A geologist, a biologist and an engineer walk into a bar…
Meet three researchers & their cool energy-related work
Dr. Andrew MacRae isn’t in the business of exploring for oil and gas. But his geology research has helped companies decide where to look for petroleum in offshore Nova Scotia.
MacRae, an assistant professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, was part of a team of local scientists who contributed to an offshore atlas of Nova Scotia called the Play Fairway Analysis. The two-year, $15-million research project created a snapshot of the oil and gas potential off the province’s coast.
“It’s a long and windy route to get from the research I do to the trap that gets drilled by an oil and gas company,” MacRae says. “You have to understand the geological story to understand where those traps might be, and furthermore, whether they still contain oil and gas.”
After the atlas was released in 2011, major oil and gas companies — including Shell, BP and Equinor — committed more than $2 billion for exploration in offshore Nova Scotia. Since then, government-funded geoscience has continued to help attract further industry investment.
The Play Fairway Analysis is one example of how research by university-based researchers plays a key role in the development of Nova Scotia’s energy sector.
Besides attracting industry investment, work being done by local scientists is expanding knowledge of the marine environment and creating opportunities to help solve technical challenges facing business.
What we want to be doing is developing the knowledge base so that we can inform the decisions that are being made into the future.
Dr. Anna Redden, Acadia University
Dr. Anna Redden, a biologist and environmental scientist at Acadia University in Wolfville, NS., has specialized in assessing the impact of tidal energy development on fish and marine mammals in the Bay of Fundy.
This research has focused on acoustic technologies used to monitor and collect data on how marine life interacts with turbines.
“Environmental research is something that we all need to know. This is not specialized for one company,” Redden says.
“What we want to be doing is developing the knowledge base so that we can inform the decisions that are being made into the future.”
Students also contribute to — and benefit from — energy-related research in Nova Scotia.
Dominic Groulx, a professor in mechanical engineering at Dalhousie University in Halifax, has worked with students on various projects related to the tidal sector. He says such research helps young people build careers.
“Most of the time the most important thing we’re doing is out of that project there will be undergraduate students, masters students and PhD students coming out with the skills and the very specific knowledge in that field that those companies, those government entities want to see.”
Government-funded research in the province’s energy sector is administered and coordinated by the Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia (OERA).
Whether it’s building on an existing industry, or developing a potentially new one, students and other university-based scientists in Nova Scotia have been part of many leading-edge projects in the energy sector. Stay tuned to see where their research will lead next.