Syncrude Canada Ltd. Reports

From the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, Syncrude Canada Ltd. produced a series of research reports related to development of their Mildred Lake oil sands mine and plant. The reports were produced in two forms: an Environmental Research Monographs series and a Professional Papers series. In the Environmental Research Monographs the company provided the following guidance in making the information available: Syncrude's Environmental Research Monographs are published verbatim from the final reports of professional environmental consultants. Only proprietary technical or budget-related information is withheld. Because Syncrude does not necessarily base decisions on just one consultant's opinion, recommendations found in the text should not be construed as commitments to action by Syncrude. Syncrude Canada Ltd. welcomes public and scientific interest in its environmental activities. Syncrude Canada Ltd. has graciously agreed to allow OSRIN to digitize these reports and make them accessible.
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  1. Inventory studies of birds on and near crown lease number 17, Athabasca Tar Sands, 1974 [Download]

    Title: Inventory studies of birds on and near crown lease number 17, Athabasca Tar Sands, 1974
    Creator: Sharp, P.L.
    Description: An inventory study of water-associated birds occurring on and near the Syncrude Canada Ltd. Lease #17 in the Athabasca oil sands was conducted during the period of July 8 to November 15, 1974. Regular ground surveys were conducted of 30 water bodies on and near the lease, including lakes, ponds, the Athabasca River, roadside borrow pits, and shallow marshes created by clearing and water diversion on the Syncrude construction site. Detailed descriptions of the habitat characteristics of the water bodies were made, and the habitats that birds occupied were recorded during all surveys. Daily migration watches were conducted near the Athabasca River during the period from August 26 to November 15. Casual observations (those not made during surveys or watches) were recorded in an annotated list. The common and widely-distributed nesting species were the common loon, red-necked grebe, American wigeon, ringnecked duck, common goldeneye, bufflehead, sora, spotted sandpiper, lesser yellowlegs, eastern kingbird, red-winged blackbird, and common grackle. Local increases in the numbers of mallards, pintails, and green-winged teal in late summer indicated that the study area may have been used as a moulting area by these species. Large numbers of migrating Canada and white-fronted geese flew over the area without stopping during late August and September. Large numbers of migrating waterfowl, mainly scaup spp., mallards, and American coots stopped over on some of the lakes during September and October. Large numbers of migrating shorebirds were observed on the shallow marshes on the Syncrude site during July and August. Migrating water pipits, warblers, sparrows, blackbirds, Lapland longspurs, redpolls, and snow buntings were commonly observed during autumn. Migrating bald eagles were frequently observed during September. One observation of an adult and an immature whooping crane was made during October. The habitat preferences of the common species, or groups of closely related species, were examined quantitatively by means of Stepwise Multiple Discriminant Analysis (SMDA) and Stepwise Multiple Regression Analysis (SMRA). SMDA was used to identify those species which occupied similar and dissimilar habitats during the summer (July-August) and autumn (September- October). Comparisons of the differences between species during these two time periods indicated that there was a general reduction in habitat specificity during the autumn period. SMRA was used to determine the habitats that each common species or species group was associated with during the period from July to November. Some ecological problems that could result from the Syncrude development were discussed.
    Subjects: Syncrude, Tar Sands, Birds, Oil Sands, Oilsands, Environmental Research Monograph 1975-4, Tarsands, Inventory, Alberta
    Date Created: 1975
  2. Vegetation types and forest productivity, west part of Syncrude's Lease 17, Alberta [Download]

    Title: Vegetation types and forest productivity, west part of Syncrude's Lease 17, Alberta
    Creator: Peterson, E.B.
    Description: This monograph describes the vegetation that existed in August 1977 on the western half of Syncrude's Lease 17 near Fort McMurray, Alberta. Eight vegetation types were identified and are mapped in this monograph at a scale of 1:24,000. Black Spruce - Labrador Tea was the dominant vegetation type, making up 35.0% of the 9,250 hectare study area. The second most abundant vegetation type was Aspen - White Spruce (26.0%) and the third was White Spruce – Aspen (18.0%). The remaining 21.0% of the area was occupied by the Aspen- Birch vegetation type (7.5%), Balsam Poplar- Alder (6.0%) along the McKay River, Sedge - Reed Grass (4.0%) mainly around bodies of standing water created by beaver dams, Willow- Reed Grass (3.0%) along stream courses, and Black Spruce - Feathermoss (0.5%). The White Spruce – Aspen type is best developed in the southern part of the lease where there have been no major fires for 80 or more years. It is the only vegetation type that contains some white spruce stands approaching the present lower limits of merchantable forest in Alberta. The most productive stand sampled in the White Spruce - Aspen type had a gross volume of 324.5 m3/ha and a merchantable spruce volume of 226.7 m3/ha; site index for spruce in this stand was 22 m (72 ft) at age 70 years. The Aspen - White Spruce type was less productive, with an aspen site index averaging 16 m (52 ft) at age 50 years. In terms of mean annual increment and site index, the two vegetation types with the greatest potential for fibre production (White Spruce - Aspen and Aspen – White Spruce types) are of average or below average productivity when compared to data from similar stands elsewhere in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
    Subjects: Trees, Environmental Research Monograph 1977-6, Syncrude, Forestry, Oil Sands, Alberta, Tar Sands, Oilsands, Tarsands, Inventory
    Date Created: 1977
  3. Wind tunnel simulation of plume dispersion at Syncrude Mildred Lake site [Download]

    Title: Wind tunnel simulation of plume dispersion at Syncrude Mildred Lake site
    Creator: Wilson, D.J.
    Description: The wind tunnel simulation of atmospheric dispersion on the Syncrude plant site encompassed four different problem areas: low level sources within the plant itself, the main stack plume, peak levels of time varying concentration, and the effect of wind shear on plume rise. For all of these studies the major variable was the location and height of the tailings pond dike, which will affect plume dispersion by the turbulence generated in its wake. All of these effects were studied using an 800:1 scale model of the plant site located in a simulated neutrally stable atmospheric boundary layer generated in a large wind tunnel. The model study was validated by comparing the measurements for flat terrain with established full scale correlations of atmospheric dispersion parameters such as plume rise and spreading rate. Because the wind remains attached to the downwind side of the tailings pond dike, avoiding a large flow separation and high turbulence levels, the tailings pond dike should have a negligible effect both on low level sources and on the main stack plume. In general, terrain effects will be much less important on determining maximum ground level concentrations than the trajectory and final rise of the buoyant jets which form low level and main stack plumes. In particular, further study is required to determine the plume break-up and final rise heights in neutral and unstable atmospheric conditions.
    Subjects: Oil Sands, Oilsands, Syncrude, Air Quality, Tar Sands, Alberta, Dispersion, Wind, Tarsands
    Date Created: 1979
  4. Socio-economic impact assessment: A strategy for planning [Download]

    Title: Socio-economic impact assessment: A strategy for planning
    Creator: Strong Hall & Associates Ltd.
    Description: This study, initiated by Syncrude's Environmental Affairs Division, was undertaken: • to specify the objectives and structure of a socio-economic impact assessment program; • to determine information required to satisfy existing and anticipated requirements of government agencies and socio-economic impact assessment and to serve Syncrude's internal planning needs; • to review the methodology of socio-economic impact assessment; • to broadly assess the availability of information for socio-economic impact assessment. The effectiveness of Syncrude's planning for the contemplated expansion of its base plant could be enhanced by initiating a program for socioeconomic assessment at an early date. Such a program would provide: (a) a means for coping with uncertainty in the future socio-economic environment of the oil sands region; (b) a framework for developing Syncrude's social policies and programs; and (c) a vehicle for coordinating its socio-economic planning activities with those of the Northeast Alberta Regional Commission and other governmental agencies. Five alternative socio-economic impact assessment programs were evaluated from the viewpoint of their value for planning.
    Subjects: Socio-Economic, Professional Paper 1977-7, Tar Sands, Tarsands, Alberta, Planning, Oil Sands, Oilsands, Syncrude
    Date Created: 1977
  5. Vegetation and forest productivity Syncrude Lease 22 [Download]

    Title: Vegetation and forest productivity Syncrude Lease 22
    Creator: Reid, R.E.
    Description: Syncrude Canada Ltd. is producing synthetic crude oil from a surface mine on the eastern portion of Syncrude Lease 17. Hardy Associates was commissioned to describe and map the vegetation types and to assess forest productivity on the adjacent Lease 22 in order to add to Syncrude's baseline environmental knowledge of this lease area. Eleven major vegetation types were identified and are mapped at a scale of 1:20 000. Aspen-white spruce was the dominant vegetation type covering nearly 28% of the 19 600 ha study area. The second most abundant vegetation type was black spruce-Labrador tea (24%) and the third was aspen-birch at 15%. The remaining 33% of the area was occupied by a complex pattern of willow reed-grass, white spruce-aspen, black spruce-feathermoss, aspen-jack pine, sedge-reed grass, balsam poplar-alder, white spruce-balsam fir and river alder-tall willow types. The average mean annual increment for the lease is 1.4 m3/ha yr (or class 6), with the aspen-white spruce type providing the major portion of the productivity at class 5, and the black spruce-Labrador tea type the least at class 7.
    Subjects: Vegetation, Alberta, Trees, Environmental Research Monograph 1984-3, Oilsands, Forestry, Tarsands, Inventory, Oil Sands, Tar Sands, Syncrude
    Date Created: 1984
  6. Revegetation: Species selection – an initial report [Download]

    Title: Revegetation: Species selection – an initial report
    Creator: Vaartnou, H.
    Description: This monograph is the first formal public report of the Syncrude revegetation program. The revegetation program itself is part of a long term (up to 30 years) effort directed towards reclaiming and rehabilitating the disturbed land areas. The goal is to return these land areas to a state inhabitable by the plant and animal organisms that were originally present, or by organisms similar to these. For this reason the revegetation program has been designed to use native species as far as possible. This monograph reports the selection of native and naturalized species suitable for use in revegetation of disturbed sites in the Athabasca Tar Sands Area. The criteria used for the selection of species to be studied included climatic adaptability, root system, growth habit, soil type adaptability, disease resistance and competitive ability. Information useful in the initial selection of species was gathered from a general survey of the plant communities in the area and from a survey of naturally and artificially disturbed sites in the Athabasca Tar Sands Area. Growth chamber tests using twenty-five species of grasses and legumes were used to compare the early development of these species• on five different soil types, including tailing sand. These tests also showed the importance, in selection, of ecotypic differences within a species. For species to be used in revegetation, methods for economical production and handling of seed must be established.
    Subjects: Alberta, Tarsands, Environmental Research Monograph 1974-3, Oilsands, Grasses, Syncrude, Oil Sands, Tar Sands, Revegetation, Native Species
    Date Created: 1975
  7. Concentration fluctuations in plumes [Download]

    Title: Concentration fluctuations in plumes
    Creator: Netterville, D.D.J.
    Description: The random fluctuations of concentration levels in a plume is studied using a wind tunnel simulation of dispersion in the neutrally stable atmospheric boundary layer. A fast response hot - film probe is developed and used to measure high frequency fluctuations of helium tracer concentration in the wind tunnel. A statistical intermittent log - normal concentration model is developed and successfully compared with measured peak - to - mean ratios and complete probability density functions of the concentration fluctuations; the model parameters are concentration mean, variance and intermittency. The highest peak concentrations are observed to occur about two thirds of the distance out to the point of maximum mean concentration.
    Subjects: Plume, Oil Sands, Environmental Research Monograph 1979-4, Alberta, Oilsands, Tar Sands, Modeling, Air Quality, Tarsands, Syncrude
    Date Created: 1979
  8. Migratory waterfowl and the Syncrude tar sands lease: A report [Download]

    Title: Migratory waterfowl and the Syncrude tar sands lease: A report
    Creator: Syncrude Canada Ltd.
    Description: In the Spring of 1971, the management of Syncrude contacted Renewable Resources Consulting Services regarding assessments of potential ecological impacts on the lease area. As a result, a preliminary investigation of ecological relationships was undertaken in July of 1971. This was followed by other surveys to assess fisheries, wildlife (including waterfowl) and the general ecological conditions of the Boreal Mixedwood Forest Ecosystem in which Lease #17 is located. An attempt was made to identify potential areas of concern during the preliminary investigation of the development. Assessments of potential conflicts between resource extraction operations and the functioning of ecological relationships on the lease area were initiated. These preliminary investigations were not considered to represent quantitative or qualitative statements of ecological impacts, but were made primarily to determine whether or not significant potential problems existed. Objectives of the waterfowl surveys are: 1) To monitor waterfowl migrations through the Syncrude Lease 17 and general area during all seasons of use. 2) To establish the locations and intensity of use. 3) To document the chronology of migration through the area. 4) To determine the key areas used during the migration. 5) To further examine the implications of the Syncrude development upon waterfowl. 6) To suggest mitigative measures, if any, that might be taken.
    Subjects: Tarsands, Alberta, Oilsands, Survey, Oil Sands, Birds, Environmental Research Monograph 1973-3, Tar Sands, Syncrude
    Date Created: 1973
  9. Beaver Creek: An ecological baseline survey [Download]

    Title: Beaver Creek: An ecological baseline survey
    Creator: Syncrude Canada Ltd.
    Description: The study reported here was initiated on July 26, 1971, to provide ecological baseline information on Beaver Creek. Field surveys were carried out from August 7th to August 24th. Of particular interest to this study was the acquisition of quantitative data on fisheries populations as a means of determining if harvestable populations of sport fish occur in Beaver Creek. Specific objectives of the study were as follows: 1) To conduct a fisheries habitat survey. 2) To conduct systematic sampling of invertebrate fauna. 3) To conduct systematic sampling of the fish populations. 4) To attempt identification of spawning areas. 5) To assess the use made of Beaver Creek by inhabitants of the Fort McMurray area for fishing and other forms of water-oriented recreation. 6) To assess the relative importance of Beaver Creek in a regional context.
    Subjects: Habitat, Baseline, Syncrude, Survey, Beaver Creek, Oil Sands, Environmental Research Monograph 1973-2, Fish, Oilsands, Alberta, Tar Sands, Tarsands
    Date Created: 1973
  10. Water quality and aquatic resources of the Beaver Creek diversion, 1977 [Download]

    Title: Water quality and aquatic resources of the Beaver Creek diversion, 1977
    Creator: Noton, L.R.
    Description: The Beaver Creek Diversion System was investigated from March to November, 1977, to describe post-diversion conditions in Beaver Creek, Ruth Lake and Poplar Creek and to characterize the two newly created water bodies in the system. Ten sites in the system were sampled regularly for physical-chemical parameters, phytoplankton, zooplankton and benthic macroinvertebrates. Additional surveys were done for fish, aquatic macrophytes, stream drift and stream habitat.
    Subjects: Water Quality, Fish, Alberta, Environmental Research Monograph 1978-3, Oil Sands, Syncrude, Invertebrates, Survey, Tarsands, Beaver Creek, Oilsands, Tar Sands
    Date Created: 1978