OSRIN Technical Reports

OSRIN publishes results of the work it funds as Technical Reports – listed in the format OSRIN Report No. TR-x).
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  1. Report and Recommendations of the Task Force on Tree and Shrub Planting on Active Oil Sands Tailings Dams [Download]

    Title: Report and Recommendations of the Task Force on Tree and Shrub Planting on Active Oil Sands Tailings Dams
    Creator: Hurndall, B.J.
    Description: Dam safety concern over the planting of trees and woody shrubs is in conflict with progressive reclamation, which is also a desirable outcome for oil sands tailings dams. International dam safety practice commonly restricts trees and woody shrubs on the downstream slopes of dams to preclude damage to drains, aggravation of seepage and piping and to ensure the integrity of both visual and instrumentation monitoring which require access and clear sight lines. To address this issue, Alberta Environment (AENV) requested the Oil Sands Research and Information Network (OSRIN) to convene a third-party Task Force to provide independent opinion and recommendations on the subject. The Task Force met in December 2010 and has recommended that provision for trees and woody shrubs on the slopes of active oil sands tailings dam shall be considered part of the responsibility of the Engineer-of-Record and plans will be submitted to AENV, Dam Safety for approval. The Task Force appreciates that it will be customary for the Engineer-of-Record to consult with corporate reclamation specialists for input into the recommended tree and shrub planting zones and tree and shrub exclusion zones. Potential exclusion zones include local critical areas such as drains, liners, berms, drain outfalls, ditches, access ramps and adjacent to instrumentation, etc.
    Subjects: Tailings, Oil Sands, Shrubs, Oilsands, OSRIN, Trees, Dams, Tar Sands, Tarsands, Alberta, TR-11
    Date Created: 2011/02/16
  2. Alternative Native Boreal Seed and Plant Delivery Systems for Oil Sands Reclamation [Download]

    Title: Alternative Native Boreal Seed and Plant Delivery Systems for Oil Sands Reclamation
    Creator: Schoonmaker, A.
    Description: The purpose of this document is to review traditional and alternative systems of seed and nursery stock treatment and delivery for use in oil sands reclamation. Treatment systems are considered those activities conducted prior to delivery to the field site while delivery systems include those activities involved in physically deploying the seed and plant material on the reclamation site. Traditional systems are those currently in use by the oil sands reclamation community, while alternative systems are those that have potential or promise for use following additional research. The traditional systems included the following seed treatment and/or delivery systems: natural recovery, direct placement of topsoil, nursery production, planting of nursery stock and basic seed broadcasting. Alternative systems were drawn from a variety sources including: forest industry, agriculture, horticulture, mining, and home gardening. Results of peer-reviewed and non-reviewed scientific studies were included when available; in some cases anecdotal observations and unpublished results were presented. The following twelve alternative systems were identified: enhancement of soil stockpiles, seed priming, seed nano-coating, seed pelleting, multi-species propagation, Jiffy peat pellet®, biodegradable containers, disc seed driller and air seeders, harrowing, push-seeder, hydroseeding and aerial seeding. It was clear that for all the alternative systems examined, further testing would be required on native boreal species in order to determine the effectiveness of the individual system. The following systems were highlighted: 1. Inclusion of targeted seed treatment systems, such as seed pelleting and priming, prior to delivering seeds is suggested as a promising area of future research and high application potential for field trials. 2. Seedling delivery from containers with multiple species (multi-species production) and biodegradable containers are most likely to have merit for specialized applications. However, multi-species production requires verification both at the level of identifying appropriate species mixtures, optimizing greenhouse production and quantification of field performance. Biodegradable containers are a suitable option to further test on slow-growing species that are difficult to produce under standard greenhouse conditions in styroblocks. 3. Improving on basic seed broadcasting with the addition of a delivery system that would improve seed-soil contact is also suggested as beneficial. Harrowing is an easily deployable delivery system at small or large scales while large-scale delivery systems such as disc seeders and air seeders also had merit. The main drawbacks of these approaches are the necessity to conduct activities prior to roll back of woody materials on site, as well as any major surface site activities such as mounding or deep ripping. However, hydroseeding is also an option as it could be deployed following roll back of woody materials. 4. Aerial seeding may also have merit, for specific species (to be tested) on large reclamation areas as well as in situations with remote or difficult access. 5. Lastly, enhancement of soil stockpiles is an alternative delivery system that is closely analogous with the traditional delivery system and best practice of direct placement of topsoil. Reforestation of a soil stockpile, is in principle, a straightforward activity and could easily be implemented into broader revegetation and reclamation plans.
    Subjects: TR-56, Oilsands, Oil Sands, Seed, Tarsands, Container Plants, Boreal Forest, Seeding, Tar Sands, OSRIN, Alberta
    Date Created: 2014/11/21
  3. An Investigation of the Methylene Blue Titration Method for Clay Activity of Oil Sands Samples [Download]

    Title: An Investigation of the Methylene Blue Titration Method for Clay Activity of Oil Sands Samples
    Creator: Currie, R.
    Description: The purpose of this report is to use a design of experiment (DOE) approach to examine the main factors affecting the determination of methylene blue index (MBI) values for oil sands samples. The methylene blue titration of clays has become a principle tool to assess extraction efficiency of oil sand ores and as a tool to assess the properties of the various tailings streams. The report uses a Plackett-Burman (PB) DOE approach which is designed to screen a method for the principle factors affecting the test result. It does not reveal interaction between factors that could affect the significance of a main effect in the study. The purpose of the PB DOE screen is to help identify the main effects so that a more complete full factorial DOE can be implemented. A full factorial DOE allows more than two procedures/conditions or levels for each of the main effects identified by a screening DOE. This enables the conditions and procedures for specific factors in a test method to be adjusted simultaneously as other factors are varied. Thus interactions that could affect test results are accounted for which ensures that the final test method exhibits ruggedness and is capable of generating reliable data with good precision. This report is the initial phase in the development of a rugged and robust method for methylene blue (MB) determinations. A principle requirement of the method is the dispersion of the clay samples to ensure methylene blue is capable of complete cation exchange with the clay. A 12 factor PB DOE investigated two mature fine tailings (MFT) samples for the effects of bicarbonate, basic pH adjustment, peroxide treatment, sonication, stirring, soaking, heating and Dean and Stark sample cleaning on dispersion procedures. If the number of procedures needed to disperse the clays can be minimized, without affecting the reliability of the MBI results, the method is easier to perform in a timely manner. Included in the 12-factor PB DOE was an assessment of the effects of acidic pH adjustment, preceding the titration, and variations in filter paper porosity and optional endpoint detection procedures during the titration. A 7-factor PB DOE, using both normal and folded designs, was conducted to confirm features of the 12-factor PB DOE. The main effects studied were peroxide treatment, bicarbonate, basic pH adjustment, stirring at both room temperature and heating at 60˚C, sonication and variation in endpoint detection procedures. The folded design was to help minimize the effects of confounding or aliasing of the data where main effects can be influenced by interactions between main effect components. When this occurs a main effect may be viewed as significant when in fact it is not. The study emphasizes the importance of basic pH and sonication to enhance dispersion. Peroxide treatment was shown in the PB DOE to have beneficial effects when the sample is exposed to lower sonication energies, as in a bath sonicator. However, in a mini-study using a probe sonicator, where the energy generated is greater, peroxide was not found to be essential in aiding dispersion as evident by consistent MBI values even when peroxide was omitted. The importance of acidifying the dispersed sample before titration is also emphasized from the PB DOE studies. The goal of this work is to ultimately develop an automated procedure for MBI determinations. A major challenge is to provide a more objective means of identifying the endpoint of the MB titration. The report proposes a more objective non-visual endpoint based on the current halo procedure. To this end the effect of varying filter paper porosity as well as a comparison of subjective and objective endpoint detection procedures were included in the DOE. Alternative endpoint detection procedures focused on the use of spectroscopy. A spectroscopy procedure which measured changes in the aqueous forms of MB during the titration was included in the 12 factor PB DOE. The report also discusses an innovative use of fibre optic visible spectroscopy to monitor the spectra of clay-MB interactions during the MB titration. The ability to assess whether the MB is interacting on the external or interlamellar surface of clays can enhance the information about the properties of clays in different sample types. This approach is very attractive since much more detail can be mined from the titration data than simply MBI values. This may dramatically improve the characterization of ores and tailings streams and improve process decisions regarding suitable ores for extraction and optional tailings treatments. Finally an attempt to use NMR as a tool to monitor the titration and provide additional insight into the properties of the oil sands samples being titrated with MB is reported. Although NMR is capable of observing methylene blue in an aqueous media, and could be used similar to the spectroscopy method in the 12-factor PB DOE, it is incapable of detecting MB when the clays were also present.
    Subjects: Tarsands, Methylene Blue, TR-60, Oilsands, Tar Sands, Oil Sands, OSRIN, Tailings, Alberta, Clay
    Date Created: 2014/12/04
  4. Characterizing the Organic Composition of Snow and Surface Water Across the Athabasca Region: Phase 2 [Download]

    Title: Characterizing the Organic Composition of Snow and Surface Water Across the Athabasca Region: Phase 2
    Creator: Birks, J.
    Description: This study was conducted to characterize the composition of polar dissolved organic compounds present in snow and surface waters in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR) with the goal of identifying whether atmospherically-derived organics present in snow are an important contributor to the dissolved organics detected in surface waters in the AOSR. The Phase 1 OSRIN study (2013) was a pilot scale project conducted in 2011-2012 to evaluate whether Electrospray Ionization (ESI) coupled with Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Mass Spectrometry (FTICR MS) would be a useful analytical technique to characterize the dissolved organics in snow. Although a limited number of samples (i.e., 7 snow samples) were used in the Phase 1 study, the results indicated differences in organic signatures between the snow samples closest to oil sands activities and the more far-field samples. The Phase 2 project includes a similar comparison of the composition of organics present in snow and surface water as was conducted in Phase 1, but is based on a more spatially and temporally comprehensive set of samples which allows a more extensive investigation of the spatial, temporal and species variations in snow and river water. Phase 2 also combines hydrometric data with the stable isotopic composition of snow and river water to identify when snowmelt appears in river discharge. The dissolved organic composition results identified three snow groups. Group 1 snow tended to have O2 as the dominant compound class, followed by O4 compound classes. The snow samples from locations farthest from industrial activities had Group 1 organic profiles. The organic profiles for Group 2 had O4 as the most abundant compound class and a pattern of decreasing relative contributions from the O4 to O12 classes. There were only six Group 2 snow samples, but they were collected from either the geographical centre (GC) or near mining activities. The remaining snow samples that did not have similar dissolved organic compositions as Group 1 or Group 2 were categorized as Group 3 and were obtained from various locations. The organic profiles obtained for the 110 river samples (84 tributary samples and 26 main stem Athabasca River samples) showed large differences between the composition of dissolved organics present in river water and those present in snow. River samples tended to have a greater relative contribution of O6 to O8 and S2On (n = 4 to 9) compound classes than snow samples. More subtle differences in organic profiles were also evident between the individual river samples related to sampling location and season. Comparing the organic profile results between the river and snow samples show the different types of relationships that exist between river and snow dissolved organic compositions. The monthly river samples collected from the main stem Athabasca River and from one tributary sampling location (i.e., Muskeg 8) tend to have organic compositions that become more similar to Group 1 snow samples over the open water season. The other tributary sampling locations tended to have dissolved organic compositions that become more similar to Group 2 or Group3 snow compositions over the open water season. The river samples differed from snow in that the dissolved organics present in river water are dominated by O6 to O8 classes in oxygen containing compounds, and contain a greater relative contribution S2On (n = 4 to 9). Also, the Athabasca River samples had slightly different organic compositions than the tributaries, with higher relative contributions of O2 class compounds than in the tributaries. The main stem Athabasca River samples also contained some SO3 compounds that were not detected in the tributary samples. All of the river samples showed seasonal variations in dissolved organics, with larger variations in the Athabasca River than in tributaries. The distribution of compound classes in the river samples did not change significantly between May and September, but the dominance of O2 classes becomes more pronounced in September, particularly in the Athabasca main stem sample. The river discharge and stable water isotope data indicate that snowmelt was a major component of the May river samples, but the dissolved organics present in the May river samples did not resemble those present in snow. The months with the greatest similarity between snow and river organic compositions were low flow periods in March, April, and September, which could indicate significant delays between when atmospheric organics are released from the snowpack and when they reach the rivers, or that some of the organics present in snow are similar to organics that characterize baseflow. In summary, the results of this comprehensive profiling of organics in snow and river water across the AOSR suggest that nitrogen and sulphur containing compounds may be the most useful in improving our understanding of the sources and fate of atmospherically derived organics in the oil sands region. There are still some endmembers that need improved organic characterization, including baseflow (groundwater inputs and soil water in disturbed and undisturbed watersheds) to the Athabasca River and its tributaries. Direct sampling of dissolved organics that can be attributed to natural and anthropogenic atmospheric sources of organics (e.g., forest fire, stack emissions, fugitive emissions) are also needed.
    Subjects: TR-64, River Chemistry, Naphthenic Acid, Alberta, Oil Sands, Snow Chemistry, Isotopes, Tarsands, Tar Sands, Oilsands, OSRIN
    Date Created: 2014/12/15
  5. Summary of 2013 Tailings Technology Development and Commercialization Workshop [Download]

    Title: Summary of 2013 Tailings Technology Development and Commercialization Workshop
    Creator: Mian, H.
    Description: NAIT-CGCE, NAIT School of Sustainable Building and Environmental Management, and the NAIT JR Shaw School of Business, in collaboration with COSIA, AIEES, and the Oil Sands Research and Information Network (OSRIN), held a technology innovation workshop on March 19, 2013 at the NAIT campus to open the dialogue between oil sands industry, academia, research and development organizations, and third-party innovators. The workshop, titled 2013 Tailings Technology Development and Commercialization: Big Ideas from Small Places, was attended by approximately 130 people from SMEs, government, industry and academia. The following common themes arose during the presentations: • There is considerable public scrutiny and concern about oil sands tailings-related environmental challenges • Technology development and deployment is key to solving the tailings challenge in a sustainable manner • There is no single technology solution for tailings disposal– a suite of technologies will be required • For a technology to be considered suitable it must provide net environmental benefits (e.g., must be evaluated in the context of impacts on solids, liquids, GHG) and be economic (i.e., a systems perspective) • Technologies must be deployed more quickly than in the past • There is a need for an entity or organization that can provide a bridge between SMEs, third-party technology developers, and the oil sands companies The workshop was a first step towards tailings technology development and commercialization. More events may be planned, some specifically focused on bringing the technology developers together and understanding their technologies. The 2nd Tailings Technology and Development Commercialization Workshop will be planned for 2014 in collaboration with all the partners. There may be an opportunity to share some results on SME and third-party vendor technologies within the 2014 workshop.
    Subjects: TR-32, SMEs, COSIA, Alberta, Tar Sands, Tailings, NAIT, Oilsands, Oil Sands, Workshop, OSRIN, Tarsands
    Date Created: 2013/04/09
  6. Development of a Toxin-Mediated Predator-Prey Model Applicable to Aquatic Environments in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region [Download]

    Title: Development of a Toxin-Mediated Predator-Prey Model Applicable to Aquatic Environments in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region
    Creator: Huang, Q.
    Description: Industrial contaminants are one of the leading causes of pollution worldwide. It has been shown that 13 elements considered priority water pollutants by the US Environmental Protection Agency are present in the Athabasca River and are found in oil sands process-affected water. There are likely natural and anthropogenic sources of these toxins in the receiving environment. To protect ecological environments and aquatic species in Alberta, it is necessary to assess the risk of toxins to aquatic organisms, and find important factors that determine the persistence and extirpation of populations or species. While previous work has considered the effect of a toxin on the population dynamics of a single trophic level, such as fish, we focus on the impacts of toxins on the population dynamics of aquatic food webs to understand possible outcomes. Mathematical models have been widely applied to perform chemical risk assessments on all levels of the biological hierarchy, from cells to organs to organisms to populations to entire ecosystems. Here we develop a toxin-mediated predator-prey model that includes population dynamics. We use the model to evaluate the flow of toxins through the aquatic food web into the aquatic ecosystem and study how the transfer of toxins between trophic levels changes the food web dynamics. We analyze the model by studying the existence and stability of steady states and the effect of toxin level in the environment on steady states. The model is then connected to experimental data via model parameterization. In particular, we consider the toxic effects of methylmercury on rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and its prey (small fish or aquatic insects) and obtain an appropriate estimate for each model parameter. The results of model parameterization and model analysis are used to numerically solve the model, and the results of the effect of the methylmercury on the end behavior of rainbow trout and its prey (small fish or aquatic insects) are provided. From our analysis and numerical exploration of the food web toxin model we found that different toxin concentrations affect organisms at different trophic levels in many different ways. For example, high toxin concentrations in the environment are harmful to both species, and may lead to extirpation of both species. However, low toxin concentrations produce counterintuitive results. That is, contaminant effects on predators can actually lead to increased abundance of the prey. The existence of limit cycles, where both population levels fluctuate around coexistence equilibrium, is found in most classical predator-prey models. Our findings show that increasing toxin level may reduce and prevent populations from fluctuating when the predator and the prey are exposed simultaneously to a toxin. Unlike most standard predator-prey systems, where populations will eventually tend toward only one stable state, our findings indicate that with a toxic effect, predator-prey systems may lead to multiple possible long-term outcomes. In this scenario, the initial population level will determine the final fate.
    Subjects: Toxicity, Tarsands, OSRIN, Methylmercury, Tar Sands, Oilsands, Oil Sands, Alberta, Mercury, Aquatic Ecology, Fish, Modeling, Trout, TR-59
    Date Created: 2014/12/01
  7. Potential to Use Animals as Monitors of Ecosystem Health in the Oil Sands Region - July 2013 Update [Download]

    Title: Potential to Use Animals as Monitors of Ecosystem Health in the Oil Sands Region - July 2013 Update
    Creator: Cruz-Martinez, L.
    Description: This review is focused on the effects of contaminants on wildlife and the potential for using wildlife as sentinels for human and environmental health. Some wildlife are permanent residents of the boreal forest encompassing the oil sands region, while many others are seasonal residents using this area as breeding grounds (i.e., migratory birds), both providing the potential for ongoing research into the biological effects of contaminants from oil sands activities. Wildlife species may act as sentinels, or early warning systems, providing insight into the effects of contaminants on environmental and even human health. In the oil sands, both field and laboratory studies have used wildlife as bioindicators and/or sentinels of ecosystem health. The great majority of this research has focused on aquatic ecosystems and organisms. Fish exposed to oil sands process affected water (OSPW), or water plus sediments from tailings ponds, and water from wetlands receiving oil sands effluents, have shown a range of detrimental physiological effects including increased detoxification activity by the liver, alterations in growth, hormonal disruption, abnormalities in hematological variables, pathologic changes in the gills, and increased mortality rates relative to fish from reference sites. Studies indicate that mature, reclaimed wetlands in the oil sands, those seven years or older, can support viable populations of locally important amphibians, whereas the younger wetlands retain toxic compounds which cause detrimental health effects such as decreased survival, delayed development, and increased rates of malformation. Most research on birds has also focused on aquatic toxicology. Growth alterations (smaller skeletal size and body mass) have been reported in waterfowl raised on wetlands receiving oil sands effluent. Migrating waterfowl are at risk of landing on tailings ponds with floating bitumen, despite considerable efforts to design and deploy deterrent systems, and mass mortalities have resulted. Increased levels of mercury (Hg) in the eggs of water birds, and a positive correlation between Hg and naphthenic acid (NA) concentrations, suggests a common source of exposure for birds nesting on lakes that receive water from the Athabasca River downstream from the oil sands region. On the mine lease areas, reclaimed wetlands have in most years supported active populations of tree swallows during the breeding period and rearing of the offspring. However, stochastic events such as many days of cold, wet weather can cause severe stress resulting in high mortality rates. Studies of risk to mammals from tailings pond water suggest that terrestrial wildlife is unlikely to develop acute toxicity from NA exposure, although negative health effects may occur from repeated, or long-term exposures. We have identified a conspicuous gap in knowledge related to effects of airborne contaminants on any species. Birds may prove especially valuable as sentinels because of the unique anatomy and physiology of their respiratory system (birds are more sensitive to airborne contaminants than mammals of similar size). As well, as pointed out in the report from the Royal Society of Canada, \"quantifying these emissions is notoriously difficult and the data available in the National Pollutant Release Inventory on this subject do not provide enough detail to know what sources have been estimated nor how valid the numbers are\"; and, \"the subject of non-point (fugitive) emissions of air contaminants from mines and tailings ponds is highly uncertain and currently available estimates are unlikely to be entirely valid\". One approach to better understand the effects of emissions on wildlife (and warm-blooded animals in general) could be through research on birds of prey (raptors). Raptors such as the American kestrel (Falco sparverius) could provide integrated insight into food web, as well as air borne exposure to environmental contaminants over time. Together with concurrent studies of their prey species, such as small mammals inhabiting reclaimed terrestrial areas, this type of work has the possibility of generating information relevant to the health of a range of animals in that ecosystem. Other studies of wildlife sentinels of ecosystem health could be based on herbivores. Domestic sheep and goats could serve as surrogates for caribou, moose and other ungulates naturally found in this region, for assessing health effects from deposition and accumulation of particulate air contaminants on vegetation. A final option would be to use small mammals such as mice and voles as sentinels of ecosystem health. Such species reflect the quality and quantity of local vegetation, readily populate any available area and serve as food for mammalian and avian predators. For the oil sands as well as other petroleum producing regions, major emissions of interest are volatile organic compounds, hydrogen sulfide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and particulate matter, whereas aquatic contaminants related to the petrochemical industry are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, naphthenic acids, sulphate ions, ammonia and trace metals. Once in the environment, complex interactions among contaminants and substrates along with inherent chemical characteristics will determine the fate of these compounds. Extraction and production of bitumen from the oil sands produces compounds of environmental concern in the form of emissions perceived to pose risks to flora and fauna in local and downwind regions, and in the form of great volumes of liquid tailings. Research on wildlife species, used as either monitors, or indicator species, can provide early warning and predictive information regarding exposure and effects of contaminants from oil sands activities that would complement the huge ongoing investment into air and water monitoring systems.Appendix 2 (added in Jul 2013) provides a summary of findings from a 2012 study of tree swallows with a focus on air-borne compounds, using these insectivores as sentinels, as described above.
    Subjects: Wildlife, Oil Sands, Ecosystem Health, TR-18, OSRIN, Monitoring, Tarsands, Alberta, Tar Sands, Oilsands, Air Emissions
    Date Created: 2012/02/08
  8. Next Generation Sequencing of Protists as a Measure of Microbial Community in Oil Sands Tailings Ponds: Amplicon Versus Metagenomic Approaches [Download]

    Title: Next Generation Sequencing of Protists as a Measure of Microbial Community in Oil Sands Tailings Ponds: Amplicon Versus Metagenomic Approaches
    Creator: Aquilar, M.
    Description: The Alberta oil sands provide a major benefit to the province as an economic driver. At the same time, their responsible exploitation, particularly in mitigating the environmental impact of oil extraction stands as a significant challenge to be addressed. One of the most contentious aspects is the reclamation of tailings ponds, vast reservoirs of post-processing water and solids mixed with a variety of industrial compounds. Microbiological processes from bacteria and archaea have been previously shown to be at play in the tailings ponds and are factored into plans for their reclamation. However, the impact of microbial eukaryotes, known in all other environments to play a role in the food web, has been relatively poorly addressed. This will be important to know, particularly in light of end pit lake plans for reclamation moving forward. To better understand the microbial communities in the tailings ponds for improved reclamation planning, we have begun using next generation sequencing (NGS) methods to understand the microbial eukaryotic communities present in tailings. We also compare results from two different NGS strategies, metagenomic versus amplicon based, to assess a productive strategy for analyses going forward. Metagenomic data sequenced using the Illumina platform from a tailings sample were obtained via the Hydrocarbon Metagenomics project. Amplicon data were generated in the lab from extracted genomic DNA from the same environmental sample that generated the metagenome data and sequenced using the Illumina platform. Informatic analyses of these datasets were run to obtain ecological measures (rank abundances, diversity indices, taxonomic affiliation). Both the metagenomic and amplicon datasets confirmed the presence of a diverse community of microbial eukaryotes in the tailings. The overall taxonomic affiliations of the sequences were broadly consistent. However, the amplicon-based study gave vastly more data than the metagenomic one, showing a large additional set of low abundance organisms present in the sample. The community of microbial eukaryotes in the tailings pond is real, non-trivial and diverse. The breadth of the community within different ponds, at different spatial distributions and seasons should be explored to better understand the extent of what is present and how it changes periodically through the year so as to better plan reclamation efforts. The amplicon-based analysis gave ~1,600x more data and revealed a much more complex picture of eukaryotic diversity. While metagenomic approaches give a broader picture of all genes from all microbes in the environment, for the specific question of assessing eukaryotic diversity an amplicon based approach is recommended at the present time.
    Subjects: Eukaryotes, OSRIN, Tar Sands, Oil Sands, Tarsands, Next Generation Sequencing, Metagenome, Amplicon, Alberta, Oilsands, Microbiology, Tailings
    Date Created: 2014/11/21
  9. Review of Reclamation Options for Oil Sands Tailings Substrates [Download]

    Title: Review of Reclamation Options for Oil Sands Tailings Substrates
    Creator: BGC Engineering Inc.
    Description: BGC Engineering Inc. (BGC) conducted a scoping study of the state of knowledge related to technologies for reclaiming oil sands tailings substrates to upland boreal forests and wetlands for the Oil Sands Research and Information Network (OSRIN). The objective of the scoping study is to help establish an understanding of the status of fine tailings reclamation technology in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR). Relevant research was compiled from peer reviewed and non-peer reviewed sources including journals, conference proceedings, magazine articles, internal and consultant reports. Industry researchers and academics were contacted for their information. Until recently, a wet landscape scenario, in which mature fine tailings (MFT) would be stored in pits and capped with a layer of freshwater to form an artificial lake, was the most likely reclamation option for MFT. In this scenario, pit lakes (PL), or end-pit lakes (EPL) are designed to remediate process-affected waters from tailings landforms through bioremediation and dilution. As an alternative to water-capping, much of the current research has focused on reclamation technologies that would result in a dry landscape. Reclamation of fine tailings using a dry landscape scenario first requires stabilization of the deposit to allow access for heavy machinery (trafficability). Soil cover designs and revegetation prescriptions are used to reclaim the tailings substrate to an equivalent land capability or ecosystem function. Wetland design and upland forest reclamation are active areas of research in fine tailings reclamation, including the potential impacts of increased salinity on plant species selection, germination and growth.
    Subjects: Technology, OSRIN, Oil Sands, Tar Sands, Oilsands, Tarsands, Reclamation, Tailings, Literature Review, TR-2, Alberta
    Date Created: 2010/08/10
  10. Accounting for Environmental Liabilities under International Financial Reporting Standards [Download]

    Title: Accounting for Environmental Liabilities under International Financial Reporting Standards
    Creator: Schneider, T.
    Description: Recent reports from environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) such as the Pembina Institute and the Environmental Law Centre in Canada, as well as investor groups such as Ceres and The Ethical Funds Company, have addressed the growing concern over environmental liabilities related to operations in Alberta’s oil sands (Lemphers et al. 2010, Reuter et al. 2010, The Ethical Funds Company 2008, Watt 2010). Furthermore, environmental obligations are beginning to take a real bite out of the financial statements of firms operating in this sector. For example, a recent Globe and Mail article (Taylor 2010) on the owner of the largest single share in the Syncrude operation, Canadian Oil Sands Trust, notes that the almost $1 billion in spending next year it has allocated to its plants are primarily for moving equipment around and meeting environmental obligations, rather than improving plant efficiencies (Canadian Oil Sands Trust 2010). Concurrent to this is a change in the accounting rules for Canadian public companies. Canadian public companies are in the process of moving from reporting under old Canadian Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), which is now officially Canadian (public company) GAAP. This transition must take place for fiscal years ending after December 31st, 2010; which means that the first quarter financial reports for 2011 will be based on IFRS. This will include comparative information as it pertains to 2010. With the move to IFRS, one of the key areas affecting firms in extractive industries pertains to the accounting rules by which environmental liabilities are accounted for. For firms in these industries, environmental matters play a major role in operations. The change in accounting rules will have a material effect on the total amount of environmental liabilities reported and the way in which they are expensed over time. I expect that under IFRS, more environmental liabilities will be recognised in the financial statements of firms operating in extractive industries, such as oil and gas and mining. However, there are certain mitigating factors that may be strong enough such that we see no significant increase in the reported environmental liabilities of these firms. The actual settling of these liabilities will occur in the coming decades. Under old Canadian GAAP and IFRS, these liabilities are recognised in the financial statements based on their present value. This is typically done by using a discount rate and the usual methods of calculating the present value of a future obligation. The new IFRS rules are very sensitive to the discount rate used and there is some debate as to exactly how the new discount rate should be calculated. Thus, although the new accounting standards under IFRS dictate that more specific environmental liabilities be recognised in the financial statements, this may be offset by changes in the way that they are quantified. This report discusses the potential impact the move to IFRS is expected to have on firms with mining operations in Alberta’s oil sands. It details the changes in accounting methods and the potential impact on these firms with regards to the reporting and expensing of environmental liabilities. The discussion can be generalized to the overall oil and gas and mining sectors. However, the significant environmental challenges that are faced by the handful of firms mining in Alberta’s oil sands make the move to IFRS an interesting one to follow.
    Subjects: Oil Sands, Financial Security, Alberta, OSRIN, Reclamation, Plant Site, TR-9, Oilsands, Tar Sands, Tarsands, Economics
    Date Created: 2011/02/01