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. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. Revegetation and management of tailings sand slopes: 1977 results [Download]

    Title: Revegetation and management of tailings sand slopes: 1977 results
    Creator: Rowell, M.J.
    Description: The tailings sand slope that was seeded in July, 1976, was considered completely stable in 1977. No wind or water erosion or movement of soil particulates was detected in 1977. Of the fourteen species seeded in 1976, only Lupine and the oat cover crop did not grow in 1977. A comparison of fall seeding versus spring seeding indicated that fall seeding could be successfully used but that poor distribution of seed resulted from seed wash-off during snow melt in the spring. The yield of above ground vegetation was related to the amount of fertilizer added rather than to the use of peat or overburden soil amendments. The yield of plant roots was less affected by fertilization although the uptake of nitrogen and potassium was increased. Incorporation of peat or peat and overburden to a depth of 30 cm rather than 15 cm resulted in deeper root penetration and an overall increase in root yield. Long term management studies were continued on a six year old vegetated area of the tailings dike.
    Subjects: Syncrude, Alberta, Environmental Research Monograph 1978-5, Tarsands, Grasses, Oilsands, Revegetation, Tar Sands, Oil Sands, Fertilizer, Legumes
    Date Created: 1978
  6. 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
  7. Fisheries survey of the Beaver Creek diversion system, 1978 [Download]

    Title: Fisheries survey of the Beaver Creek diversion system, 1978
    Creator: O'Neil, J.P.
    Description: On three occasions during the period May-October, 1978, R.L.& L. Environmental Services Ltd. conducted fish sampling in the Beaver Creek Diversion System. These efforts were oriented towards providing an inventory of postdiversion fish populations. The study was designed not only to update the existing data base, but to provide quantified and reproducible catch/unit effort data (CUE) which could effectively serve as a basis for future monitoring of fish populations. Sampling gear employed in the study included gill nets, beach seine, and back-pack electrofisher. While a total of 11 species were encountered in the study area, only 6 were recorded in the upper diversion system (i.e., upstream of the Poplar Creek dam). Included in this latter group were two species of catostomids (white sucker, longnose sucker), the fathead minnow, brook stickleback, lake chub and spoonhead sculpin (Upper Beaver Creek only). Species collected in Poplar Creek, additional to those recorded in the upper diversion system, were Arctic grayling, northern pike, yellow perch, burbot and troutperch. The spoonhead sculpin was not collected in Poplar Creek. Pertinent life history information was collected for each of the species in the study area and subsequently analysed by computer. This material is provided in a separate data volume. Because of the significance of the white sucker in the diversion system, life history data for this species are presented in this report.
    Subjects: Alberta, Environmental Research Monograph 1979-3, Tarsands, Beaver Creek, Oil Sands, Syncrude, Survey, Oilsands, Fish, Tar Sands
    Date Created: 1979
  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. 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
  10. Buoyant plume rise in non-uniform wind conditions [Download]

    Title: Buoyant plume rise in non-uniform wind conditions
    Creator: Djurfors, S.
    Description: The conservation equations governing buoyant plume rise are solved for the case of non-uniform wind conditions. A simple power law is selected to represent the actual wind profile. Analytical solutions are presented both for uniformly stable and neutral atmospheric conditions. These solutions are shown to be of the same form as those obtained in the simpler uniform case but with the plume rise now depending explicitly on the wind speed shear, i.e., z ∞ t2/(J+δ). A sensitivity analysis of the effects on plume rise of typical variation in wind shear and entrainment reveals that the two quantities have an almost equal effect therefore justifying the use of the present model. To simplify computations a \"uniform wind\" is introduced such that when used in conjunction with Briggs' equations the results become consistent with those of the present theory.
    Subjects: Syncrude, Alberta, Tarsands, Modeling, Wind, Tar Sands, Professional Paper 1977-3, Oilsands, Oil Sands, Plume
    Date Created: 1977