From the Editor

Roberta Staley
Fall 2017

Oil and gas are a significant part of Canada’s economy. As a nation, we are the world’s fifth largest exporter of natural gas, the seventh largest exporter of crude oil and the eighth largest exporter of refined petroleum products, according to a 2016 Ivey Business School report. How are most of these fossil fuels moved from source to export markets? Along pipelines, of course — smoothly and efficiently. For the most part, that is.  

As we know all too well, pipelines can leak. This is a factor in the arguments of environmental and Aboriginal groups as well as municipal and provincial governments opposing construction of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project, the new pipeline that would carry diluted bitumen from Alberta to the West Coast. 

But pipeline leaks are not always inevitable. Their causes can be understood, and interventions to prevent them can be put in place. That is why Genome Canada has given a group of researchers from academia, industry and government $7.9 million to undertake a Large-Scale Applied Research Project. The initiative, titled “Managing Microbial Corrosion in Canadian Offshore and Onshore Oil Production,” will study how to mitigate a specific type of pipeline leak: corrosion caused by microbial action that eats away at the metal, a topic we delve into in the feature “Pipe cleaner.” 

Other stories include “The future is microscopic,” which takes another look at bacteria — useful ones this time — as the basis for the creation of natural fibre composites to produce biomaterials for vehicles that will enhance performance and improve environmental sustainability. 
In the feature “Hold your nose” we look at the chemical nuances of garlic, which, besides its pungency, is notable for its sulphur-containing compounds that include diallyl sulphides, capable of thwarting such nasty food-borne pathogens as Campylobacter jejuni.   

This issue also offers up a range of Chemistry Briefs, including a new analysis of the environmental effects of gasoline and diesel, offering new insight in the debate about which fuel impacts the environment less. We also delve into fresh research into naturally occurring complex molecules that may have unexpected properties such as antibiotic behaviour. Another story looks at the potential replacement of one of butyl rubber’s carbon-carbon double bonds with a phosphorus-carbon double bond, allowing for chemical transformation of this rubber polymer. 

Enjoy the read and we look forward to connecting again in the New Year.