's technology would be freely available, but not available for free ! Bowman became a member of the ARC Board in 1978, participated in the search for the next two presidents, and after retiring from Esso in 1986, was appointed president of ARC. He jokes he took this position because it was too much work to serve on another search committee ! For his contribution to the development of Alberta's Oil Sands, Bowman was presented with the Karl Clark Distinguished Service Award, which included a $10,000 endowment to the University of Alberta for a scholarship in his name. He was also the recipient of the 1989 Centennial Award from the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists, and Geophysicists of Alberta. He recently received an Alberta Government Achievement Award.

Bowman was a member of the National Research Council for a three-year term, and served on the federal governments Advisory Committee on Hydrogen Opportunities. He has been active with The Chemical Institute of Canada and the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering, serving as president of these bodies in 1982 and 1974 respectively. He has participated in the Canadian Research Management Association and was its chairman in 1989.

Bowman took his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Toronto, and received the university's 25-year Meritorious Service Medal in 1977.
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Author:Pasternak, I.S.
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Article Type:Biography
Date:Jun 1, 1991
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