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New funding announced for measuring methane emissions from old fossil fuel extraction sites in the Maritimes

Posted by Media Centre on July 28, 2017 in News

HALIFAX, NS – Dalhousie University welcomed Mr. Andy Fillmore, Member of Parliament for Halifax, to campus today. On behalf of the Honourable Jim Carr, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Fillmore announced $482,000 in funding for research that involves assessing methane emissions from old fossil fuel extraction sites in two Maritime provinces.

“Canadian universities are home to some of the best minds in the clean energy sector and they're keen to support our country's transition to a low-carbon future,” said Fillmore. “By investing in the work of these leading researchers, our government is taking meaningful climate action to ensure the accurate and effective measurement of methane emissions in our region.”

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) provided funding for the project through the Energy Innovation Program. It’s the first phase of a methane mitigation initiative in the Maritimes focused on these sites.

Called the Gas Seepage Project (GaSP), the research team involves professors and students from Dalhousie’s Department of Earth Sciences, St. Francis Xavier University, University of New Brunswick, University of Waterloo, and local industry partners.

“Through GaSP, Dalhousie’s excellence in earth sciences research is united with the strengths of other Canadian universities and local industry partners,” said Ian Hill, Associate Vice-President, Research at Dalhousie. “Together, and with this federal support, we’re building the scientific knowledge required to better understand how the fossil fuel extraction sites of our past are still affecting our atmosphere today. This research will also lay the groundwork for similar methane emission assessments in other areas of Canada and the world.”

There are numerous abandoned fossil fuel extraction sites in Nova Scotia alone—1,922 of those on record are coal mines. Methane occurs naturally in coal, making historical mines that weren’t built or shut down according to today’s environmental safeguards vulnerable to seeping methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide and water vapour.

“Different types of coal have different levels of methane emissions, and currently there’s no record of methane emissions from different mining sites in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick,” explained Grant Wach, geologist with Dalhousie’s Department of Earth Sciences and member of the GaSP team. “Our research aims to build an inventory of methane emission estimates from mines as well as other oil and gas extraction sites in both provinces.”

The GaSP team at Dalhousie is combing through historical records to determine exactly where these sites are located and how their associated geological features should be considered in future plans to mitigate emissions. GaSP researchers at Dalhousie, St. FX and UNB will then conduct field work at the sites using locally-developed technology to detect and measure seeping methane.

With Canada’s first provincial-scale methane emissions inventory completed, the research team will also have a detailed approach to the technology and methods required to conduct such assessments.


Media Contact

Niecole Comeau
Communications – Faculty of Science
Dalhousie University
(902) 223-2446



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