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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 multi-disciplinary approach to reclamation research in the oil sands region of Canada

Year of Publication: 2009

Abstract:
A 7-year research project into the long-term performance of reclaimed landscapes on saline-sodic overburden from oil sands mining in north-central Canada has demonstrated the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach. The land capability assessment tool used by the industry evaluates three key areas: available soil moisture, salt impact, and biological response (including nutrients). Detailed field monitoring and sampling demonstrated the relative performance of three different layered covers (35, 50 and 100 cm) and one monolayer cover (100 cm) through the tracking of water content, suction, stored water volumes, interflow/runoff and water availability for plant growth. Salt ingress into the cover from the underlying waste and salt release through interflow flushing has also been monitored. This long-term monitoring has provided physically based measurements of cover performance that clearly highlight the inability of thin (35 cm) or monolayer covers for providing sufficient moisture to meet all demands throughout a growing season. Interpretation of this data has also provided key insights into the mechanisms governing cover performance. This physically based evaluation was supported by direct measurements of tree development and tree ecophysiology. Vegetation indicators included plant species composition and abundance, tree growth rates, foliar nutrient contents, and plant ecophysiology.

A multi-isotope approach for estimating industrial contributions to atmospheric nitrogen deposition in the Athabasca oil sands region in Alberta, Canada

Year of Publication: 2013

Abstract:
Industrial nitrogen (N) emissions in the Athabasca oil sands region (AOSR), Alberta, Canada, affect nitrate (NO3) and ammonium (NH4) deposition rates in close vicinity of industrial emitters. NO3eN and NH4eN open field and throughfall deposition rates were determined at various sites between 3 km and 113 km distance to the main oil sand operations between May 2008 and May 2009. NO3 and NH4 were analyzed for d15NeNO3, d18OeNO3, D17OeNO3 and d15NeNH4. Marked differences in the d18O and D17O values between industrial emissions and background deposition allowed for the estimation of minimum in- dustrial contributions to atmospheric NO3 deposition. d15NeNH4 values also allowed for estimates of industrial contributions to atmospheric NH4 deposition. Results revealed that particularly sites within w30 km radius from the main oil sands developments are significantly affected by industrial contri- butions to atmospheric NO3 and NH4 deposition.

A multiple-tracer approach to label and trace industrial waste and groundwater: A case study from Canadian oil sands

Year of Publication: 2014

Abstract:
The Athabasca oil sands in Northern Alberta represents an important oil reserve for Canada and the world. One of many environmental challenges of developing this natural resources is to monitor and evaluate impacts of developments on the aquatic ecosystem in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR). This requires understanding and characterizing variations of multiple natural end-members including groundwaters, lakes and streams, as well as oil sands processes-affected water (i.e., industrial waste), in the AOSR. The efforts to distinguish industrial impacts from natural variations are further complicated by the fact that Athabasca River and its tributaries are incised directly into the bitumen bearing McMurray Formation, as well as other saline Cretaceous and Devonian Formations. High salinity and bitumen-derived organics not only can be attributed to wastes of industrial developments, but also can be linked to natural processes such as seepages along the river. Using single tracers for example chloride concentration or δ18O signatures to trace and identify industrial waste is usually hampered by this complications. Here we compiled an integrated dataset, including isotopes, geochemistry and organic profiling data, from various industrial projects. Geophysical surveys along the Athabasca River were also conducted to identify the most likely area where the Athabasca River are impacted by inputs with high salinity. The dataset was used to characterize range and variability of individual geochemical/isotopic tracers in the region, and demonstrate the capacity and potential of individual tracers to trace and differentiate two particular types of end-members. However, there is no single 'silver bullet' indicator to differentiate industrial waste from all possible natural sources in the region. As a result, a multiple-tracer approach have been applied to interpret the source of water, salinity and organics in a complementary manner. The understanding of hydrogeological setting in a region context is also important to evaluate the sources and pathway of the high salinity inputs impacting water quality in the Athabasca River.

A novel flocculant for enhanced dewatering of oil sands tailings

Authors Chan, M. C. W.
Year of Publication: 2011

Abstract:
A cationic thermal sensitive polymer, poly[N-isopropylacrylamide-co-N-[3-(Dimethylamino)propyl]methacrylamide] (CP) of different molar ratios, known as CP05 and CP10 was synthesized in-house. By doping aluminum hydroxide (Al(OH)3) colloids into CP during the polymerization process, a novel hybrid polymer flocculant, Al-CP05, was synthesized. All flocculants showed a temperature and pH dependent coil-globule transition, and could alter the surface charge of fine kaolinite particles. For comparison, a coagulant and flocculant mixture was prepared by blending CP05 and Al(OH)3, which was called {CP05+Al}. The synthesized flocculants or blends were applied to kaolinite suspensions and laboratory oil sands extraction tailings to evaluate their settling and filtration performances. Al-CP05 was shown to provide the most effective flocculation on both kaolinite suspensions and tailings while its temperature sensitivity was partially lost in filtration of tailings. CP05 and CP10 showed similar flocculation performance on both kaolinite suspensions and tailings which was less effective than {CP05+Al} blends.

A paleolimnological assessment of environmental change in eight northeastern Alberta lakes

Authors Hazewinkel, R.
Year of Publication: 2006

Abstract:
Ecological studies conducted in apparently pristine ecosystems throughout the world have shown that these systems are being altered as an unconsidered consequence of human activities. A paleoecological examination of eight lake ecosystems located along a north-south transect through the northern Alberta boreal ecoregion was conducted using siliceous microfossil and geochemical proxies. The structure of microfossil assemblages has undergone substantial shifts in some of the study lakes, but remains largely unaltered in others. This heterogeneous ecological response suggests that the effects of these stressors are mediated on a local scale, by processes occurring in the lake and drainage basin. This proximal mediation of environmental stressors is particularly important in relation to surface water acidification. Although the rate of acid deposition associated with bitumen extraction and processing has increased substantially over the past thirty years, there is so far no indication that this has caused acidification of any of the study lakes.

A paradigm change needed in oil sands industry: CaO as additives for bitumen extraction and nonsegregating tailings production processes

Year of Publication: 2014

Abstract:
In Alberta, Canada, bitumen production by surface mining followed by ore-water slurry based extraction processes is approaching 2,000,000 bbl/d capacity. The Clark Hot Water Extraction process developed in the 1930s is used at all commercial plants which use caustic NaOH as an additive to boost bitumen recovery efficiency. Use of NaOH as an extraction process additive increases process water salinity, specifically Na+ concentration, promotes dispersion of silt and clay size particles which results in greater production of toxic mature fine tailings. Increase in process water Na+ concentration detrimentally affects the performance of both bitumen extraction and tailings disposal processes. Existing mature fine tailings inventory stored in tailings ponds is exceeding 900x106 m3 and is predicted to grow alarmingly faster by the completion of new plants and by an increase in the production capacity of the existing plants. The Energy Resources Conservation Board of Alberta issued Directive 074 in February, 2009 urging oil sands plants to comply with a 50% reduction in mature fine tailings production. Proposed policies by the oil industry in response to Directive 074 have shown short fallings; which suggests that development of novel bitumen extraction and tailings management processes are needed. To reduce the mature fine tailings inventory, we studied production of nonsegregating tailings by treating a blend of cyclone underflow and thickened cyclone overflow with CaO additive. These tests were made using Albian Sands Muskeg River Mine tailings when the plant was operating at nonadditive and sodium citrate additive extraction modes and using Syncrude Canada Ltd.’s Aurora Mine tailings. Also, we studied the use of CaO as a bitumen extraction process additive replacing NaOH in the Clark Hot Water Extraction process; by which silt-clay size particles dispersion in the extraction process slurry is reduced and accumulation of Na+ in the process water is eliminated. Use of CaO as an extraction additive is considered as a fundamental and a new process alteration by the oil sands operators. Recently, to evaluate this new process the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) has requested NAIT-NARCOSS, an independent academic and industrial research laboratory, to perform a third party verification study for the use of CaO as a bitumen extraction process additive. The NAIT-NARCOSS test results are completed and are highly encouraging, confirming that use of CaO as an extraction process additive reduces dispersion of silt and clay size particles in the extraction process slurry without harming bitumen recovery efficiency. It also improves process water chemistry by eliminating accumulation of Na+ in the process water. It is concluded that a paradigm change is offered to the oil sands industry to reduce the adverse environmental impacts of oil sands plants in simple, cost effective and environmentally friendly manners; which is the simultaneous implementation of the use of CaO as additives in bitumen extraction and nonsegregating tailings production processes.

A pilot study of the use of remote sensing to analyse fish habitat, Peace River, July to October 1994

Year of Publication: 1997

Abstract:
The objectives o f this project were to: 1. develop and evaluate several methods for mapping aquatic habitat using remote sensing; and, 2. describe the relationships between river discharge and the amount of meso-habitat types (eg. side channels, sloughs, shoals, backwaters, riffles, pools) at the two study segments chosen. Four imaging systems were evaluated for mapping aquatic habitat, colour photography, colour infrared photography, multispectral videography and compact airborne spectrographic imaging (.casi). 1. Colour aerial photography was judged to be inappropriate for habitat assessment, based on this trial. The colour photography did not allow for easy discerning of the water’s edge because it does not include the infrared wavelengths of light and it was poor for discerning vegetation. 2. Infrared photography fared very well in this trial. Because water absorbs infrared light, imaging systems that include the infrared wavelength can identify the water’s edge very accurately. The infrared colour photography was judged to be the most cost effective to meet the requirements ofthis study. Aerial photography also allowed inexpensive and accurate georeferencing. Infrared colour photography would not be a good choice for classifying turbidity, depth and substrate. 3. The casi system although the most expensive, but because of its 256 bands for spectral resolution, is the most accurate for determining features that have similar spectral signatures such as substrates in the dry and near shore areas or correlating reflectance with field parameters such as total suspended solids. In this study the casi resulted in some loss of accuracy in determining areas and was the least accurate in georeferencing. 4. Multispectral videography was midway between infrared aerial photography and the casi system in terms of cost and accuracy. To meet the objectives of this study, infrared aerial photography was judged to be the most appropriate method in terms of meeting the objectives cost effectively. Developing an available habitat versus flow relationship was not very successful as the range of flows that were available over the course of the study was limited. Additional imaging over a greater range of flows will be necessary to accurately characterize these relationships. Poor conditions for imaging also played a part in these difficulties.

A plan for the identification of potentially toxic materials in the AOSERP study area

Authors McCann, T. J.
Year of Publication: 1979

Abstract:
A co-ordinated plan is proposed for the identification of toxic emissions from oil sand developments in the AOSERP study area. Interviews with over 40 specialists in various fields relevant to this study developed essentially no confirmed awareness of existing biological stresses due to emissions from existing operations. However, there are appreciable concerns on the part of those interviewed relative to possible long-term biological degradation due to oil sand developments.

A Preliminary Assessment of the Impact of Existing Pulp Mills on the Peace River

Year of Publication: 2012

Abstract:
In 1988, the Environmental Quality Monitoring Branch, Alberta Environment, initiated a baseline survey of water quality in the Pease River system. Based on data collected for the survey, a preliminary evaluation of the impact of the existing pulp mill effluents on the Peace River in Alberta is provided in this report.

A preliminary evaluation of native psammophilous plants for revegetating oil sand tailings at Syncrude Canada (Fort McMurray Alberta)

Year of Publication: 1997

Abstract:
Native plants that naturally establish and thrive in sand (particularly on active dunes) are adapted to dry, nutrient deficient habitats and have evolved a tolerance to burial and exposure. In 1995, Wild Rose Consulting, Inc. and Syncrude Canada initiated a preliminary study to evaluate psammophilous plants (native to the local boreal ecoregion) for establishment and growth on oil sand tailings near Fort McMurray. Alberta. Seeds and roots of Astragalus aboriginum, Carex siccata, Deschampsia mackenzieana, Elymus mollis, Hierochloe odorata, Hudsonia tomentosa, Salix brachycarpa, and Stellaria arenicola were collected from three active dune sites in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan (Grande Prairie, Lesser Slave Lake, and Lake Athabasca). A preliminary survey of mycorrhizal symbionts was undertaken. Germination was tested after seeds were dried and cleaned. Species with adequate germination were tested for growth in tailing sands under controlled conditions. Astragalus aboriginum, Deschampsia mackenzieana, Salix brachycarpa, and Stellaria arenicola grew well in tailing sands in the greenhouse and were placed in field plots in 1996 (transplanted and seeded). Average survival of transplants in field plots was 80% or greater after two months in the first year. Deschampsia mackenzieana and Astragalus aboriginum seedlings were also emerging. Plants were divided into three groups based on their mycorrhizal symbionts: Elymus mollis, Deschampsia mackenzieana, and Hierochloe odorata formed vesicular-arbuscular mychorrizas, Hudsonia tomentosa and Salix brachycarpa were ectomycorrhizal, and Stellaria arenicola and Carex siccata lacked recognizable mycorrhizae.

A preliminary investigation into the magnitude of fog occurrence and associated problems in the oil sands area

Year of Publication: 1976

Abstract:
Water and ice fogs were investigated for the existing situation (GCOS) and a potential situation (GCOS, Syncrude, plus three more plants). Based on meteorological and historical fog data, Fort McMurray Airport experiences 4 to 5 days with ice fog and 18 total days with fog per year. There is potential for ice fog to occur in the Oil Sands Area 10-18 days per year covering 320 to 1580 km2 (2 plants) or up to 4000 km2 (5 plants) under severe persistent conditions. Pollutant concentrations caused by normal low level emissions could increase by 2 -3 times during ice fogs. The potential for pollutant interaction with water fogs is low because plume mixing to the ground during fog occurrence is remote.

A preliminary investigation of the rheological properties of oil sand tailings sludge

Authors Zrobok, R., & Angle C. W.
Year of Publication: 1991

Abstract:
A preliminary investigation of sludge rheology was carried out on two tailings pond sludge samples; a low bitumen content (1%) and a high bitumen content (3-4%) sample. Steady state shear stress versus shear rate measurements and dynamic measurements were performed. Quanlitativ8 measurements of structure buildup and breakdown as a .function of time were obtained. Strain sweep analysis on sludge samples was determined and Ihe linear Viscoelastic region was defined (the region where the sludge structure has not been broken). Viscoelastic properties of the sludge in the linear yiscoelastic region were characterized. Preliminary investigation of high bitumen content sludge indicated that varying amounts of bitumen are present within the sample. Therefore, it is possible to misinterpret bitumen peaks in shear stress versus shear rate plots as significant stress overshoot or yield points. A general overview or the rheological properties of sludge will be presented.

A preliminary review of black bear - human interactions and recommended strategies for the AOSERP study area

Authors Loucks, D. E.
Year of Publication: 1978

Abstract:
The purpose of the report was to examine the components which have resu1ted in the establishment and maintenance of nuisance bear populations (i.e., the interaction between bears and a food supply generated by man's activity), and the management strategies which may be implemented to reduce the problem, with particular reference to the AOSERP study area. Case studies from the Canadian Western National Parks, Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, and the Peace River area, examining the evolution of the interaction problem and management strategies implemented, were used to supply background information for a problem analysis of bear-human interactions in the AOSERP study area. The analysis of bear-human interactions in the AOSERP study area indicated that the major conflict arises from nuisance bears attracted to areas by garbage. Recommendations emphasize a preventative policy, whereby garbage is made bearproof (i.e., sanitary landfill surrounded by an electric fence, garbage incineration, etc.), thus saving the costs of transporting and relocating nuisance animals.

A preliminary study of chemical and microbial characteristics of the Athabasca River in the Athabasca oil sands area of northeastern Alberta

Year of Publication: 1979

Abstract:
A literature review and evaluation of methods used to determine rates of bacterial uptake (heterotrophic assimilation) of organic substrates in fresh water systems was undertaken. The uptake of a \"universal\" substrate - radiolabelled glutamic acid - was determined in order to assess the effects of organic compounds from both natural (oil sands) and industrial (oil extraction and refining) sources on the rate of heterotrophic assimilation in the Athabasca River. Only partial results are available due to an unanticipated termination of this project for reasons beyond our control. On the basis of this preliminary investigation, it was concluded that oil sands mining wastes have no significant stimulatory or toxic effect on the uptake of glutamic acid by the planktonic bacterial populations of the Athabasca River.

A preliminary vegetation survey of the Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Research Program study area

Authors Stringer, P. W.
Year of Publication: 1976

Abstract:
Limited time and access constraints restricted this preliminary vegetation survey to Townships 85-103, Ranges 6-12, west of the 4th meridian. This area centres on sites of maximum development north of Fort McMurray (i .e. the GCOS and Sync rude leases). Eighty-four stands were chosen as representative of all the major vegetation types in the study area. These stands were all sampled between August 18 and September 3, 1975. The structure and species composition of each stand was described by assigning each understory species a cover abundance value, measuring strata heights, and by obtaining quantitative data on the tree stratum where appropriate. The stands were classified by means of a cluster analysis method which grouped closely related stands on the basis of overall species similarity. The ten distinct vegetation types defined by cluster analysis are: (i) Fen (ii) Sandbar Willow Scrub (iii) Tall River Alder-Willow Scrub (iv) Tall Willow Scrub (v) Bottomland Balsam Poplar Forest (vi) Upland White Spruce-Aspen Forest (vii) Black Spruce Bog Forest (viii) Semi-open Black Spruce Tamarack Bog Forest and Muskeg (ix) Lightly Forested Tamarack and Open Muskeg (x) Jack Pine Forest. Each type is discussed in terms of the vascular plant species. The more prominent bryophytes and lichens were also included in the stand descriptions. Correlations with forest cover types, generally accepted successional trends (succession after fire, riverine succession, succession from fen and succession in bogs), and photo-interpretive characteristics as related to the area under consideration are discussed.

A primer on the Canadian oil sands

Authors
Year of Publication: 2010

Abstract:
Canadian oil sands have long been recognized as one of the world’s largest endowments of oil resources with over 170 billion barrels in place. The resource endowment places Canada second only to Saudi Arabia. Canada’s oil sands are located in Alberta, and unlike conventional crude oil, the oil sands come in the form of bitumen, a heavy, thick, and viscous substance that requires more intensive extraction techniques than traditional oil production. Oil sands are produced either from surface mining or in situ processes (see Figure 1). About 80 percent of the recoverable oil sands reserves can be extracted using in situ methods, which in contrast to surface mining, cause less damage to the local environment. SAGD (Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage) is the most common form of in situ production and is energy intensive because it uses steam generated from natural gas to heat the bitumen so it can flow to the surface (see Figure 2 below). About 20 percent of the oil sands are recoverable through mining operations where oil sands are scooped from the surface and moved in trucks. Mining methods scar the landscape and have historically required long time periods to complete reclamation programs, particularly given that tailings ponds can take up to thirty years to fully settle.1 These two methods of production, mining and in situ, contribute higher volumes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than the production of conventional crude oil because of the relatively high energy use and/or removal of the land surface.

A priority ranking of air emissions in the oil sands region

Authors
Year of Publication: 2003

Abstract:
The Trace Air Contaminants Working Group under the Cumulative Environmental Management Association commissioned this study as the first phase in assessing potential risks posed by air contaminants to human health and ecosystems under existing environmental management systems in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB). This study consisted of three parts: I) compiling a list of airborne contaminants that are emitted in a study area within the RMWB; 2) ranking the contaminants; and 3) selecting key air contaminants for the following phases of the trace air contaminant program: evaluation of ambient concentrations and potential risk to human and ecological health. In the first part of this study a detailed inventory of anthropogenic emissions of common air contaminants, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and reduced sulphur compounds (RSCs) was completed for the northern and southern regions of the study area. The effective reference year for the inventory is 2000 and includes all existing and approved developments, and one applied for development. The one applied-for development in the inventory is the OPTI Long Lake project. Carbon dioxide emissions were specifically excluded from the inventory since they are only of concern as a greenhouse gas and not as an air toxic. In the second part of this study, groups of contaminants for the northern and southern regions were ranked following three screening exercises: toxic potential to humans (based on emission rates and toxicity weighting factors), odour potential (based on emission rates and odour thresholds), and the potential to bioaccumulate in biological organisms (based on emission rates and octanol-water partition coefficients). For the third part of this study, air contaminant rankings were created by combining the results of the three screening exercises. The degree of certainty in the air contaminant selection process is highest for the toxic potential screening and lowest for the bioaccumulative potential screening. Four key conclusions were made: Over 1400 unique air contaminants are emitted to the atmosphere by anthropogenic sources in the oilsands study area. However, the majority of the total mass of emissions is made up of only a few compounds (i .e. the top 15 compounds, mostly common air contaminants, contribute over 98 percent of the total emissions). The oilsands industry is the dominant source of virtually all emissions in the northern region due to its size and the general lack of other types of activities in the area. In the southern region there are a number of significant contributors including agriculture, forest products, conventional oil and gas, oilsands, and urban centres. Much better delineation of VOC and RSC emissions is available for the northern region than the southern region due to the availability of very detailed measurements conducted by the oilsands sector. Priority pollutants represent a small fraction of the list of air contaminants in the emission inventory. These pollutants comprise 99.9% of the toxic potential, odour potential and bioaccumulation potential of the entire emissions inventory. Based on emissions rates and toxicity weighting factors alone, it is not possible to determine whether some substances may exceed health benchmarks now or in the future. To do this, air dispersion models would be required to predict ambient concentrations in regional communities. Air dispersion modelling was not part of the scope of the current project. In addition, even if air dispersion modelling was done, only a few air quality guidelines are available to which to compare predicted concentrations (i.e. acid gases and particulate matter). Human health risk assessments would be required to evaluate the potential risks associated with other airborne substances. Based on the findings of this study, the following recommendations are presented: The emission estimates of the priority pollutants identified herein should be refined to better support future efforts that may focus on these critical substances. Atmospheric dispersion modeling should be undertaken for selected compounds from the priority pollutant lists to determine the concentrations of these substances in air within regional communities and in recreational areas that are frequented by people. Human health risk assessments should be conducted based on the results of atmospheric dispersion modeling to determine the degree of potential risk posed to residents of regional communities and recreational users. Further research into the fate, transport, bioavailability and metabolism of compounds with high octanol-water partition coefficient (Kow) values should be undertaken to determine whether these substances will actually bioaccumulate in the environment.