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Oil Sands Environmental Management Bibliography

The Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA)partnered with the Oil Sands Research and Information Network (OSRIN) to create the new Oil Sands Environmental Management Bibliography, which includes documents relevant to the environmental management of oil sands development in Alberta. The majority of the documents focus on the mineable oil sands in the Athabasca deposit, though some documents relate to in-situ developments. This bibliography was last updated in November 2014.

A general fish and riverine habitat inventory, Athabasca River, May, 1994

Year of Publication: 1995

Abstract:
The project covers the same area studied in the fall of 1993; Athabasca River between Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park (JNP), and the town of Athabasca, including three major tributaries within JNP.... This project focused on describing the early spring distribution of forage fish, major fish aggregations and the recapture of previously tagged fish.

A general fish and riverine habitat inventory, Peace and Slave Rivers, April to June 1992

Authors Boag, T. D.
Year of Publication: 1993

Abstract:
Report of a fisheries survey of the Peace and Slave rivers carried out during spring 1992. Fish species composition, abundance, distribution, and habitat characteristics were determined from the Alberta/B.C. border to Fort Smith. A total of 29 species were identifed, including walleye, burbot, northern pike, and mountain whitefish.

A geotechnical investigation of freeze-thaw dewatering of oil sands fine tailings

Authors Proskin, S. A.
Year of Publication: 1998

Abstract:
The production of synthetic crude oil from Alberta's oil sands has resulted in the accumulation of 350 million cubic metres of mature fine tailings (MFT) in tailings ponds. The containment structures required to store the MFT are a direct incremental operating cost and are a significant factor in the development of an environmentally acceptably reclamation plan. Previous research has demonstrated that freeze-thaw is effective in releasing the water trapped in the MFT, thereby reducing its water content and increasing its strength. This dissertation investigated the mechanisms responsible for the release of water due to the freeze-thaw process. These mechanisms were investigated in both laboratory experiments and a large scale field experiment conducted at the Suncor oil sands plant. The laboratory investigation demonstrated that freeze-thaw overconsolidates the MFT as the freezing front advances and suctions are created when water flows to the vertical and horizontal ice lenses which form a three dimensional reticulate ice network surrounding blocks of overconsolidated MFT. During thaw the remnant ice fissures provide channels for fluid flow. The microfabric of particles was observed to change from an edge to face flocculated, disaggregated cardhouse fabric to a compact, aggregated structure. The latter microfabric retains less water which accounts for the significant increase in solids content. The altered fabric reduces the MFT compressibility and increases its hydraulic conductivity as high as 1000 fold. The Suncor field freeze-thaw tests showed that the solids content of MFT was increased to as high as 70% with an accompanying settlement of 60% provided that release water was drained from the surface. Analyses suggested that freeze-thaw increased the solids content from 30% to around 55%. If the surface of the thawed MFT was allowed to dry, desiccation and seepage consolidation formed a crust up to 0.3 m. Under these conditions drying was calculated to reduce the volume by 20% and increase the average solids content from 55% to 70%. Analytical procedures were capable of estimating freeze-thaw settlement and solids content provided a reduced compressibility curve was used. A simple model was used to estimate the settlement and solids content increase associated with drying. A finite strain freeze-thaw consolidation model overestimated the excess pore pressures because it did not properly account for thaw consolidation.

A greenhouse gas reduction roadmap for oil sands

Authors
Year of Publication: 2012

Abstract:
Suncor Energy Services Inc. (Suncor), with funding from the Climate Change Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC) and support from Alberta Innovates - Energy and Environment Solutions, teamed with Jacobs Consultancy Canada Inc. (Jacobs Consultancy) to complete an Oil Sands Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Roadmap Study. The primary objective of the Study was to identify, assess, and quantify energy efficiency and GHG reduction opportunities for commercial oil sands operations and determine their potential impact on the GHG intensity of fuels refined from oil sands derived bitumen. The facilities evaluated in this Study include In Situ bitumen production, mining and extraction, and upgrading. Energy efficiency and GHG reduction opportunities included operational improvements, capital investment projects, and technology advancement opportunities. The improvement opportunities were identified based on detailed review of each processing step by Suncor technical specialists and key operations staff together with industry specialists from Jacobs Consultancy. Improvement ideas were screened and top ideas were evaluated using a combination of plant operating data and simulation models. To determine the impact of improvement projects on total GHG emissions, a life cycle analysis (LCA) was conducted to demonstrate how the identified energy improvements affect the GHG emissions on a well-to-wheels basis for fuels derived from oil sands-based crude oils. This Study provides a high-level evaluation of GHG reduction opportunities for crude oil production from oil sands, including a preliminary evaluation of the economics and a qualitative assessment of the risks of their implementation. While some of the opportunities evaluated had sufficient detail to advance them toward implementation, most of the opportunities identified in this Study will require more detailed techno-economic evaluation before implementation. Therefore, while efforts were made to quantify benefits, the information in this report provides a foundation and direction for future work to improve the energy efficiency of oil sands operations and reduce their GHG emissions. In this Study, Suncor and Jacobs Consultancy (the Study Team) used the Suncor Firebag production site to represent a typical in situ facility. The Suncor Millennium mine and base plant extraction facility represented typical mining and extraction facilities. Suncor’s Upgrader No. 2 represented typical upgrading facilities.

A guide to native communities in Alberta

Authors Affairs, A. N.
Year of Publication: 1986

Abstract:
Profiles 83 communities in Alberta that have at least 50% native population. Includes information on location, size, history, population, economic base, physical infrastructure, services, education, communications, local government and organizations in each community.

A hydraulic flood routing model of the Peace River, Hudson Hope to Peace Point

Year of Publication: 1996

Abstract:
The objective of this study was to develop a preliminary hydraulic flood routing model of the Peace River, between the Bennett Dam, in British Columbia, and Peace Point in Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta. Although Alberta Environmental Protection hydrologists have successfully developed a hydrologic flood routing model of this reach using the “SSARR” model, output from models of this type is limited to discharge hydrographs at select sites. As several of the other components of the Northern River Basins Study (NRBS) require estimates of flow parameters not available from hydrologic models, such as stage and velocity, as well as discharge hydrographs at intermediate sites, a hydraulic flood routing model was needed. An additional advantage of this hydraulic flood routing model is that it has the ability to provide for an evaluation of the effects of ice on the propagation of flood hydrographs and, being fully dynamic, it can be used to route extreme events such as dam break floods and surges resulting from ice jam releases. The project began with the development of a geometric data base describing the study reach. Under the terms of reference for this study, only available data (collected by other agencies) were used. This included surveyed cross section data and National Topographic Survey (N.T.S.) mapping. B.C. Hydro cross sections surveys extended from the dam to the B.C7Alberta Border. Localized cross section surveys were available downstream of the border at the Dunvegan Bridge, the town of Peace River, Fort Vermilion and at Peace Point The largest break in available cross section surveys extended from the town of Peace River to Fort Vermilion, a distance of more than 400 km. Because of this paucity of data, an approximate model of the channel geometry had to be developed from other data sources, in particular: water surface slopes and channel top widths obtained from 1:250,000 scale NTS maps. Given the approximate nature of the geometric model and the fact that the hydraulic model was based on a one-dimensional approximation, a rectangular channel section was assumed. Comparisons to actual surveys confirmed that the surveyed river cross sections were well represented by this classical wide, rectangular channel approximation. The final geometric model consists of more than 1100 computational nodes describing channel width, effective bed elevation and channel roughness. No consideration of flood plain geometry could be provided at this stage, due to the limited field data available. The hydraulic flood routing model used was the cdg-lD finite element model developed at the University of Alberta by F. Hicks and P. Steffler. The model provides for a solution of the fully dynamic, one-dimensional open channel flow equations (modified St. Venant equations). Although the model is capable of handling highly dynamic flood events (such as dam break floods or surges resulting from ice jam releases), the test scenarios examined for this preliminary study were simpler "diffusive" waves. As outlined in the terms of reference for this study, because of the exploratory nature of the research, the specific range of test scenarios was modified in consultation with Mr. John Taggart Alberta Environmental Protection (AEP) and Dr. Terry Prowse, Hydraulics/Hydrology/Sediment Project Leader, NRBS. After an examination of available hydrologic data the final range of tests was reduced to two events, one moderate and one large, specifically the 1980 spring runoff event and the 1987 summer flood event Evaluations of non-regulated flows and the effects of ice on flood propagation were not considered warranted, given the lack of recorded data and the extensive gaps in surveyed geometry. However, it was intended that the model should provide enough information to assess where further surveys are needed, to facilitate future tests of this type. The only calibration parameter involved in the development of the hydraulic model was the channel resistance coefficient, specifically Mannings n. Initial values for the parameter were based on the data provided by Kellerhals, Neill and Bray (1972) for 1:2 year flood events at gauge sites. Agreement between measured and computed flood hydrographs was good for both the moderate (1980) and extreme (1987) flood events and no further refinement, or "calibration" of the model was considered warranted until additional data is obtained in the unsurveyed reaches. It is stressed that because of the limited data available (both in terms of these unsurveyed reaches and the lack of overbank geometry) the model is still somewhat empirical.

A laboratory evaluation of the sorption of oil sands naphthenic acids on organic rich soils

Year of Publication: 2006

Abstract:
The adsorption characteristics of oil sands tailings pond water (OSTPW)-derived naphthenic acids on soils was determined using a batch partitioning method. The adsorption isotherms were found to be linear in all cases. All tests were conducted at 4°C, and at a pH of 8.0 ± 0.4, which reflects the pH of a tailings settling facility near Fort McMurray, AB. The adsorption characteristics of the naphthenic acids in a synthetic groundwater (SGW) solution was compared to that of the mixture in Milli-Q water. In the presence of SGW, the adsorption coefficient (K d) of the mixture of naphthenic acids on soil 1 with a higher organic carbon fraction (f oc) was an order of magnitude higher than that observed with the same soil and the Milli-Q water mixture, increasing from 1.9 ± 0.2 (mL/g) to 17.8 ± 1.5 (mL/g). The adsorption coefficient of the mixture of naphthenic acids on soil 2, with a lower f oc, was also observably higher in the SGW mixture, increasing from 1.3 ± 0.15 (mL/g) to 3.7 ± 0.2 (mL/g). The relative fractional abundance of the individual naphthenic acids was plotted in order to determine the presence of preferential sorption between individual species within the mixture. It was found that for all Z families (where Z is a measure of the number of rings), naphthenic acids within the carbon number range of 13 to 17 showed preferential sorption. The mixture in SGW showed more pronounced sorption relative to naphthenic acid mixture in Milli-Q water. The results indicate that mixtures of naphthenic acids sorb strongly to soils and that adsorption would be an important attenuating mechanism in groundwater transport. Furthermore, preferential sorption of the individual naphthenic acids is important from a toxicity stand point since different naphthenic acid species have varying degrees of toxicity.

A laboratory evaluation of the sorption of oil sands naphthenic acids on soils

Authors Janfada, A.
Year of Publication: 2007

Abstract:
The adsorption characteristics of an oil sands tailings water (OSTW) mixture of naphthenic acids were determined using a batch partitioning method for two soils from the Alberta oil sands region. The soils were mineral peat mixtures produced during salvage operations, with Soil 1 having a higher organic carbon fraction (foc) than Soil 2. Naphthenic acids are a significant toxic byproduct of bitumen extraction, and are acutely toxic to aquatic organisms. The sorption of naphthenic acids as affected by a high ionic strength solution was examined using a synthetic groundwater (SGW) mixture. The adsorption isotherms were found to be linear in all cases. All tests were conducted at 4oC, and at a pH of 8.0 ± 0.4, reflective of the conditions in a tailings settling facility near Fort McMurray, AB. The adsorption characteristics of the naphthenic acids in the SGW solution were compared to that of the mixture in Milli-Q water for the two soils. In the presence of SGW, the adsorption coefficient (Kd) for the mixture of naphthenic acids on Soil 1 was an order of magnitude higher than that observed with the same soil and the Milli-Q water mixture, increasing from 1.9 ± 0.2 mL/g to 17.8 ± 1.5 mL/g. The adsorption coefficient for the mixture of naphthenic acids on Soil 2 was also observably higher in the SGW mixture, increasing from 1.3 ± 0.15 mL/g to 3.7 ± 0.2 mL/g. In order to determine whether preferential sorption is exhibited by a particular species within the mixture, the relative fractional abundance of the individual naphthenic acids was plotted as a 3-dimensional histogram for carbon numbers 5 to 37. It was found that for all Z families (where Z is a measure of the number of carbon ring structures), naphthenic acids within the middle range of carbon numbers showed preferential sorption. A two sample t-test confirmed that the naphthenic acids in the carbon number groupings 15 to 24 and 25 to 37 sorbed significantly in the SGW mixture when compared to those in the carbon number grouping of 5 to 14. It was concluded that select constituents of oil sands naphthenic acids mixtures sorb strongly to soil under conditions of elevated salinity and therefore adsorption could be an important attenuating mechanism in groundwater transport. Furthermore, preferential sorption of the individual naphthenic acids is important with respect to toxicity since lower molecular weight naphthenic acids are believed to have a more pronounced toxic effect. Overall, the measured adsorption coefficients indicate that there can be significant sorption of OSTW derived naphthenic acids to soils

A laboratory study of long-term effects of mine depressurization groundwater on fish and invertebrates

Year of Publication: 1980

Abstract:
This study was conducted to determine long-term toxic effects, on selected species of fish and invertebrates, of mine depressurization at concentrations non-lethal in acute toxicity tests. The study also includes chronic toxicity experiments, studies of sublethal effects of groundwater, and a literature review. The results of groundwater monitoring indicate that during 6 mo of storage, there was a decline in concentration of almost all chemical parameters tested. However, in contrast to previous studies, some heavy metals (iron, lead, nickel, and zinc) showed an increase in concentration with storage time. Mine depressurization groundwater was acutely toxic to the three species of invertebrates tested. The 96 h LCso for the two mayfly species, Caenis simulans and ParaZeptophZebia cornuta, was 68.75 and 64.28%, respectively. The 96 h LC so for the amphipod, Hyalella azteca, was 50%. Results of chronic toxicity tests for the three invertebrates species indicated that percent survivorship was highest in control and 3% groundwater concentrations. The mine depressurization groundwater had an inhibitor effect on the larval growth and emergence of the two mayfly species tested. The result was less obvious in the experiment with H. azteca. Cannibalism appeared to be an important factor contributing to higher mortalities in amphipods. The salinity of mine depressurization groundwater affected the osmoregulatory function of the two mayfly species. Chloride cell density was of some predictive value in determining osmoregulatory stress in the test animals. Accumulation of both Cu and Zn occurred in tissues of Caenis and Hyalella, particularly after chronic exposure to the higher concentrations of groundwater.

A life cycle greenhouse gas emissions perspective on liquid fuels from unconventional Canadian and US fossil sources

Year of Publication: 2009

Abstract:
The life cycle Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions associated with the production and use of transportation fuels from conventional and unconventional fossil fuel sources in Canada and the USA are investigated. The studied pathways include reformulated gasoline and low sulphur diesel produced from oil sands, oil shale, coal and natural gas, as well as reference pathways from conventional crude oil. comparison of Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) completed for these fuels indicates considerable uncertainty in these emissions, illustrating the need for further LCAs with particular attention to completeness and transparency. Based on the considered studies, only one unconventional pathway has better GHG emissions performance than the conventional pathways: Fischer-Tropsch diesel from natural gas. However, the limitations of the data used here and other factors that may restrict a switch to natural gas must be considered. Furthermore, there are considerable opportunities to reduce emissions from the unconventional pathways. There is significant potential to produce liquid transportation fuels from unconventional Canadian and US fossil sources. However, to avoid significant increases in GHG emissions, the life cycle GHG implications of almost all pathways will need to be reduced to respond to upcoming regulatory initiatives and to move towards a more sustainable transportation sector.

A literature review and intensity analysis of resource use in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Authors
Year of Publication: 2003

Abstract:
This report was intended to consolidate the most relevant, available information on multiple resource uses in the RMWB. The first component consisted of a desktop review of existing, readily available literature that characterized various resource use sectors in the RMWB. This information was used to compile an annotated bibliography of resource use information for the RMWB. The key findings of this research were summarized for each sector and gaps in existing information were identified. During this process, the most current spatial data characterizing regional resources use and baseline information on a selection of natural resource indicators were identified and when possible, collected for the intensity analysis. The second component of this project used the available spatial data to evaluate the pressure that cumulative resource use is exerting on the indicators selected by SEWG.

A literature review of landscape planning processes and modelling tied to landscape planning in different jurisdictions

Authors
Year of Publication: 2013

Abstract:
This report provides an overview of landscape planning and modelling approaches as well as reviewing selected landscape planning exercises.

A local test study distinguishes natural from anthropogenic groundwater contaminants near an Athabasca oil sands mining operation

Year of Publication: 2012

Abstract:
Recent scientific literature underlines the consensus between oil sands stakeholders regarding the need to separate mining-related and naturally occurring contaminants in the Lower Athabasca region where mining operations and geological units can both release contaminants to groundwater and to the river. This report discusses two new isotopic approaches developed to make such discrimination for organic contaminants and metals. This test project investigates a groundwater flow system adjacent to a tailings pond operation located about 3 km from the Athabasca River. Its aims are to inform environmental management decisions by specifically: (i) developing new methods for distinguishing natural and mining- related inputs of organic acids and metals in groundwater; and (ii) estimating, at the local scale, the loads of mining-related and natural contaminants in groundwater within the selected glacio- fluvial aquifer system. A two dimensional conceptual model was developed to simulate the groundwater flow and mass transport based upon two flow-parallel alignments of wells between the tailings pond and the Athabasca River. Two novel isotopic fingerprinting methods were developed for discriminating dissolved constituents and specifically identifying the sources of “naphthenic acids” (NAs) present in groundwater, and of lead (Pb) and zinc (Zn) in various phases of the local aquifer system. Acid extractable organics (AEO) containing classically defined NAs represent a diverse class of organic compounds that are very difficult to characterize chemically. These acids are naturally present in bitumen and become concentrated in oil sands tailings pond water. Here the new method of intramolecular carbon isotopic (δ13C) analysis of carboxyl (-COOH) groups is developed to distinguish mining-related contaminants from natural background organic acids. Importantly, prior to their isotopic analysis, the process water AEO were isolated from different groups of interfering compounds present in natural organic matter. Similarly, the development of the novel lead (Pb) and zinc (Zn) isotopic methods for partial leach protocols and their application to the oil sand extraction context were accomplished in order to discriminate natural from mining-related metal inputs in groundwater and surface water. In addition, reactive thermodynamic modeling was also done using major ion hydrogeochemistry, petrographic observations and X-ray spectral analysis of aquifer material. Results and Interpretations The hydrogeological modeling indicates that if mining-related dissolved constituents transiting through the most conductive zone of the surficial aquifer were currently transported from the tailings pond to a modeled discharge zone, the transit would require approximately 19 years. If transiting outside the preferential flow path, the time required would be between 156 and 230 years. These estimates suggest that mining-related AEO may be reaching the river, but only in very small amounts (non-detectable). Furthermore, the metal isotopes and major ion concentrations indicate that mining-related metals are attenuated along the groundwater flow path, with practically no load being delivered to the Athabasca River, at the scale of this test project. Local Test Study Distinguishes Natural From Anthropogenic Groundwater Contaminants i Mining-derived AEO concentrations between 7.3 and 14.1 mg/L in groundwater at approximately 1.6 km down-gradient from the edge of the tailings pond are relatively high compared to the ambient level of less than 1 mg/L for groundwater in the glacio-fluvial aquifer of the studied area. This observation suggests that, on a local scale, groundwater contamination with mining-related AEO may be an issue. The proportions of mining-related AEO in groundwater as determined by high-resolution mass spectrometry and intramolecular C analyses both show strong decreasing trends with distance from the tailings pond. These trends are coherent with the 14C content in the bulk AEO which suggests that the organic acids contain a significant proportion of modern carbon (i.e., natural, non-bitumen origin) in the furthest wells of the studied alignments. Note also that the river AEO load is dominated by the natural type. These trends in the water samples clearly reflect the mixing of fossil (radio-carbon dead), mining- related AEO with younger, natural AEO. Major ion and trace-metal distribution, petrographic observations and thermodynamic modeling indicate that metal concentrations in groundwater show a strong attenuation after exiting the tailings pond. In particular, modeling suggests that the groundwater is supersaturated with respect to iron and manganese oxyhydroxides. The main consequences of this saturation are: 1) trace metals are adsorbed onto solids and thus are sequestered out of groundwater; and 2) a pool of metals has possibly accumulated in the aquifer between the tailings pond and the first monitoring wells. Most importantly, distinctive Pb and Zn isotopic ranges exist for McMurray Formation and Athabasca River samples, indicating that these isotopes distinguish mining-related from natural Pb and Zn. The Pb isotopic signatures used to estimate preliminary Pb proportions in the tailings pond from the two largest components mixed during industrial processing thus suggest that 60 to 70% comes from McMurray Formation, and 30 to 40%, from the Athabasca River water.

A longitudinal physico-chemical and algal survey of five rivers flowing through the AOSERP study area

Year of Publication: 1980

Abstract:
Studies concentrating upon the epilithon were conducted in five tributary rivers flowing into the Athabasca River: the Muskeg, Steepbank, Hangingstone, MacKay, and Ells rivers. The species composition of the epilithic algae was determined during June to November 1978. Diatoms and blue-green algae dominated numerically except in the Hangingstone River where chlorophycean species replaced the latter group .. Seasonal fluctuations in algal species and numbers were followed together with seasonal measurements of standing crop and primary productivity. These latter results probably underestimate true productivity because non-circulating chambers had to be used until circulating ones were constructed. To examine the chief determinants causing species, standing crop, and productivity fluctuations, various chemical and physical factors were measured, their fluctuations described, and relationships examined. This preliminary analysis showed no single nutrient or physical factor to be responsible. Instead, a complex interaction of factors is involved. Current velocity appears to be the most important. Comparisons of the mean standing crops and mean discharge rates produced a highly significant correlation among these rivers. Other factors, including nitrate-nitrogen, dissolved silica, irradiance, and water temperature, were important. However, due to the small data base, these results should be viewed as tentative. Largest mean standing crops for the June to November period occurred in the Steepbank, Ells, and Hangingstone Rivers, while largest mean production rates occurred in the Ells and Muskeg rivers. The MacKay River possessed the smallest standing crop and was the least productive.

A management decision tool for ranking oil sands resource development opportunities

Authors Dlugan, M., & Pompa A.
Year of Publication: 2014

Abstract:
A management decision-making and planning tool has been developed to provide a quick, high-level resource quality assessment of oil sands assets to enable economics-based ranking of investment opportunities. It is systematic and transparent, largely avoiding the subjectivity and human bias often associated with ranking assets for capital allocation. The model utilizes the available reservoir characterization information (API gravity and petrophysical analysis including oil saturation, effective porosity, V shale, pay thickness), expected operating conditions (steam injection pressure, horizontal well lengths), and a reservoir risk assessment to predict the key performance metrics for an in situ oil sands project using SAGD (steam assisted gravity drainage) including oil rates, steam-oil ratio and recovery factors. The reservoir risk factor is a quantification of the production impact (lower expectations and/or increased uncertainty) from reservoir impairments based on expert opinions and reservoir simulation. These performance metrics can then be used to estimate expected overall economic potential (IRR) for a given asset. The ranking can be done at various levels: land sections, defined prospects, wellpad drainage areas, or at the individual (delineation) well level. Predictive analytics techniques, in this case multi-variable linear regression, were used to construct the model. It was initially based on thermal recovery theoretical models for the SAGD process for predicting oil rates and a simple energy balance for predicting steam-oil ratio (SOR). Subsequently it has been updated via industry production data “fitting”, or applying the actual performance data of various mature, operating wellpads to improve the confidence level of the model. The result is a hybrid model; science-based but influenced by real operating and production experience. It has served as a primary tool used for strategic planning, in the setting of high-level performance targets (and probabilistic distributions thereof) for each of the assets. This tool has enabled a resource driven development strategy, allowing the company to focus technical resources on the assets that possess the greatest economic potential. Resulting business decisions include capital allocation (for additional delineation data) and more rigorous technical efforts (reservoir modeling and simulation) on the highest ranking prospects.

A model analysis of water resource availability in response to climate change and oil sands operations in the Athabasca River basin

Year of Publication: 2014

Abstract:
The Athabasca River Basin faces challenging tradeoffs between energy produc- tion and water security as climate change alters the seasonal freshwater supply and water demand from the oil sands mining industry is projected to increase. Ef- fective water management will depend on a physical understanding of the scale and timing of water supply and demand. This dissertation aims to synthesize the impacts of water withdrawals and climate change on streamflow in the Athabasca oil sands region, in order to develop a scientific basis for the management of water resources. The combination of a land surface process model and a hydrological routing model is used to evaluate the influence of water withdrawals and climate change on streamflow under a variety of different scenarios, and to evaluate the adaptation options. Climate warming is projected to be the primary driver of future streamflow availability, with little influence from direct water withdrawals. Seasonal patterns that show a decline in summer flows and an increase in winter flows are con- sistent with the response of a snowmelt-dominated basin to warming. Increases in the frequency of low flows that are below a threshold of maximum environ- mental protection suggest that daily bitumen production could be interrupted by up to 2-3 months a year by mid-century. It is also projected that water storage will be required to supplement river withdrawals to maintain continuous bitumen production under the impacts of future climate warming. Based on the model results, a range of water management options are developed to describe the poten- tial tradeoffs between the scale of bitumen production and industry growth, water storage requirements, and environmental protection for the aquatic ecosystems. This physically-based assessment of future water tradeoffs can inform water pol- icy, water management decisions, and climate change adaptation plans, with ap- plicability to other regions facing trade-offs between industrial development and ecosystem water needs.

A modeling study of the effect of carbon dioxide mitigation strategies natural gas prices and steam consumption on the Canadian oil sands operations

Year of Publication: 2012

Abstract:
This paper presents a study that shows the effect of key environmental and operational factors on the Canadian Oil Sands operations for the production of synthetic crude oil (SCO) and commercial bitumen. Using an integrated energy optimization model developed in the GAMS platform, the present study determined the most economical oil schemes and energy commodities configurations at different CO2 capture levels, natural gas prices and steam-to-oil ratios (SOR). The sensitivity of these factors on the different aspects of the Oil Sands operations are explicitly discussed in this work, i.e., SCO unitary energy costs, energy commodity prices, energy plant’s configuration. According to the CO2 emission target planned by the Canadian federal government for year 2020 (50 MT of CO2 eq/yr), 38% of CO2 emission reduction with respect to the baseline emission is required from the Oil Sands industry. Similarly, the natural gas price is the operational factor that affects the energy costs associated to every product considered in this study. Furthermore, the SOR factor has a significant impact on the energy production costs of SAGD SCO and commercial bitumen.

A modified ISBA surface scheme for modeling the hydrology of Athabasca River Basin with GCM-scale data

Year of Publication: 2006

Abstract:
A soil–vegetation–atmosphere transfer model (SVAT), interactions between the soil–biosphere–atmosphere (ISBA) of Météo France, is modified and applied to the Athabasca River Basin (ARB) to model its water and energy fluxes. Two meteorological datasets are used: the archived forecasts from the Meteorological Survey of Canada’s Global Environmental Multiscale Model (GEM) and the European Centre for Mid-range Weather Forecasts global re-analysis (ERA-40), representing spatial scales typical of a weather forecasting model and a global circulation model (GCM), respectively. The original treatment of soil moisture and rainfall in ISBA (OISBA) is modified to statistically account for sub-grid heterogeneity of soil moisture and rainfall to produce new, highly non-linear formulations for surface and sub-surface runoff (MISBA). These new formulations can be readily applied to most existing SVATs. Stand alone mode simulations using the GEM data demonstrate that MISBA significantly improves streamflow predictions despite requiring two fewer parameters than OISBA. Simulations using the ERA-40 data show that it is possible to reproduce the annual variation in monthly, mean annual, and annual minimum flows at GCM scales without using downscaling techniques. Finally, simulations using a simple downscaling scheme show that the better performance of higher resolution datasets can be primarily attributed to improved representation of local variation of land cover, topography, and climate.

A more sustainable way to win oil from oil sands

Authors Schlosberg, R.
Year of Publication: 2013

Abstract:
Along with Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, Canada has one of the world’s major hydrocarbon resource. The Canadian resource, estimated to contain as much as 1.7 trillion barrels of heavy oil or bitumen is largely found in the province of Alberta in the form of oil sands. Oil sands are a mixture of sands and other rock materials and contain crude bitumen. Currently about 1.5 million barrels of oil per day are generated from Canadian oil sands and after primary upgrading, much of that is transported to the United States for additional upgrading to final products. The majority of the oil sands processing is a combination of strip mining and a water-based extraction. Hugh quantities of water (2–4 barrels per barrel of oil) are required to win a single barrel of oil from the oil sands. Oil sands companies are currently held to a zero-discharge policy by the Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (1993). Thus, all oil sands produced water (OSPW) must be held on site. This requirement has resulted in over a billion cubic meters of tailings water held in containment systems. Ultimately, the companies are responsible for reclaiming this water and finding a way to release it back into the local environment. Despite extensive programs that have led to significant improvements including up to 90+% use of recycled water, the tailings ponds and build up of contaminants in the recycled water and in tailings ponds represent what is fundamentally a non-sustainable process. Waterless approaches using hydrocarbon solvent extraction technology are being developed. These approaches offer a pathway to winning oil from oil sands that is potentially low energy, water free, and environmentally superior to the current technology.