Out of the blue, Dave Risk from the Flux Lab contacted me to see if I was interested in assisting in upcoming field research concentrating on monitoring fugitive gas leaks in the oil and gas industry. Before I knew it, (and without too much contemplation), I was hopping on a plane and am back in Alberta. This time, in the Peace River region. And this time, it’s great to be assisting in valuable research which delves into the impacts of the energy sector on greenhouse gas emissions.
Having a B.Sc. from Saint Francis Xavier with an environmental and biology background, this is not exactly my area of expertise. I better wake up and drink another coffee and learn how to use a MacBook! What are these huge and heavy black boxes we have to lug around and keep nice and warm every night? Latency errors on the Picarro… What have I gotten myself into?
Luckily, by my side were some competent Flux Lab technicians to show me the ropes and share some expert knowledge. In return, I shared some professional knowledge from years of working in the oil and gas industry.
Each day, beginning at 7:30 we would haul out the Teledyne and Picarro (I discovered the big black boxes contained gas analyzers) and once the analyzers were happy (i.e. up to temperature and cavity pressure fine-tuned) we would hit the road. We performed two mobile surveys daily, and each survey route had to be replicated three times (or maybe four ties for good measure, not because we messed up!). While surveying, you can see methane, ethane, and hydrogen sulphide concentrations varying and sometimes a spike in concentrations resulting from a leak. I keep telling everyone science is cool!
The Prairies can certainly see some very cold days in November, but we were very fortunate to have mild weather and sunshine on our side for the majority of the campaign. Several weeks later and a LOT of kilometres on the Tacoma (BTW the truck deserves an oil change!) we wrapped up our field work in Medicine Hat (aptly named The Gas City). I was surprised to see how much oil and gas infrastructure is located in southeastern Alberta. I was astonished to discover that Medicine Hat is actually a pretty cool city, with picturesque historic brick buildings downtown, top-notch biking trails and super friendly locals.
Thanks to the Flux Team for hiring me to take part in this gas emissions monitoring campaign. It’s exciting work resulting in valuable data which our government and industry can use to make sound decisions. Until next time!
By: Sam Hansen