Chris Hugenholtz

Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts


Dr. Hugenholtz’s expertise covers the interface between meteorology and geoinformatics. His current research focuses on developing innovative technologies to locate, measure and quantify fugitive methane emissions to help mitigate environmental impacts in the energy sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

With new federal emissions regulations taking effect in January 2020, there is an opportunity to improve and replace current methane detection methods with innovative technologies that are quicker, efficient, and cost effective. As global practices trend toward tight monitoring and explicit consideration of carbon intensity, domestic markets for new and improved technologies in this area are increasing.

To address this challenge, Dr. Hugenholtz’s research team developed the Portable Methane Leak Observatory (PoMELO) – a rapid vehicle-based methane emissions mapping system that detects, attributes, and quantifies methane emissions from oil and gas equipment. The map of emissions is used to direct close-range methods to constrain the emitting sources and determine if repair is needed.

In under three years, Dr. Hugenholtz and his team have accelerated PoMELO from a concept to a commercial-ready system. PoMELO has completed four demonstration projects for the oil and gas sector, based on a competitive application and selection process. Fall 2019, PoMELO was the only Canadian and university-based technology selected for the Stanford / US-based Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Mobile Monitoring Challenge. Single-blind testing at the end of 2019 showed that PoMELO is near equivalent in detection to handheld regulatory methods.

Additionally, the research team has completed the first commercial version of their system and are discussing licensing opportunities with a number of firms interested in deploying this best-in-class technology.

Dr. Hugenholtz will use his Innovation Fellowship to train and mentor highly qualified personnel (HPQ), who will be instrumental in developing and commercializing the next project – PoMELO Passive. Building on the current PoMELO technology, Passive will support deployment on vehicles performing other tasks in the oilfield, with commercialization set for early 2021. Additionally, he plans on hiring two undergraduate students to join his research team. These students will be integrated into PoMELO commercialization activities and given an opportunity to develop a prototype and explore the commercialization opportunities. Lastly, Dr. Hugenholtz will participate in entrepreneurial programming offered through a number on and off campus organizations, such as: The Hunter Hub, Innovate Calgary, and the Energy New Ventures Competition. This will allow him time to manage and accelerate his research and commercialization activities in his lab and business partners.

Dr. Chris Hugenholtz

The University of Calgary is producing world-class research and innovation to reduce the carbon footprint of the oil and gas sector. Opportunities like the Parex Innovation Fellowship are critical because they give researchers the support they need to translate university innovations into game-changing commercial solutions.

Dr. Chris Hugenholtz, PhD