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									Bernhard Mayer
Biographical Abstract

Dr. Bernhard Mayer is a Professor of Isotope Geochemistry in the Department of Geoscience at the
University of Calgary. Dr. Mayer has (co-)authored more than 70 papers in international refereed
journals and 10 book chapters. His innovative research has contributed to various provincial, national,
and international research programs, including the Alberta Ingenuity Center for Water Research
(AICWR), the Alberta Ingenuity Center for In-Situ Energy (AICISE), the Canadian Water Network
(CWN) National Centers of Excellence (NCE), and the United Nations SCOPE Nitrogen group.

Dr. Bernhard Mayer received his PhD in Isotope Geochemistry in 1993 from the University of Munich
(Germany). After an 18 months stint as postdoctoral fellow at the University of Calgary, he returned to
Germany as an Assistant in the Department of Sedimentary and Isotope Geology at the Ruhr-
University Bochum (1994-1997). In September 1997, Dr. Mayer accepted a professorial appointment at
the University of Calgary.

Research Abstract

Applied Geochemistry group, Department of Geoscience
Bernhard Mayer, Michael Nightingale and Katrina Cheung

Bernhard Mayer and his Applied Geochemistry research group at the University of Calgary employ
sophisticated isotope techniques in concert with physical, chemical, and mineralogical parameters and
modeling approaches to derive novel and unique information about the water cycle and the fate of
anthropogenic carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur in surface and subsurface environments. The group focuses
on three major research areas:

CO2 sequestration: Bernhard Mayer’s research group, in collaboration with other research partners, is
investigating the technical feasibility of storing significant quantities of the atmospheric greenhouse gas
CO2 in mature oilfields and saline aquifers. Using carbon isotope ratios, the research group has
designed and applied geochemical monitoring programs for assessing CO2 transport and geochemical
trapping mechanisms in major CO2 sequestration projects in Alberta (Penn West Pembina Pilot, ARC
Resources Harp, WASP) and Saskatchewan (Weyburn). This work has demonstrated the feasibility of
reducing greenhouse gas emissions via CO2 capture and storage (CCS) technology.

The production of coalbed methane (CBM) represents a vital new source of natural gas supply in
Western Canada. There are, however, concerns over potential negative environmental impacts on
groundwater resources caused by potential contamination with fluids and gases from coal-bearing
strata. The Applied Geochemistry group has embarked on a major research program characterizing the
chemical and isotopic compositions of fluids and gases in shallow groundwater and produced fluids
from the two major CBM targets in Alberta, the Horseshoe Canyon formation and the Mannville
formation. A thorough knowledge of chemical and isotopic characteristics of fluids and gases allows the
group to select tracer compounds that are suitable for identifying potential leakage of gases or water, or
lack thereof, into shallow groundwater. This work makes also a major contribution to enhancing the
knowledge of groundwater quality in Alberta.

The oilsands in northeastern Alberta constitute an enormous new energy source that will become
increasingly important as the availability of more conventional energy sources continues to decline. The
exploitation and processing of bitumen is accompanied by anthropogenic nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S)
emissions. The cumulative impact of these N and S emissions from all currently operational oilsand
projects on the surrounding terrestrial and aquatic environment is of some environmental concern. The
Applied Geochemistry group has initiated a 3-year study that evaluates to what extent stable isotope
ratios constitute a suitable tool for tracing the fate of anthropogenic N and S emissions from the
oilsands operations in surrounding terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. This is achieved by comparing
the isotopic characteristics of N and S compounds in industrial emissions to those in environmental
receptors including wet and dry deposition, likens, foliage, soils, and surface waters. Environmental
monitoring will play an increasingly important role in the sustainable development of the energy
reserves in the Athabasca Oilsands Region of northeastern Alberta.

All these isotopic tracer projects have in common that they provide unique information about the
sources and the fate of water and anthropogenic sulfur, nitrogen and carbon in air, plants, soil, surface
water, groundwater and formation water that cannot be obtained by any other scientific technique.
Therefore, this research makes innovative contributions to enhancing sustainable use and development
of water and energy resources while minimizing the impact on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

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