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Prominent Canadian chemical engineers; George Wheeler Govier.

George Wheeler Govier is one of Canada's leading petroleum and chemical engineers. He has made outstanding contributions to engineering education and to oil and gas conservation policy.

Govier obtained a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of British Columbia (1939), A Master of Science degree in Physical Chemistry at the University of Alberta (1945) and a Doctor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan (1949).

His involvement in the academic world spanned the period from 1940 to 1975. He joined the Department of Chemistry of the University of Alberta in 1940 as Instructor in Engineering and rapidly rose to the rank of Professor of Chemical Engineering by 1948. In that year he was appointed Head of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering which had been created at the University of Alberta two years earlier. Govier continued in this position until 1959, and it was his example and leadership during these formative years that established Alberta as one of the leading schools of chemical engineering in Canada. During the period 1959 to 1963 Govier was Dean of Engineering at the University of Alberta, and was influential in planning and guiding the growth of the engineering faculties at both the Edmonton and Calgary campuses; the latter was soon to become the University of Calgary.

Govier's research activities have been extensive. The principal areas were hydrocarbon conversions to intermediate petrochemicals, including the production of carbon black from methane, and multiphase flow. Work on the latter topic culminated in a widely used monograph by G.W. Govier and K. Aziz entitled "The Flow of Complex Mixtures in Pipes", published in 1972.

Govier's most noteworthy accomplishments have been in the field of oil and gas resource development and regulation. He became a member of the Alberta Oil and Gas Conservation Board in 1948, its deputy Chairman in 1959 and Chairman in 1962. He continued as Chairman until 1975. During this period the Board grew to become the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB). Under Govier's guidance it has become internationally recognized for its formulation of production, conservation and environmental guidelines for oil, gas, coal and hydro-electric developments. By 1975 the ERCB had grown in size to some 600 people. ALthough devoting his full time to the ERCB during the 1963-75 period, Govier continued his association with both the Universities of Alberta and Calgary. In 1975 Govier took a two-year leave of absence from the ERCB, and then returned for a final year as member in 1978.

In the early years of the Oil and Gas Conservation Board, it was largely due to Govier's technical knowledge and abilities that the many issues and problems related to rapid growth of the industry were resolved in a manner generally acceptable to all involved. He pioneered new concepts in determining fair and equitable oil and gas allowances on a sound engineering basis. As time went on he was increasingly involved in formulating policies for gas export and industrial uses of gas.

During his leave of absence from the ERCB Govier served as Chief Deputy Minister of the Alberta Department of Energy and Natural Resources. He was involved in federal-provincial negotiations of natural gas pricing, and in discussions with industry on royalties, enhanced oil recovery and oil sands development.

Govier became a member of The Chemical Institute of Canada upon its formation in 1945. He was among those instrumental in forming a Chemical Engineering Division within The Institute and served as its Chairman in 1948-49. He served as a Councillor of The Institute in 1951-52. He has been a member of the Editorial Boards of both Chemistry in Canada (now Canadian Chemical News/L'actualite chimique canadienne) and the Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering. In 1964 he received the R.S. Jane Memorial Lecture Award. He was a Fellow of The Institute from 1956 to 1987.

Govier was a member of the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy for many years, and served as President in 1966-67. He was also Chairman of its Petroleum and Natural Gas Division in 1950-51. He has been particularly active in the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta, and was President in 1958-59; he was made a life member in 1968.

Govier's outstanding career has been recognized by many awards and honors. Amongst these are Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Centennial Medal of Canada, Officer of the Order of Canada, and Gold Medal of the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers.

Today George Govier runs his own consulting firm from his office at home. At 73 he claims he would like to slow down and only work two days per week. I suspect that work will be more than that.

As a chemical engineering colleague George's notable and professional achievements can make us all proud to be members of the same profession.
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Author:Seyer, F.A.
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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