​Geoscience BC, UBC to monitor groundwater for methane in gas fields

Geoscience BC is using drones with methane detection devices to determine where leaks may be coming from in northeastern B.C.'s natural gas fields. Image: Geoscience BC

To address persistent concerns that hydraulic fracturing could result in methane seeping into ground water, Geoscience BC and the University of BC have launched a new monitoring project in which 30 wells in the Peace region will be monitored for methane and other hydrocarbons.

The project involves installing 30 ground water monitoring wells. Data from these wells will provide a baseline of data on levels of methane and other hydrocarbons in ground water in close proximity to oil and gas fracking activities.

The first eight wells will be installed this summer, with the rest of the monitoring wells to be completed by the fall of 2019.

“These 30 wells will provide a legacy of permanent scientifically-designed monitoring wells,” said Geoscience BC chief science officer Carlos Salas.

“This infrastructure will allow ongoing monitoring of groundwater trends and cumulative effect in northeast B.C. for decades to come.”

“Potential impacts to groundwater from energy resource development are controversial and scientifically-based answers to many questions related to this are needed,” said Aaron Cahill, co-director of UBC’s Energy and Environment Research Initiative.

The ground water monitoring project is just one related to B.C.’s oil and gas industry that Geoscience BC has underway.

Another is a mapping exercise that uses drones outfitted with methane detection sensors developed by NASA for its Mars missions to determine how much methane may be emitted in the northeast and determine where it is most concentrated.

The data gathered by the drones will be used by Geoscience BC’s Natural Gas Atlas, and will use carbon isotope “fingerprinting” to identify the origins of the methane.

Some methane is naturally occurring. Cattle ranching, for example, also produces methane. But natural gas wells, pipelines, valves and processing plants also produce fugitive methane emissions. The isotope fingerprinting Geoscience BC is using can identify the signatures of methane from specific wells, and zero in on the possible source.

— Business in Vancouver

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