Volume 12, Number 12 February 18, 2005

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Boost given to study of CO2 in oilfields

SASKATOON – A U of S engineering study of carbon dioxide (CO2) storage in oil and gas reservoirs was awarded $300,000 from Western Economic Diversification Canada last month.

Chris Hawkes, U of S assistant professor in geological engineering, leads the team that will design and build study equipment – a ‘fracture-flow physical model’, which will be used to understand how CO2 behaves in fractured oil reservoirs. These rock formations have held oil, water and natural gas for millions of years, like liquid in an enormous sponge.

The study could help the cause of cutting the amount of CO2, a greenhouse gas, in the atmosphere.

“The potential for geological storage is huge,” Hawkes says. “Our lab will help us understand how CO2 behaves in these reservoirs, both for enhanced oil recovery and to find out whether it will stay put once it’s in there.”

For many years, oil companies have injected water, steam or CO2 into oil reservoirs to displace the oil and lower its viscosity, helping to push it toward recovery wells where it is brought to the surface.

For the oil industry, the new lab may provide answers on how CO2 interacts with and pushes the oil.

And for those hoping to bury at least some of the CO2 problem underground, the question is similar – more displaced oil means more room for greenhouse gas – but it’s important that the gas stay there after all the well holes have been plugged with cement.

The U of S project is linked to the Weyburn CO2 Monitoring and Storage project, launched in 2000. Energy company Encana had begun using CO2 flooding to enhance oil recovery, and researchers seized the opportunity to work with the company to use the oilfield as a test location for greenhouse gas research.

No job? Don't worry. Go back to school free

CHURCH POINT, N.S. – Graduates who truly look for work in their field after leaving Université Sainte Anne but are unable to find it can return to pursue another program without having to pay course fees.

A recent news report said the university president admits the move is more a marketing ploy than an act of compassion but André Roberge believes it will give students confidence. “We know that the placement rates for the graduates in some programs is 100 per cent” so the free-tuition guarantee is “a way to get us better known”.

The offer applies to students enrolling in 2005 in one of seven programs at the university. They must still pay for their books and housing.

Church Point is about 240 km west of Halifax.

New source found for stem cells

TORONTO – A special jelly found in human umbilical cords has proven to be a gold mine of stem cells that could one day lead to new treatments to repair torn ligaments and fractured bones, or improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplants for leukemia patients.

Researchers at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering found the connective-tissue stem cells – basic building blocks for bone, fat and ligament tissue – in what is called Wharton’s Jelly which surrounds three blood vessels in the umbilical cord to prevent them from kinking as the embryo moves in the womb.

A report in the Toronto Star said the finding, reported in the journal Stem Cells, should encourage greater efforts to reserve the umbilical cords of newborns as a source of treatment in later years for both the child and others.

Klein covers tuition increases as centennial gift to students

EDMONTON – The University of Alberta has welcomed Premier Ralph Klein’s Feb. 8th announcement that the provincial government will pick up the tab for tuition increases in the 2005-06 year as a centennial-year gift to students.

Provost and Vice-President Academic Carl Amrhein said in a news release the rebate “is very generous”. The U of A recently announced a 5.75-per-cent tuition increase for Canadian students to address a budget deficit expected to be about $4 million. For Amrhein however, Klein’s promise to add 60,000 student spaces to Alberta’s post-secondary schools by 2020 is just as significant.

“It’s about 4,000 seats a year for the next 15 years, so that’s going to be a non-stop marathon for the institution as we come to grips with that level of expansion in the entire post-secondary system.”

During a televised address to the province, the premier said 15,000 of the new spaces will be made available in the next three years.

“We have great expectations as these announcements roll forward,” said Amrhein, “and I guess we’re going to be working hard to make sure the U of A message is still placed in front of government in a clear and consistent fashion, and that is: solve the persisting core operating budget gaps, deal with the capital deficiencies, and we will work hand-in-glove with the ministry to accommodate as many students as they think we should accommodate and we think we are capable of accommodating.”

Taking a look at landfills

SASKATOON – A project involving U of S researchers that will look at how landfill practices are affecting some First Nations communities is expected to produce results that will help communities assess their needs and seek government support for dealing with environmental issues.

“First Nations groups are very worried about contaminants from landfills leaching into the groundwater in their communities,” according to toxicologist Lalita Bharadwaj who is one of three researchers involved in the work. “This project will fulfil an important role in providing information to the First Nations communities on the current situation of landfills” that could lead to managements policies and treatment programs.

The research project is funded mainly by the Assembly of First Nations/Health Canada’s National First Nations Environmental Contaminants Program that is contributing about $166,000. Another $10,000, in the form of a development grant, is coming from the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre, a joint project of the First Nations University of Canada, the University of Regina and the U of S. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada is contributing an additional $8,700 for a project total of about $185,000.

NATO uses study on recruitment

CALGARY – A University of Calgary psychologist, a specialist in best practices in recruiting, has recently added NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), the largest employer in the world, to his list of clients.

Derek Chapman travelled to Brussels late in 2004 to give a presentation to a NATO task force on a new recruitment study he completed with his grad students, according to a U of C release.

Called a meta-analysis, Chapman’s study looked at about 300 scholarly works on recruiting and assessed 40 factors that affect recruiting like pay, location, benefits, the image of an organization and even the behaviour of recruiters during interviews. One major finding is that pay is often less important to potential employees than the image of the organization.

The research, which will be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, also shows women tend to pay more attention to job location and how the job fits with their other roles in life, while men are more concerned about the potential for advancement and the kind of work they will be doing.

“NATO is putting together a series of recommendations using our work as the backbone of their new recruiting policy,” Chapman said.

“You never know how your research is going to get used, but we had a sense it would get noticed. It’s the kind of research that will also be of interest to recruiters across the spectrum – from oil companies to the health-care sector.”

UBC on path to meet Kyoto targets

VANCOUVER – UBC announced in a Feb. 14 news release, two days before the implementation date of the international Kyoto Protocol, it is on track to meet and surpass the 2012 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent.

Noting it was the first Canadian university to adopt a sustainable development policy in 1997, UBC says it leads Canadian universities in reducing emissions and improving energy efficiencies.

Since 1998, despite a 19-per-cent increase in students, it has:

  • Reduced CO2 emissions from buildings and transportation by seven per cent.
  • Reduced energy use in core and ancillary buildings by eight per cent (for a $5.4-million saving).
  • Decreased water use by 27 per cent, enough to supply 5,000 homes for a year.

Much of UBC's progress has been accomplished through major initiatives including an infrastructure upgrade, development of 'green' buildings, and a plan to transform UBC from a commuter campus into a sustainable residential 'work and live' community.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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