Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX’s ExACT technology awarded U.S. patent

May 28th, 2019
Actively monitoring surrounding gases in real time

Members of StFX’s FluxLab are celebrating an important milestone—in the form of a U.S. patent awarded for a gas sensor technology invented at StFX.

The patent has been issued to StFX for its vehicle-based Emissions Attribution via Computational Techniques (“ExACT”) gas leak detection technology, and to its inventors StFX earth sciences professor and university project lead Dr. Dave Risk, Dr. Bjorn Brooks and Dr. Martin Lavoie for the “Gas Emission Detection System and Method.”

“The patent recognizes our lab created a unique and valuable system,” says Chelsie Hall, the lab’s research project manager, who notes the patent process is lengthy and takes years to complete. The patented technology, which detects and maps the emissions of ground-sourced greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, was developed in 2014 and system improvements have been ongoing.

Research truck set up with ExACT

ExACT uses a gas sensor mounted to a vehicle which collects near-ground geochemical readings that are uploaded to a cloud-based database for real-time analysis. This survey method can cover a large area at a very fine scale, providing operators with detailed information to detect unintentional emissions before they become a regulatory issue. The ability to identify emissions in an efficient and cost-effective manner allows producers to minimize the economic cost of lost commodities and to maximize environmental protection.

In 2017, StFX signed a license agreement with Altus Group for the exclusive worldwide commercialization usage rights of ExACT, and Altus’ Geomatics division offers ExACT as a service for oil and gas providers and government regulators.

IMPORTANT COMMITMENT

"Receiving the patent is an important commercial stepping stone, and it also symbolizes FluxLab’s hard work and commitment to developing an emissions measurement system that is fine-tuned to industry needs,” says Jennifer Baillie, a technical researcher in StFX’s FluxLab since 2014, who is also employed with Altus as their GHG Emissions Monitoring Coordinator.

“National methane emission regulations will be implemented in 2020, and we are witnessing industry push technology developers to generate novel solutions that can detect emissions efficiently and safely. Having a deployable, patented technology lets us to offer our alternative monitoring solution to oil and gas producers immediately—allowing them to reach emissions reduction targets and reduce their emissions monitoring costs.”

FluxLab members are continuing to advance ExACT technology. Lab member and MSc student, Jack Johnson, says, “Fugitive methane emissions, or leaks, coming from upstream oil and gas infrastructure are difficult to measure. Successfully measuring these invisible leaks, which come from a variety of sources, can sometimes be like trying to find a fire with a thermometer; frustrating, time-consuming and costly. The computational advantages that ExACT brings to the table will make this process much more efficient.

“While traditional measurement techniques will always have a place in the oil and gas industry, tools like ExACT will allow emissions measurement systems to keep up with evolving regulatory requirements,” he says.

Receiving this patent has solidified ExACT technology as a top competitor in the race to develop feasible emissions measurement systems for the Canadian oil and gas industry.

This research is, in part, made possible by the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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