Dave Jones and Andy Sowter visit Calgary

Dave Jones from the British Geological Survey (BGS) and Andy Sowter from the University of Nottingham visited Calgary with funding from the UKCCSRC International Research Collaboration Fund. The aim of the visit was to explore possible collaboration between our institutes and Carbon Management Canada (CMC)/University of Calgary (UC) and in particular between the Field Research Station and the GeoEnergyTest Bed facility being developed jointly by the University of Nottingham and BGS.

We were fortunate to have excellent sunny weather especially when we visited the Field Research Station (FRS) the day after our arrival in Calgary. Before we headed to the site our guide, Kirk Osadetz, took us to a park above the city with sweeping views from the Rockies to the high plains to explain the local geology.

At the site we were able to see the first two wells and the seismometers installed by Anna Stork from Bristol University only the previous week (despite our best endeavours we hadn’t managed to coincide our visits). The flat short grass prairie at the station would be excellent for our suite of soil gas to atmospheric measurements.

From the FRS we were taken to a superb vantage point in the nearby Dinosaur Provincial Park where we could get a much better appreciation of the local geology. The visitor centre houses an excellent small museum with displays of dinosaur, crocodile and turtle remains amongst the highlights. From there a circular drive allowed us to see the rocks up close and to walk through the stunning geology with harder sandstones and ironstones interspersed with smeared swelling clay layers composed of altered volcanic ash from eruptions far to the west in Oregon.

The field experience continued the following day when we helped (or possibly hindered) Maurice Shevalier to set up a flux monitoring system. Maurice was testing this, ahead of deployment at the Quest site the following week, using an as yet undeveloped corner of the University of Calgary campus. We were able to get hands-on experience of the equipment and to see the mobile gas sniffing capability for CO2, methane and H2S as well as stable C isotope analysis of CO2 and methane.

That afternoon we were given a lab tour of the geochemistry facilities at UC by Bernhardt Mayer. These are superbly equipped for analysis of both waters and free gas. The subsequent discussions brought out the synergies between the BGS and UC approaches. They can carry out very sophisticated mobile gas measurements, but these are restricted to the roads, whilst we can measure a more limited suite but across the fields. Their flux measurements likewise cover both gases and their stable isotope composition, but the equipment is too costly to be left unsupervised. Our more inexpensive capability can be deployed for long term measurements of months or even years.

After meeting Dave Eaton, whose interest in passive seismics chimed well with Andy’s work in radar interferometry, we spoke to Steven Bryant the Canada Excellence professor of the university. This was a very stimulating and far ranging discussion that flew off on some very interesting tangents. In the afternoon we both made presentations on our work over at the CMC offices on the edge of the campus and were able to meet other researchers from the university and CMC as well as Foreign and Commonwealth personnel attached to the Consulate General in Calgary.


The visit was not all work, however, as we managed to sample a few of the beers on tap at the Craft Beer Market in Downtown Calgary and sample Thai cuisine close to campus.

Our final day extended the scope of the visit further into discussions with the provincial regulator, attendance a t a UC CREWES (Consortium for Research in Elastic Wave Exploration Seismology )meeting and a visit to petrophysical laboratory. Corey Froese (Alberta Energy Regulator) spoke to us of his existing contacts with BGS, both at directorial level and in relation to salt cavern studies, and his interest in satellite interferometry. He was greatly interested in Andrew’s new approach, which allows wide area coverage in rural and vegetated areas, even where tree covered. There is real scope here for collaboration, with Canadian researchers potentially providing low cost access to Canadian Radarsat data for Andy to process.

After lunch with staff and research students from the university we were given a tour of Chris Clarkson’s  laboratory. This took us away from our main areas of research but was none the less very interesting and we could see areas of possible overlap in understanding processes of surface ground deformation and fault-related fluid migration.

After a final wrap-up discussion with our host, Don Lawton, it was time to head out to the airport and a get those essential gifts (plastic dinosaurs included) before we set off for home.

We would like to thanks UKCCSRC for providing the funding to make this visit possible, Don Lawton and Kirk Osadetz for making all the arrangements and all their colleagues in CMC and the University for taking the time to make this a memorable visit. We look forward to future collaboration.