News and features

University celebrates opening of $7 million BP Centre for Petroleum and Surface Chemistry

Enhancing Surrey’s reputation as a global scientific research hub, August saw the official opening of the University’s BP-sponsored Centre for Petroleum and Surface Chemistry (BP-CPSC).

Professor Spencer Taylor in the new BP-CPSC lab

The BP-CPSC, which will focus on research into heavy oil recovery, was officially opened on 28 August. Seventy people attended the special commemorative ceremony, including a number of VIP guests from BP America and the University.

The event also marked the naming of the Centre’s laboratory after Dr Albert Ernest Dunstan, a notable British petroleum chemist who founded the Research Station at Sunbury-on-Thames in 1917 for the Anglo-Persian Oil Company – the forerunner of BP – and later became President of the Institute of Petroleum.

The opening of the BP-CPSC is the culmination of a long-term collaboration between Surrey and BP, so the University was delighted that Chris West, Vice President of the Heavy Oil Flagship in BP, was able to perform the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the event in the presence of Surrey’s Vice-Chancellor Sir Christopher Snowden.

Earlier, guests were welcomed by Professor Jonathan Seville (Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences). He then handed over to the Director of the BP-CPSC, Professor Spencer Taylor, who explained how the Centre came into being and spoke of his own pride in the partnership between the University and BP. Having studied Chemistry at Surrey as an undergraduate and PhD student, Professor Taylor spent much of his career at BP researching crude oil, colloid and surface chemistry, before returning to the University as a visiting lecturer.

Outlining some of the research that will be undertaken at the Centre, he explained: “BP America has agreed to provide funding for an initial five-year research programme here at Surrey to study viscous crude oils – and especially improved ways to recover them – for example from the vast oil sand resources located in Canada, as well as elsewhere in the world.”

“Much has been reported about the efforts being made to develop ‘sustainable’ non-hydrocarbon energy supplies for the future, but crude oil will continue to be a vital energy resource for a long time to come, so we are mindful of the need to minimise the cost to the environment, and this is our main research motivation.”

Professor Taylor also paid tribute to Dr Albert Ernest Dunstan, the “origin and inspiration” behind BP Research, and welcomed two members of the Dunstan family attending the event. He also shared some words written by A E Dunstan’s son, the distinguished artist Bernard Dunstan, who was unable to attend due to his advanced age. Thanking the University for honouring his father by opening the new research lab in his name, Bernard Dunstan wrote: “My father was the least pompous of men, but I think he would have been proud and gratified to know that this new dedication in his name was taking place today.”

After Professor Taylor’s speech, guests were given a tour of the Centre’s facilities by staff and students, where they learned more about the planned research and the BP context, before enjoying a drinks and canapés reception to the sounds of a string quartet.

Related news and features