9 March 2015

Chemistry at the heart of new Danish-Qatari partnership

Research collaboration

The University of Copenhagen has a long tradition of teaming up with foreign universities for research and educational activities. This tradition now extends to the Gulf state of Qatar. Faculty of Science Dean John Renner Hansen recently signed an agreement with Qatar University’s College of Arts and Sciences. It is an agreement that Hansen hopes will make it easier to develop the current collaborative ties that University of Copenhagen (UCPH) researchers have with Qatar.

The dean of Qatar University’s College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Eiman Mustafawi, is equally enthused about the agreement, stating

“It will empower and engage students during their academic experience by building their capacities and preparing them to become experts, outstanding role models for future generations, and great ambassadors for the country.”

Hopes for oil recovery

Research into enhanced oil recovery (EOR) together with Maersk Oil is one area of research that Dean John Renner Hansen looks forward to developing as a result of the agreement.

“It is important for Denmark to improve our oil recovery technologies. While we have decided to discontinue fossil fuel use by 2050, that date remains quite far off and secondly, oil and natural gas are important resources for a range of other purposes, and we mustn’t waste them,” says Dr. Hansen.

Collaboration pushed by chemists enthused by Qatar

The agreement between the faculties of the two universities has been realized in large part thanks to the perseverance of three Department of Chemistry staff from University of Copenhagen. One of these is Ole John Nielsen, who has taught in Qatar on a number of occasions. Another is Susan Stipp, who with her NanoGeoScience group has worked in EOR in Qatar for four years. She hopes to be involved in a partnership with QU to deploy nanotechnology for the purpose of water treatment and pollution abatement as well as to analyse and preserve archaeological finds. The latter is carried out with UCPH's Professor Ingolf Thuesen, who has been collaborating with Qatar University on the excavation of the pearl fishing village Al Zubara.

Hopes to see oil company help Qatar evade fossiladdiction

Finally, Theis Sølling is on leave from his assistant professorship at the Department of Chemistry to construct a research laboratory for Maersk Oil in the Qatari capital of Doha. Sølling believes that the University of Copenhagen can help Maersk Oil by facilitating developments in Qatar.

“Qatar aims to become independent of hydrocarbons by 2030. It is important for Maersk Oil to contribute towards this. Thus, the development of knowledge and research infrastructure is important. UCPH has a 500-year-old tradition in this regard, so it is  definitely posoible to contribute,” says Sølling, who studies underground chemical processes.

Bringing history to the table

Ole John Nielsen, a leading specialist in atmospheric chemistry, believes that UCPH’s centuries-old history makes it ideal for making that contribution. “It takes time to develop an academic culture. Qatar was not independent until 1971, in comparison UCPH was founded in 1479. I hope that we can help them accelerate their process,” says the atmospherics professor.

Qatari students to avail themselves of Copenhagen research infrastructure

The MORTC (Maersk Oil Research and Technology Centre) where Theis Sølling works is already employing QU PhD researchers. Sølling has high hopes that a close and formalised partnership between the faculties at the universities in Qatar and Copenhagen will provide his PhD staff with incredible opportunities.

“We would like for Qatari students to have access to UCPH’s research infrastructure. Especially in nanomaterials analysis, where UCPH has world-class equipment,” says Theis Sølling.

It is no one way street though. Sølling believes that the University of Copenhagen stands to gain from the new partnership, among other things because QU has access to core samples that are otherwise difficult for a university to obtain.