Conference fascinating says student blogger

By Roger Mah
On October 3, Roger Mah attended the Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada conference – Managing CO2 for Enhanced Oil Recovery and Carbon Capture and Storage. In January 2012, Roger Mah will be a PhD student in Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Calgary.This is his blog about the conference.


Attending this industry focused conference as an academic was one of the most interesting and eye-opening experiences I have had as a student. I was fortunate enough to share a table with representatives from National Research Council – Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), RDS Group, Murphy Oil, and Penn West. Interacting with them gave me an idea of which CO2 management approaches were important to industry and where fundamental research stood in comparison.

The crowd was diverse with representatives from many different backgrounds ranging from engineers to incident analysts to environmental law lawyers. It was very interesting to see how they approached different aspects of carbon capture and storage (CCS) by observing the presentations and also listening to the types of questions they asked. The most surprising presentation of the day was the one given by Jonathan Carley regarding enzymatic CO2 capture. The presentation had more academic character to it than the other talks. A hypothesis was laid out followed by a systematic series of experiments which showed viability of their approach; using methyldiethanolamine in conjunction with their proprietary enzyme to enhance CO2 uptake. The reason that this presentation was surprising, perhaps as a result of my limited exposure to start-ups, was the monetary values involved in the process. The technology was feasible and could be demonstrated, but to get to that point cost a mind-boggling $30 million invested. This could be the norm for start-ups but, as there were no others that mentioned costs during development, I had nothing to compare it to.

One of the highlights of this conference was Ken Brown discussing the Weyburn-Midale project in Saskatchewan. Since the injection into the basin has been ongoing for over a decade, their focus has shifted into monitoring and accidental release response which is a side of CCS that was not focused on much. The talk by Dr. George Sherk, from IPAC CO2, elaborated on steps being put in place for response to accidental releases by using Weyburn-Midale as a case study. The proposed steps in the case of an accidental release, combined with their implementation in the Weyburn-Midale case, showed the basis for a set incident response procedure. The presentations by John Zhou, regarding Alberta Innovates projects being funded, and Ian Silk, regarding the Shell Quest project, really outlined the progress in Alberta of government and industry in CCS.

I found the entire conference useful in establishing a broader understanding of the progress and struggles associated with CCS.