News Beyond Our Borders
N.S. engineer calls for tougher ventilation rules
CBC News - An environmental engineer says the Nova Scotia government should improve ventilation regulations in the building code to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Jeff Feigin, P.Eng., of Highwater Holding Company near Whycocomagh, Cape Breton, admits he has a financial interest in promoting environmental engineering solutions, but says as a citizen, there are buildings he will not go into because he believes the air quality poses a public health hazard.
For example, Feigin said small foyers with automated teller machines tend to have no ventilation whatsoever and other buildings, like some grocery stores, simply recirculate stale air rather than bringing in fresh air.
He said there is a cost to retrofitting a building and adding a heat exchanger to keep energy costs down, but that’s a small price to pay for clean air.
Feigin has written to the province urging changes to the building code that would address ventilation concerns specific to a pandemic. The Nova Scotia government said it is not considering any changes to the building code.
The government said if a building’s ventilation system is designed, operated and maintained properly, the risk of coronavirus transmission is minimal.
The risk of contracting COVID-19 from the air can be mitigated by wearing a mask, keeping your distance, limiting exposure to under 15 minutes and ensuring a regular supply of fresh air.
Engineer found guilty of professional misconduct
CBC - An engineer who signed off on a Radiohead concert stage that collapsed and killed a drum technician in Toronto eight years ago has been found guilty of professional misconduct, but the findings and the engineer’s acceptance of them come too late to provide justice, according to the band and the family of the man who died.
Domenic Cugliari, P.Eng., agreed to conclusions reached by the discipline committee of the Professional Engineers Ontario in the June 16, 2012 incident that killed Scott Johnson.
Johnson, 33, was tuning a drum kit for the band before a concert at Toronto’s Downsview Park when the massive outdoor stage structure collapsed on him. Three others were injured.
In December, the discipline committee found Cugliari had not noticed numerous errors and omissions in design drawings for the stage and consequently failed to revise the plans.
It also found Cugliari did not examine trusses holding heavy lighting equipment and failed to realize those trusses were incorrectly connected to other beams.
Cugliari had his engineering licence revoked as a result of the commitee’s findings, and his company, Construction Control Inc., which declared bankruptcy in 2018, lost its licence.
Nanotechnology used to create new lithium extraction technology Global Calgary - Since the downturn in the oil and gas industry, there have been repeated calls for Alberta to diversify its economy. The province invests hundreds of millions of dollars every year to help grow both the tech and green energy sectors, industries that could have a bright future in a province rich with talent.
Amanda Hall, P.Geo., is a prime example of that. She was able to draw on her experience in resource extraction with Alberta’s oil and gas industry, developing green technology to be used in energy storage. Hall left her job in geophysics at Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. in 2018 and began a self-taught foray in nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is a field of research and innovation concerned with building materials and devices on the scale of atoms and molecules.
Hall developed the only female-led mining technology company in the world: Summit Nanotech Corp. Using nanotechnology, Hall and her team say they have created an improved method of lithium-ion resource extraction from produced brine water.
Using sponges developed through nanoscience, Hall and her team have created technology that will allow producers to extract lithium directly from the wellhead without the need for expansive ponds and toxic chemicals. The process is expected to reduce costs and decrease chemical waste by 90 per cent.
The firm’s website touts that its process is the most “green lithium extraction in the world”.
“The sponge has lithium selective cavities in it, just the exact size of a lithium-ion. And so, as if you put a fluid in against this sponge, it will only suck up lithium, nothing else, and it holds on to it. And then when you wash it, you wash the lithium off the sponge just by changing the environment it’s in. So we don’t have to use any acids,” Hall said. Hall and her team have spent the last two-and-a-half years in the lab perfecting their design and are now building the company’s first full-scale 12-metre tall unit. “It’s our baby, but it’s huge,” Hall said. “It’s a mini-refinery, essentially.”
That “mini-refinery” will then be sent via shipping container to the first of the company’s three pilot partners: Lithium Chile.
The other two partners are Saskatchewan-based Prairie Lithium and 3 Proton Lithium (3PL) Operating Inc. in Nevada.
Alberta researcher awarded for mask innovation
The Canadian Press - Salt that crystallizes with sharp edges is the killer ingredient in the development of a reusable mask because any COVID-19 droplets that land on it would be quickly destroyed, says a researcher who is being recognized for her innovation.
Ilaria Rubino, a recent PhD graduate from the department of chemical and materials engineering at the University of Alberta, said a mostly salt and water solution that coats the first or middle layer of the mask would dissolve droplets before they can penetrate the face covering. As the liquid from the droplets evaporates, the salt crystals grow back as spiky weapons, damaging the bacteria or virus within five minutes. “We know that after the pathogens are collected in the mask, they can survive. Our goal was to develop a technology that is able to inactivate the pathogens upon contact so that we can make the mask as effective as possible.”
Rubino, who collaborated with a researcher at Georgia State University in Atlanta to advance the project she started five years ago, was recognized with an innovation award from Mitacs.
The Canadian not-for-profit organization receives funding from the federal government, most provinces and Yukon to honour researchers from academic institutions.
The reusable, non-washable mask is made of a type of polypropylene, a plastic used in surgical masks, and could be safely worn and handled multiple times without being decontaminated, Rubino said.
The idea is to replace surgical masks often worn by health-care workers who must dispose of them in a few hours, she said, adding the technology could potentially be used for N-95 respirators.
The salt-coated mask is expected to be available commercially next year after regulatory approval. It could also be used to stop the spread of other infectious illnesses, such as influenza, Rubino said.
Emissions from oilpatch twice as high as thought
The Canadian Press - Emissions of a potent greenhouse gas from Canada’s oilpatch are nearly twice as high as previously thought, says newly published federal research.
The findings on methane from Environment Canada researchers could complicate regulatory attempts to nearly halve releases over the next five years, says an environmental group.
Methane is released from oil and gas infrastructure such as pumps, pipelines and valves during everyday operations. Its effects in climate change are about 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide and both industry and government have been working to keep it contained. How much methane is being released has been contentious.
Current estimates are based on the difference between how much methane enters oilpatch infrastructure and how much is left at the other end. In a paper published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, Environment Canada scientists instead used actual measurements of methane in the atmosphere.
Eight years worth of data from four points in Alberta and Saskatchewan show the previous total of 1.6 megatonnes is an underestimate. The study found three megatonnes.
The report’s findings are being welcomed by industry.
“The industry is working closely with government and regulators to continue to build a detailed understanding of methane emissions and their efficient management,” said Jay Averill of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. “The more we know about the sources of methane emissions, the better we can find ways to target and reduce those emissions.
Oil and gas to see slight recovery in 2021
WestCentral Online - As the oil and gas industry continues to cope with the effects of Covid-19 and the continual low prices of oil per barrel, operations are set to improve slightly in 2021.
The Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC) recently released their 2021 drilling forecast, which sees an increase in wells drilled and overall operating days, compared to 2020.
The association is projecting 3,771 wells will be drilled in the new year, which is an increase of 475 from 2020. The number of operating days is projected to increase to 33,938 from 29,664 – a difference of just under 4,300 days.
Although total jobs are expected to increase by 2,349 to 18,550 total over last year, rig fleets are projected to see a decrease of 27, going from 505 in 2020 to 478 in 2021.
High-speed Internet coming to rural Canada
The Canadian Press - The federal government is launching a $1.75-billion fund to expand high-speed internet to Canadians in rural and remote communities.
The Universal Broadband Fund will see 98 per cent of Canadians connected to high-speed internet by 2026 — crucial in an era when virtual communication is an essential part of daily life.
The program, originally announced in the 2019 budget as a $1-billion fund, includes $750 million of additional cash to advance projects with partners such as the federal infrastructure financing agency. A $600-million deal with Ottawa-based satellite company Telesat will link especially remote communities and regions in the Far North with high-speed broadband via satellite.
The CRTC declared broadband Internet a basic telecommunications service in 2016. However, its data suggests just 41 per cent of rural Canadian households have access to at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds and 10 Mbps upload speeds.
Engineers rated one of UK’s most trusted professions
The Engineer - Nearly nine out of 10 people in the UK trust engineers to tell them the truth, according to new research from Ipsos MORI and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). The profession, which makes up 19 per cent of the UK workforce, was deemed trustworthy by 89 per cent of the population, closely following nurses (93 per cent) and doctors (91 per cent). This marks engineering’s highest placing to date since its inclusion in the Ipsos MORI Veracity Index in 2018.
“As highlighted this year, engineers play a central role in advancing the world around us and finding solutions to global challenges,” said Dr. Peter Bannister, P.Eng., biomedical engineer and chair of the IET’s healthcare panel.
“The coronavirus outbreak has presented many challenges across the world and has changed life as we know it. Engineers have played a vital role in developing technology and rapid processes to not only keep our infrastructure running but to provide healthcare solutions such as highly efficient ventilators, improve mental health by combatting social isolation, develop remote diagnostics and healthcare tracking apps as well as biomedical engineering which has led to successful vaccine trials.
Groups urge government to ‘Build for Recovery’
Daily Commercial News – A group of construction industry organizations and stakeholders launched the Build for Recovery campaign, an effort to encourage all levels of government to prioritize infrastructure investments to fuel Canada’s post Covid-19 economic recovery.
The partners who are organizing the campaign include the Canadian Construction Association, Association of Consulting Engineering Companies – Canada, the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships, Associated Equipment Distributors and the National Trade Contractors Coalition of Canada.
“Even though there seems to be a lot of support for infrastructure investment for being a part of recovery, we don’t want to take it for granted,” said John Gamble, president and CEO of ACEC Canada. “We want to make sure that infrastructure is top of mind for policy-makers.” But it’s not as simple as just committing to build infrastructure. Gamble noted the kind of infrastructure government chooses to invest in matters as well.
He said the current federal leadership is an activist government with a green economy brand. He said while active transportation, solar farms, community centres and other “soft infrastructure” add value, leaders should not forget about bread and butter infrastructure projects.
Honouring the women of the Montreal massacre
Yahoo News - It has been 31 years since the tragic massacre of 14 women at École Polytechnique in Montreal but the flashback of the Dec. 6, 1989 femicide will remain a vivid memory for many in Canada and around the world.
Dr. Mary Wells, P.Eng., dean of the faculty of engineering at the University of Waterloo, graduated from McGill University in 1987, shortly before the Montreal massacre. She was working for Stelco in Hamilton, ON, at the time and still remembers hearing about the shooting on the radio.
“After that happened it really shocked me, the memory of hearing it is like burned in my brain,” she said. “All the women and my colleagues, we just considered ourselves engineers, we didn’t think of ourselves as women engineers … it was just so shocking for me to see that he was trying to get rid of people like me, and why would that be? It was just unbelievable.”
Dr. Lianne Lefsrud, P.Eng., assistant professor, engineering safety and risk management at the University of Alberta, was a second-year engineering student at the Alberta school when the attack happened. “I was in civil engineering and there [were] five or six women students ... with me and we just kind of sat together like absolutely dumbfounded,” Dr. Lefsrud said. “It was just so unbelievable that where we felt safe in class could be so unsafe for someone else.” Dr. Lefsrud said the tragedy boosted conversations at the University of Alberta about solidarity and celebrating engineers.
“Remembering the Montreal massacre is an opportunity for us to learn from it and to say, what barriers do we still face as women, or different genders ... in STEM more broadly, and there’s plenty of them,” she said. “This [is] an opportunity for us to reflect on those barriers, on the progress that we’ve made and the progress to still make.”
Faculty of engineering appoints female dean
The Manitoban - Marcia Friesen, P.Eng., is paving a new road in the Price Faculty of Engineering as its first female dean in the University of Manitoba Price Faculty of Engineering.
Even though female enrolment has increased since Friesen’s time as a student in the faculty, she said that the faculty still has a way to go when it comes to diversity and representation in the different specializations that the faculty offers.
In the past 30 years, Friesen has been able to act as a role model to female engineering students through her career in engineering, education and activism.
After working for different engineering companies in Manitoba, she went on to receive a doctorate in biosystems engineering and currently works in the faculty as associate dean (design education).
At the university, she served for 14 years as director of the faculty’s Internationally Educated Engineers Qualification program, where recent immigrants holding engineering degrees outside of Canada would be able to certify to work in Manitoba.
Part of what Friesen aims to do as dean is grow enrolment and to “reach groups that typically haven’t been represented in our programs”. As of Dec. 31, 2019, 17.3 per cent of all newly licensed engineers in Manitoba were women. At the U of M, 23 per cent of undergraduate students and 30 per cent of graduate students are female.
According to Engineers Canada, “30 per cent is usually held as the tipping point for sustainable change”.
Better STEM prep needed in Indigenous high schools
Winnipeg Sun - A new study urges Northern and remote Indigenous high schools to better prepare their students to carry on to their post-secondary science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies.
Indigenous people make up more than four per cent of adults in Canada, but only fewer than two per cent of Indigenous people are working in STEM-related jobs.
The report from the Conference Board of Canada in partnership with the Future Skills Centre found that these Indigenous high schools do not prepare their students to transfer into post-secondary education in STEM.
Research shows that STEM-focused access and retention programs for Indigenous learners at Canadian colleges and universities have led to an increase in Indigenous STEM students.
Change has already begun in terms of how institutions admit their students, assess them, teach in the classroom and deliver programs. The University of Manitoba’s Engineering Access Program has helped 134 Indigenous student engineers graduate over the past 20 years.
As well, the Aboriginal Access to Engineering Initiative at the Queen’s University has increased the number of Indigenous student engineers from four in 2011 to more than 50 students in 2020.