Dr. Andy Sowter and Dr. Dave Jones visit the University of Calgary

By Dr. Andy Sowter; Lecturer in Civil Engineering and Surveying at the University of Nottingham

The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support of the UK CCS Research Centre (www.ukccsrc.ac.uk) in carrying out this work. The UKCCSRC is funded by the EPSRC as part of the RCUK Energy Programme.

I just spent an interesting week in Calgary as part of a UKCCSRC trip to further collaboration between GRACE and the University of Calgary.  As a definitely non-fieldwork person (in fact, non-practical person - you'll never catch me in a lab!) I was a little worried about the field visits and lab demonstrations that were scheduled for the week.  However, I needn't have been as I was accompanied by Dave Jones of BGS who had enough enthusiasm for both of us.  Phew!

The week started with a drive out to the Field Research Station (FRS) in Crook, an hour or so outside of Calgary hosted by Kirk Osadetz of the Containment and Monitoring Institute.  Kirk was very, very knowledgeable regarding the geology but much of that went over my head, I'm afraid.  The highlight for me was a trip to Dinosaur Park, a badlands area carved out of the plains after the glaciers retreated (see, I was paying attention) which was stunning to see.  It really demonstrated the thick layers of clay that lie in the immediate subsurface and so I'm really expecting to see a lot of heave when we survey the place.  However, I am forgetting the biggest highlight which was all of the dinosaur remains in the museum.  I had a pretty conventional childhood obsession with dinosaurs and this completely brought it back to me.  Everyone had to stop talking geology while I insisted on taking a photo op with a model dinosaur.  Total bliss!  Many thanks, Kirk - it was a great day out.

Dr. Andy Sowter meets the locals at Dinosaur Park!
The second day was bliss for Dave (child in a toy store sums up his reaction to some of the equipment) as Maurice Shevalier from the University of Calgary demonstrated his brand new gas-sniffing kit on a wasteland area on the edge of the campus.  I was kept busy helping to set it up and he regaled us with tales of Scouting Jamborees and the Calgary Winter Olympics.  Interesting stuff and a nice way to spend a morning in the sunshine.

The rest of the week was spent meeting academics with some strong interests in collaboration.  I learned from Dave Eaton that land deformation is measured using persistent scatterers interferometry which, although sparse, is an accepted approach in Alberta (in fact, everyone was very knowledgeable about it and the use of corner reflectors, too).  Following that meeting, further discussions with Don Lawton, our host for the week, means that I am highly motivated to get some data and see if we can do any better.  We certainly should be looking a baselining the area of the FRS using our InSAR technique.  We met with Corey Froese of the Alberta Energy Regulator and he was very interested in what we could do. I am hoping that we could do a demo over sites like the Shell QUEST and Schlumberger Aquistore areas where they are already doing large scale gas injection.  It all depends on getting access to satellite data of which there is a lot over Canada (they have their own radar satellite, too!) but as always, access may be a bit troublesome.  However, Don and Corey both offered to help if they can so this is already huge progress towards collaboration.

So, a really great week in Alberta, and very valuable in terms of fieldwork (eek!  I never thought I'd be using the f-word!) and in the contacts we have made.  Many thanks to UKCCSRC for funding the trip and I hope to be doing surveys of those sites very soon, all from the comfort of my computer here in the UK!

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