Fugitive gas

The US and Canadian governments have agreed to reduce methane (CH4) emissions from the oil and gas industry to 40 to 45 % below 2012 levels by the year 2025. Quantifying and reducing fugitive gas emissions (unintended emissions typically caused by leaks in oil and gas infrastructure) is a high priority for both government regulators and industry. These fugitive emissions are lost commodities and directly contribute to global warming.

I am working with the UBC Energy and Environment Research Initiative to better understand the fate of fugitive gas.  I am using new field-based methods to measure the composition of gases dissolved in groundwater and soil gas. We conducted a controlled subsurface release of a synthetic natural gas into an aquifer in northeast BC (an area of active oil and gas development) in summer 2018 to study the processes that occur when fugitive natural gas migrates into groundwater.  Multi-level groundwater and soil gas wells were installed surrounding the injection site to monitor the evolution of the injected gas plume.

I used a portable mass spectrometer (the MiniRUEDI, developed by scientists at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Science and Technology) to monitor the dissolved gas content in the field. Data analysis from this project is ongoing.

Collecting data with the MiniRUEDI in the field. Photo by Tom Balke.
Demonstrating groundwater sampling techniques with PhD candidate Jessie Chao, at the Field Demonstration Day for project funders and stakeholders. Photo by Tom Balke.

References:
Brennwald, M. S., Schmidt, M., Oser, J. & Kipfer, R. A Portable and Autonomous Mass Spectrometric System for On-Site Environmental Gas Analysis. Environ. Sci. Technol. 50, 13455–13463 (2016).