No evidence of CO2 leaks, Sask. group says

A carbon dioxide research group is questioning a Weyburn-area farm family's concerns about industrial CO2 leaking onto their property.

A carbon dioxide research group is questioning a Weyburn, Sask., farm family's concerns about industrial CO2 leaking onto their property.

The group, Regina-based Petroleum Technology Research Centre, has been doing research for years in connection with energy giant Cenovus's $2-billion carbon storage program in the Weyburn oilpatch.

So, last week, when Cameron and Jane Kerr said they've detected carbon dioxide in soil on their property that they say is coming from the Cenovus project, it got the centre's attention.

Cenovus has been pumping thousands of tonnes of CO2 into the ground to get extra life out of partly depleted oil reservoirs. Proponents of the system say the process helps fight climate change by storing CO2 that would otherwise be vented to the atmosphere.

While the company says the process is safe and the gas stays deep underground, the Kerrs have noted a number of problems around their property.

They have seen gases bubbling out of area ponds, noted unusual algae blooms and found a number of dead animals, they say.

A consultant working for the Kerrs, Paul Lafleur of Petro-Find Geochem Ltd., found samples of gas in the soil on the property that he said match the gas injected into the reservoir.

But after studying Petro-Find's results, the centre said there's no substantiated evidence to support the claim that CO2 on the Kerr's property came from the Cenovus project.

"The Petro-Find report contains technical errors, invokes undocumented data and provides minimal to no information on their scientific methods or analytical techniques," the centre said.

As well, the Petro-Find report does not provide any alternative explanations for its findings, the centre's researchers said.

With a number of experimental CO2 storage projects underway in Canada, the Kerr case has attracted interest in industry and government circles. 

Some scientists have suggested carbon storage may help Canada meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals while others have raised concerns about potential leakage.