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. Soil survey of a portion of the Syncrude Lease 17 area, Alberta [Download]

    Title: Soil survey of a portion of the Syncrude Lease 17 area, Alberta
    Creator: Twardy, A.G.
    Description: A soil survey of a portion of Syncrude No. 17 Lease Area, encompassing an area of about 93 square kilometres, was conducted during the period between June 20 and July 8, 1977. The soils were inspected and described at 413 sites and representative soils were sampled for physical and chemical laboratory analyses. The distribution of the soils is presented on the soils map at a scale of 1:24,000. Soils of the Luvisolic, Brunisolic, Gleysolic, Cryosolic and Organic Orders were recognized and characterized. Moderately well drained Orthic Gray Luvisols developed on fine to very fine textured glaciolacustrine materials predominate, occupying about 49 percent of the study area. Organic and Organic Cryosol soils occupy about 35 percent of the area. The depth of peat in the majority of these soils is less than 80 cm. Both bogs and fens were recognized. Bogs have the larger areal extent occupying about 26 percent of the study area. Permafrost was encountered in some of the deep bogs. No permafrost occurs in any of the fens or shallow bogs.
    Subjects: Tarsands, Alberta, Soils, Survey, Oilsands, Syncrude, Tar Sands, Oil Sands, Environmental Research Monograph 1978-1
    Date Created: 1978
  2. Air quality monitoring with a lichen network: Baseline data [Download]

    Title: Air quality monitoring with a lichen network: Baseline data
    Creator: Peterson, W.L.
    Description: A network of 56 permanent plots, radiating from the periphery of the Syncrude Lease, was established during the summer of 1976. This network will allow continuous quantitative monitoring of the lichen flora using photographic techniques. Since lichens are highly sensitive to air pollutants such as SO they are capable of showing damage or reduced growth long before it is detectable in other vegetation. This \"early warning system\" may indicate that unnatural biological changes are beginning to take place in the ecosystem and appropriate action, if necessary, may then be taken to minimize further biological changes. It is recommended that, partial resurveys of the grid network should be conducted annually during the first years of the Syncrude plant's operation. These partial resurveys will be relatively economical since only 21 plots, all accessible by road, need be examined. If no adverse changes in the lichen flora are detected during partial resurveys, several years may then elapse before a subsequent partial resurvey is necessary. Complete resurveys will only be required if a partial resurvey indicates adverse changes are occurring. Collections of lichens and mosses during 1975 and 1976 have resulted in a known flora of 121 species of lichens and 136 species of mosses for the Fort McMurray region. Seventeen species of lichens and three species of mosses apparently are new to the flora of Alberta.
    Subjects: Tarsands, Oil Sands, Air Quality, Permanent Plots, Tar Sands, Oilsands, Alberta, Lichen, Biomonitoring, Environmental Research Monograph 1977-5, Syncrude
    Date Created: 1977
  3. 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
  4. On the rise of buoyant plumes in turbulent environments [Download]

    Title: On the rise of buoyant plumes in turbulent environments
    Creator: Djurfors, S.
    Description: A plume rise model is derived from the equations of turbulent motion, retaining the turbulent flux terms. The solutions are similar to those proposed earlier by Csanady but containing an exponential decay term. The model finds particular value in predicting a leveled-of£ plume trajectory in neutral atmospheric conditions. In unstable atmospheric conditions the ultimate mode of behavior depends on whether the atmospheric turbulence or the unstable stratification finally dominate the plume motion.
    Subjects: Syncrude, Oil Sands, Modeling, Tarsands, Tar Sands, Professional Paper 1977-4, Oilsands, Plume, Alberta
    Date Created: 1977
  5. 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
  6. Continued studies of soil improvement and revegetation of tailings sand slopes [Download]

    Title: Continued studies of soil improvement and revegetation of tailings sand slopes
    Creator: Rowell, M.J.
    Description: Studies were continued in 1976 into the improvement of a five year old revegetated area on a tailings sand dike by the implementation of different fertilizer programs. In June, 1976 levels of available N, P, K and S were adequate for plant growth. However, even where fertilizers were added levels of mineral N had dropped to low levels by September, 1976. Plant top production early in the 1976 season was increased by application of nitrogen fertilizer during the previous August. Continued good growth throughout the summer only occurred when extra N, P, K, and S fertilizers were added in June, 1976. The most efficient use of fertilizer occurred when nitrogen was added at a rate of about 80 Kg/ha or less. At the higher fertilizer application rates there was a tendency for Brome Grass to replace Creeping Red Fescue as the dominant grass in the sward. The accumulation of root tissues has occurred over the past five years to the extent that current root:shoot ratios vary from about 4:1 to 7:1. Erosion of the area was negligible in 1976. In two new revegetation experiments on steep tailings sand slopes, erosion could be minimized by the rapid establishment of a plant cover. This was most effective where the surface was amended with peat, mine overburden and with N, P, K and S fertilizers. The amounts of fertilizer added in the first year varied between 80 Kg-N, 35 Kg-P, 75 Kg-K and 20 Kg-S per hectare and 300 Kg-N, 80 Kg-P, 300 Kg-K and 40 Kg-S per hectare.
    Subjects: Oil Sands, Alberta, Lysimeter, Tarsands, Erosion, Grasses, Oilsands, Revegetation, Tar Sands, Plant Nutrients, Syncrude, Environmental Research Monograph 1977-4
    Date Created: 1977
  7. A statistically derived forecast scheme for winds and temperatures in the Athabasca tar sands area [Download]

    Title: A statistically derived forecast scheme for winds and temperatures in the Athabasca tar sands area
    Creator: Leahey, D.M.
    Description: Syncrude Canada Ltd. operates an oil sands extraction plant in the Athabasca Tar Sands region of northeastern Alberta. Although this facility is designed to maintain resulting ground level air quality within the objectives of Alberta Environment, exceedances of these objectives may occur in extreme meteorological conditions. If these conditions were to be predicted in advance, then plant emissions could be adjusted in order to maintain ground level air quality at a desirable level. The purpose of this study is to develop a forecast scheme, based on analysis of historical, site specific data, which will allow prediction eight hours in advance of real time of those parameters which are required to predict ground level air quality. Specifically, these predictands are: wind speed and direction at stack and plume heights, vertical temperature gradient at stack height, mixing height and horizontal fluctuations of wind direction. Development of the forecast scheme for predictands relating to wind and temperature employed multiple linear regression analyses. Historical data for these parameters were obtained from analysis of 2 399 pibal observations and 2 289 minisonde observations made near the Syncrude plant site over the years 1975 to 1979 inclusive. Concurrent data for the predictors used in the regression equations were obtained from the following national, regional and local sources: the 850 mb pressure level wind field prepared by the Canadian Meteorological Centre (CMC), radiosonde temperature profiles obtained at Fort Smith and Stony Plain, upper air wind profiles and hourly surface records from the Fort McMurray airport, winds and the temperatures from the Tall Tower, and finally, surface winds from the towers at Stony Mountain and Mildred Lake.
    Subjects: Wind, Environmental Research Monograph 1984-4, Temperature, Syncrude, Alberta, Tar Sands, Modeling, Tarsands, Oilsands, Oil Sands
    Date Created: 1984
  8. Reclamation and vegetation of surface mined areas in the Athabasca tar sands [Download]

    Title: Reclamation and vegetation of surface mined areas in the Athabasca tar sands
    Creator: Takyi, S.K.
    Description: One of the major environmental problems which arises with surface mining of the oil sands in the Fort McMurray-Fort MacKay area of Alberta is the permanent loss of the natural vegetation and the drastic change in the soils that supported it. It has been estimated that with a production target of one million barrels of crude oil per day approximately two thousand acres of land will have to be cleared every year. Most of the disturbed areas eventually must be vegetated again; these include the overburden piles and the tailings sand. In vegetating such areas several problems such as salinity, oil, low fertility, erosion and unfavorable soil reaction have to be contended with. There has been some success in the general vegetation program on the Great Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. lease, but the problems listed above still have to be studied and solutions for them found. Surface mining of the Alberta oil sands requires the clearing of natural vegetation from thousands of acres of land. Under other circumstances these cleared areas should present few problems for revegetation programs, but major problems arise in mined areas and in areas where mine wastes are deposited. The wastes include tailings sand, overburden materials (which may contain oil-bearing materials and may present salinity and alkalinity problems), and coke and sulfur (by-products of the upgrading process which could damage vegetated areas through wind-blown dust deposits). A likely problem in the future is the damage that would be caused over wide areas to the soil and vegetation by the sulfur dioxide emissions from the processing plants. The only operating plant in the area, Great Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. (GCOS), has embarked on a program to vegetate the tailings pond dike, whose outer shell consists of tailings sand, and also the overburden piles. Investigations carried out over a one-year period examined some of the materials at hand and techniques available for solving some of the existing known problems in vegetating the mine wastes. A number of plant species, both cultivated and native, were grown in growth chambers on the waste materials to determine the performance of the species under different salinity, soil reaction, fertility, soil mix, and oil conditions. A second major study, a field trial on an already vegetated area on the GCOS tailings pond dike, was conducted to determine responses of the already established vegetative cover to different fertility levels, and to determine the fate of added fertilizer nutrients. The materials used in preparing various \"soil mixes\" were characterized chemically and biologically.
    Subjects: Oilsands, Oil Sands, Fertilizer, Tar Sands, Tarsands, Soils, Syncrude, Alberta, Reclamation, Native Species, Plant Nutrients, Environmental Research Monograph 1977-1
    Date Created: 1977
  9. 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
  10. 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