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Emerging Technologies: Fugitive Emissions

February 21, 2023

Leading-edge technology is integral to reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale, and Pathways Alliance companies have a long track record of world-class research and development (R&D) partnerships and investments to build on.

For more than a decade, much of that collaborative work to create a sustainable future has been coordinated by Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), now the innovation arm of Pathways Alliance.

Our emerging technologies series looks at some of the work being done by COSIA and the six member companies who make up the Pathways Alliance.

This feature focuses on fugitive emissions:

Taking on fugitive emissions

Canada’s oil sands industry is focused on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from oil sands operations. One source of greenhouse gas is fugitive emissions, the unintended release of GHGs, mainly methane, from mine pits and tailings ponds.

“Tracking the release of GHG’s has unique challenges,” explains Brady Adkins, Environmental Coordinator at Canadian Natural and a member of COSIA’s Area Fugitives Working Group. “Through COSIA, industry is working to enhance its capabilities when it comes to managing fugitive emissions for industry to meet Canada’s climate goals.”

Industry is also working collaboratively with the Alberta Energy Regulator to improve area fugitive emission measurement accuracy. “The challenge is how to best quantify fugitive emissions and determine what the best measurement tools are,” Adkins says. “The next challenge is to continue to develop technologies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”


Novel approaches

A number of novel approaches to measure fugitive emissions are being progressed with Pathways Alliance member companies. The ideal technology is portable, autonomous and able to operate in harsh remote environments, under all weather conditions, for extended periods of time. It must also be cost-effective to facilitate industry-wide adoption.

Traditionally, companies have used flux chambers to capture and analyze air samples from multiple locations, to provide an emission snapshot of the sites. Data points are extrapolated to determine annual emissions.

“Although we can quantify fugitive emissions much better than we could even a couple of years ago, we still have a lot of opportunity for improvement. Collecting data from larger areas, over longer time spans, will allow us to achieve a higher degree of accuracy in our reporting,” Adkins says.

“The COSIA Area Fugitives Working Group is adding tools to our kit. We’re developing monitoring options in addition to standard flux chamber testing. This has been driven by technology advancement and combination.” Every mine has unique challenges requiring unique solutions, he says.

Promising innovation

Several promising innovations have emerged including satellite and drones sensor platforms, long range open path laser gas analysis, and atmospheric computer modeling. “Testing of these technologies has checked many of the wish list boxes. Commercial viability for some systems could be as close as 2022,” Adkins says.

All told, the Pathways Alliance is developing and deploying more than 70 emerging technologies to drive sustainable development of the oil sands and support Canada’s efforts to meet its emissions targets.

Learn more about the Pathways Alliance plan here.


View this original story at Taking on fugitive emissions | Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance – COSIA

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