Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX partners with Altus Group, moving gas sensor technology towards commercial development

February 27th, 2017
StFX Academic Vice-President & Provost Dr. Kevin Wamsley, StFX Vice-President Research & Graduate Studies Dr. Richard Isnor, earth sciences professor Dr. Dave Risk and members of the Flux Lab, StFX Industry Liaison Office Manager Andrew Kendall and members from Altus Group pose for a photo by the vehicle-based Emissions Attribution via Computational Techniques (“ExACT”) gas leak detection technology.

An innovative gas sensor technology invented at StFX is moving towards commercialization

StFX has signed a technology collaboration agreement with Altus Group for the exclusive worldwide commercialization usage rights of StFX’s vehicle-based Emissions Attribution via Computational Techniques (“ExACT”) gas leak detection technology.

Altus Group’s Geomatics division will offer StFX’s ExACT technology as a service for energy providers and regulators.

The patented ExACT technology allows for detecting and mapping the emission of ground-sourced greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The ExACT sensor is mounted on a vehicle and collects near-ground geochemical readings that are uploaded to a cloud-based database and allows for real-time analysis.

The ExACT survey technology is capable of covering a large region at a very fine scale which provides operators with the detailed data and analytics they require to detect leaks 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 maximize environmental protection.

StFX earth sciences professor and university project lead Dr. Dave Risk says the industry is moving towards greener, cleaner and lower risk operations, and Altus Group will play an important role in that transition. 

“Altus Group is perfectly positioned to make the most of this technology, given its expertise in big data and analytics, and its great people across the country,” he says.

“We’re pleased to have the exclusive rights to commercialize this leading-edge best-in-class technology,” said Dave Gurnsey, President of Altus Geomatics, Altus Group, who was on campus for two days of meetings last week. “This new service will add value to our clients by providing greater visibility into emissions and will complement our geospatial data management solutions.”

Over the years, as many as 15 to 20 StFX students have played an important role working to refine the technique, Dr. Risk says. “Most importantly, they have been our front face, managing often high pressure and very important relationships with outside organizations on behalf of the lab.” Some of the biggest contributors, he says, include StFX students and grads Liz O’Connell, Emmy Atherton, Jen Baillie, Alex Marshall, Katlyn MacKay, Warren Laybolt, Chelsea Fougere, and James Williams.

Dr. Risk says students in the FluxLab are gaining experience in technology development, data management, environmental protection and finding solutions to manage greenhouse gas emissions. In the process, they’re also finding jobs in the industry, research opportunities and real world experience.

Dr. Risk adds a significant aspect of this agreement is that students working in his lab will have many opportunities to undertake research work of importance to Altus Geomatics and get hands-on, relevant experience.

“Our research collaboration agreement with Altus Geomatics really is ideal for all,” says StFX Industry Liaison Office Manager Andrew Kendall.

“Under the agreement, Dr. Risk is formally named as the Altus Group Chair in Emissions Research, meaning that his research into how to identify small emissions of greenhouse gases from primarily industrial settings will directly help Altus Geomatics provide important and innovative environmental services to the oil and gas industry, and as the research work develops, to other greenhouse gas emitting industries as well.”

Mr. Kendall says StFX and Dr. Risk have a long history in this area of industry focused research and technology development, and have been well supported by various research funding agencies.    

The movement of the ExACT technology from Dr. Risk’s lab to commercial uses by Altus Geomatics has been made possible by support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) through its Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF).

“I've had the chance to visit Dr. Risk and his team to learn about this project and believe it is precisely the kind of innovative work we hope to encourage here in Atlantic Canada. Innovation is about making things better in ways that benefit everyone. It’s about better jobs, better opportunities, a better environment, and a better future for our children and grandchildren,” says Sean Fraser, Member of Parliament for Central Nova, on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. “Canadian universities and colleges, such as StFX, play a critical role in providing people with the skills and experience to innovate. Canadian talent and innovation are creating world-class research and economic opportunities, good quality jobs for the middle class, and improving the standard of living for all Canadians.”

Mr. Kendall says Altus Geomatics will commercialize the ExACT technology, and it is expected that the large amount of data management and processing it requires will be done in Nova Scotia at the local Altus offices in Dartmouth.

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

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