Delta-Lab – Stable Isotope Geochemistry

Natural Resources Canada, Quebec, Québec
What the facility does

Expertise and method development on stable isotope-based analyses for understanding crustal, environmental and airborne processes

Areas of expertise

The Delta-Lab at the Geological Survey of Canada in Quebec is a stable isotope laboratory dedicated to environmental research and basin analysis. Using a variety of state-of-the-art methods, the environmental research areas include hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon and oxygen isotopes in atmospheric plumes, tree-ring sequences, forest components, permafrost and organic contaminants in various media in order to understand the cumulative effects in industrialized and mining sectors. These approaches also lead to paleo-climatic reconstruction permitting the separation of natural changes from anthropogenic impacts in the environment. The basin analysis work involves the application of carbon and oxygen clumped isotopes from carbonates to reconstruct the thermal regime of sedimentary basins.

Research services

Specialized analysis and method development. 

Collaborative projects are treated on a case-by-case basis and selected through a proposal system. Projects must be aligned with, and contribute to, advancing laboratory strategic goals. They must also be closely aligned with the current Geological Survey of Canada program. Collaborative projects are undertaken on a cost-recovery basis.

Sectors of application
  • Energy
  • Environmental technologies and related services
  • Forestry and forest-based industries
  • Mining, minerals and metals
Thermo Scientific MAT 253+ Stable Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer and a Kiel IV Carbonate DeviceHigh precision isotope ratio mass spectrometer with the specific clumped-isotopes collector design, coupled with a Kiel IV peripheral, fully dedicated to analyzing clumped isotopes in carbonates
Thermo Scientific MAT 253 Stable Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer with two peripherals: GC IsoLink II (gas chromatography) and an Elemental Analyzer EA-Isolink (FLASH IRMS)

High precision isotope ratio mass spectrometer (IRMS):

  • GC-Isolink used for compound-specific isotope analysis of organic compounds via combustion (δ13C) or pyrolysis (δ2H)
  • Elemental Analyzer used for analysis of δ2H, δ13C, δ15N, δ18O and sulfur isotopes in solids
Thermo Electron Corporation Delta V Plus Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer with two peripherals: GC IsoLink (gas chromatography) and PreCon (trace gas pre-concentrator)

Isotope ratio mass spectrometer for on-line isotopic analysis (IRMS):

  • GC-Isolink used for compounds-specific isotope analysis of organic compounds via combustion (δ13C) or pyrolysis (δ2H)
  • PreCon used for N isotopes and triple O isotopic characterization of air and water
Thermo Finnigan MAT Delta Plus XL Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer with 3 peripherals: Thermal-Conversion Elemental Analyzer (pyrolysis) (TC-EA), a GasBench II (GB) and Costech ECS 4010 (Elemental Combustion System)

Isotope ratio mass spectrometer for on-line isotopic analysis (IRMS):

  • TC-EA used for on-line isotopic analysis of δ18O and δ2H in solids
  • GasBench II used for on-line isotopic analysis of δ13C and δ18O of pure carbonates
  • Costech 4010 optimized for δ13C and δ15N in solids
Agilent 7890A Gas Chromatograph with a Flame Ionization Detector (FID) interfaced with a Gerstel Preparative Fraction Collector (PFC)PFC used to separate and collect organic compounds after gas chromatographic separation for further compound-specific radiocarbon analysis
Waters High Performance Liquid Chromatograph (HPLC) system equipped with a Photodiode Array Detector and Fraction CollectorHPLC system used to separate organic compounds of interest from a mixture in liquid phase
Teledyne Tekmar Stratum Purge and Trap Concentrator (PTC) system interfaced with an Agilent 7890 Gas Chromatograph equipped with a Flame Ionization Detector (FID) and Thermal Conductivity Detector (TCD)Purge and Trap concentrator system used to analyze aqueous concentrations of volatile organic compounds
Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer (GC-MS) system (Agilent MSD 5975C and GC 7890A)GC-MS is used to identify and quantify organic compounds in environmental samples
Clumped isotope temperature calibration for calcite: Bridging theory and experimentation, Jautzy et al., 2020
Evaluating in situ biodegradation of 13C-labelled naphthenic acids in groundwater near oil sands tailing ponds, Ahad et al., 2018
δ15N values of atmospheric N species simultaneously collected using sector-based samplers distant from sources - Isotopic inheritance and fractionation, Savard et al., 2017
Sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to northwestern Saskatchewan lakes east of the Athabasca oil sands, Ahad et al., 2015


Modelling carbon isotopes in spruce trees reproduces air quality changes due to oil sands operations, Savard, M.M., Bégin, C., Marion, J., 2014


Carbon and oxygen isotopes of lakeshore black spruce trees in northeastern Canada as proxies for climatic reconstruction, Naulier, M., Savard, M.M., Bégin, C., Marion, J., Arseneault, D., Bégin, Y., 2014
Nitrogen and triple oxygen isotopes in near-road air samples using chemical conversion and thermal decomposition, Smirnoff et al., 2012