Dr Rob Fishwick

Dr Robert Fishwick
Previous Qualification: MEng PhD

Project title:In Situ Upgrading of Heavy Oil and Bitumen: Optimisation of the CAPRI Process
Start and finish dates of current project: November 2007 – October 2010
Industrial or other sponsor: EPSRC


Robert is a Research Fellow in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Having obtained a MEng degree in Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at Aston University, he joined the Catalysis and Reaction Engineering Group in 1999 where he obtained his PhD studying mass transfer in three-phase stirred reactor systems. Since then his research interests lie within the area of catalysis and reactor optimisation.


2007-2010 - In Situ Upgrading of Heavy Oil and Bitumen (funded by EPSRC)

Heavy crude oil and bitumen resources are estimated to be in the order of 5-6 trillion barrels world-wide, exceeding remaining light oil resources. However, with the exception of surface deposits which can be mined, recovery is currently difficult. THAI (Toe-to-Heel Air Injection) was developed at the University of Bath and is a stable and robust thermal recovery process for heating and extracting heavy oil deposits. Furthermore, the process has the added benefit of partially upgrading the oil. Recently the catalytic upgrading process, CAPRI, was developed at Bath in collaboration with the Petroleum Recovery Institute. CAPRI is an in-situ, catalytic extension to the THAI process whereby a solid catalyst is packed around the horizontal producer well with the objective of further upgrading the oil. In collaboration with the University of Bath, we aim to investigate the effectiveness of various catalysts suitable for use in the THAI-CAPRI process. In Birmingham we will be using a series of micro-reactors to investigate a number of specific objectives:

  • Examination of the role of the catalyst support with objective of maintaining activity;
  • Study of the effect of metal containing crude oils which may act as catalysts;
  • Investigation of the effect of catalyst loading, sulphur content and the effect of adding water (water gas shift reaction).

Related Publications (from other researchers relevant to oil upgrading)

T.X. Xia and M. Greaves, “In Situ Upgrading of Athabasca Tar Sand Bitumen Using Thai”, Chem. Eng. Res. Des., 84 (2006) 856-864.


2003-2007 - ATHENA Project (funded by Johnson Matthey Catalysts / EPSRC)

The key objective of this project was to allow the addition or removal of hydrogen or oxygen to a given molecule with high activity and selectivity. This involves understanding the reaction from the molecular scale right up to the bulk transfer properties and requires that chemistry and engineering intimately mix to deliver the desired effect. The ATHENA project was created to combine the skills of various catalysis and reaction engineering groups. In Birmingham key studies included:

  • Examination of the effect of solvent composition on both activity and selectivity in the model hydrogenation reactions of 2-butyne-1,4-diol and 2-pentyne;
  • Investigation of the effect of solvent composition on bubble size and hence the gas-liquid interfacial area whilst under gas-liquid mass transfer limited conditions for both non-reacting and reacting systems;
  • Measurement of dissolved hydrogen concentration during gas-liquid mass transfer limited reactions;
  • Exploration of the function of solvent pH on selectivity which is indicative of the role of acid sites on the alumina support in the hydrogenation of 2-butyne-1,4-diol;
  • Study of liquid-particle hydrodynamics in three-phase stirred tank reactors using Positron Emission Particle Tracking (PEPT) to estimate slip velocities and analyse non-homogeneity of solid-liquid mass transfer coefficients.

Related Publications

R.P. Fishwick et al. “Selective hydrogenation reactions: A comparative study of monolith CDC, stirred tank and trickle bed reactors”, Cat. Today, 128 (2007) 108-114.

B. Hu et al. “Simultaneous measurement of in situ bubble size and reaction rates with a heterogeneous catalytic hydrogenation reaction”, Chem. Eng. Sci., 62 (2007) 5392-5396.

R.P. Fishwick et al. “Hydrodynamic Measurements of Up- and Down- Pumping Pitched-Blade Turbines in Gassed, Agitated Vessels, Using Positron Emission Particle Tracking”, Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., 44 (2005) 6371-6380.