students standing under rainbowUWindsor students are conducting research in Alberta’s oilfields as part of a study led by chemistry professor Scott Mundle.

Alberta oilfields act as chemistry classroom

Alberta’s oilfields are taking the place of a classroom for UWindsor undergraduate and graduate students conducting research to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas wells.

“Canada has one of the world’s most environmentally regulated oil and gas sectors, but we can still do things better,” said Scott Mundle, a professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry who is leading the study.

“Global demand for oil is still rising, so we need to move past the polarizing sound bites and develop strategic approaches to transition to carbon neutrality.”

Dr. Mundle’s students relish the experiential learning opportunity.

“This learning experience was unique because it allowed me to play an active role in decreasing greenhouse gas emissions to help reduce the environmental impacts of the energy demands for the global community,” said graduate student Karly Dominato.

Fellow graduate student Meagan Beaton said her participation in the study gave her insights beyond what she could learn in a textbook or lab.

“The fieldwork provided an insider look into the relationship between operators, regulators, and how this industry is working to reduce their environmental impact,” she said.

Mundle and his students are partnered with Court Sandau from Chemistry Matters, Nick Nickerson from Eosense, and David Risk from St. Francis Xavier University to develop best practices for industry that will reduce methane and carbon dioxide emissions from the oil and gas sector.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 25 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, Mundle explained. Oil and gas sector facilities are thought to account for around 26 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions and are also Canada’s largest emitters of methane. Given the importance of methane in emissions, Canadian federal and Albertan provincial targets are aligned to reduce methane emissions by 40 to 45 per cent from 2012 levels by 2025.

“To make a real impact on climate change, Canada needs to produce oil responsibly during the transition to carbon neutrality and invest aggressively in new technologies that will eliminate the demand for oil,” Mundle said.

Mundle and his team are funded for three years by the Alberta Upstream Petroleum Research Fund (AUPRF) and the Mitacs Accelerate program.  The AUPRF is a collaborative program between the Government of Alberta, the Alberta Energy Regulator, and industry, led by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, and managed by Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada.

The AUPRF was created to support innovation and collaboration, targeting strategies to minimize the environmental impact of the oil and gas industry in Canada.