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STFX Fluxlab Findings Flow

Promising research continues to flow from StFX earth sciences professor Dr. Dave Risk’s FluxLab.

Midway through a Natural Resources Canada funded project, valued at over $1.4 million, his five-member project team is developing and testing monitoring strategies for detecting gas leaks from the ground over large areas for use in monitoring unconventional energy developments.

In the first phase of fieldwork, in a Saskatchewan oilfield, master’s candidate Jacquelyn Hurry, and PhD candidate Jocelyn Egan gathered baseline soil gas emission data used to detect anomalies, and compared notes with site owner and project partner, Cenovus Energy.

“It felt fantastic to be part of research that has practical, real world applications,” Ms. Hurry says. “Our drive around monitoring surveys showed us in real time, small but measurable spikes in emissions based on events we were witnessing, like contractors doing gas well maintenance.

“Our results allow the company greater ability to mitigate potential environmental and production concerns.”

Members of the team have also worked at Aquistore, a new Canadian CO2 injection site, which intends to demonstrate that storing CO2 deep underground is a safe, workable solution to reduce greenhouse gases.

Bringing the work closer to home, StFX undergraduate student Liz O’Connell has begun the project’s second phase of fieldwork in Nova Scotia, and has already detected some unusual and exciting anomalies on soil gases in the New Glasgow area, in part using a specially equipped truck.

She will outline her findings at the upcoming Nova Scotia Energy Research and Development conference in Halifax.

“It’s really cool that my research is contributing to something that really matters in the big picture,” she says. “Our project is demonstrating that our improved monitoring tools and techniques can benefit environmental performance in the energy industry, and will directly translate to lower soil gas emissions.”

In the lab, Drs. Martin Lavoie, a post-doctoral fellow at StFX, and Bjorn Brooks, faculty member, have shaped the computational aspects of the project, and, StFX student Laura Graham’s research has also contributed.

Some of the techniques developed by the team are currently being patented, and plans for follow up projects are moving ahead.