Recent studies have shown that conservation gains can be achieved when the spatial distributions of biological benefits and economic costs are incorporated in the conservation planning process. Using Alberta, Canada, as a case study we apply these techniques in the context of coarse-filter reserve design. Because targets for ecosystem representation and other coarse-filter design elements are difficult to define objectively we use a trade-off analysis to systematically explore the relationship between conservation targets and economic opportunity costs. We use the Marxan conservation planning software to generate reserve designs at each level of conservation target to ensure that our quantification of conservation and economic outcomes represents the optimal allocation of resources in each case. Opportunity cost is most affected by the ecological representation target and this relationship is nonlinear. Although petroleum resources are present throughout most of Alberta, and include highly valuable oil sands deposits, our analysis indicates that over 30% of public lands could be protected while maintaining access to more than 97% of the value of the region's resources. Our case study demonstrates that optimal resource allocation can be usefully employed to support strategic decision making in the context of land-use planning, even when conservation targets are not well defined.
Cites: Nature. 2000 May 11;405(6783):243-5310821285
In Norway, the largest reported quantities of radioactive discharges and radioactive waste containing naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) come from the oil and gas sector, and smaller quantities of other NORM waste are also produced by industrial or mining processes. The Gulen final repository for radioactive waste from the oil and gas industry from the Norwegian continental shelf was opened in 2008 and has a capacity of 6000 tonnes. As of 1 January 2011, a new regulation was enforced whereby radioactive waste and radioactive pollution was integrated in the Pollution Control Act from 1981. This means that radioactive waste and radioactive pollution are now regulated under the same legal framework as all other pollutants and hazardous wastes. The regulation establishes two sets of criteria defining radioactive waste: a lower value for when waste is considered to be radioactive waste, and a higher value, in most cases, for when this waste must be disposed of in a final waste repository. For example, waste containing = 1 Bq/g of Ra-226 is defined as radioactive waste, while radioactive waste containing = 10 Bq/g of Ra-226 must be disposed of in a final repository. Radioactive waste between 1 and 10B q/g can be handled and disposed of by waste companies who have a licence for handling hazardous waste according to the Pollution Control Act. Alternatively, they will need a separate licence for handling radioactive waste from the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority. The goal of the new regulation is that all radioactive waste should be handled and stored in a safe manner, and discharges should be controlled through a licensing regime in order to avoid/not pose unnecessary risk to humans or the environment. This paper will elaborate on the new regulation of radioactive waste and the principles of NORM management in Norway in view of the International Commission on Radiological Protection's 2007 Recommendations.
Little is known about the microbial ecology of the subsurface oil sands in Northern Alberta, Canada. Biodegradation of low molecular weight hydrocarbons by indigenous microbes has enriched high molecular weight hydrocarbons, resulting in highly viscous bitumen. This extreme subsurface environment is further characterized by low nutrient availability and limited access to water, thus resulting in low microbial biomass. Improved DNA isolation protocols and increasingly sensitive sequencing methods have allowed an in-depth investigation of the microbial ecology of this unique subsurface environmental niche. Community analysis was performed on core samples (n = 62) that were retrieved from two adjacent sites located in the Athabasca Oil Sands at depths from 220 to 320 m below the surface. Microbial communities were dominated by aerobic taxa, including Pseudomonas and Acinetobacter. Only one core sample microbial community was dominated by anaerobic taxa, including the methanogen Methanoculleus, as well as Desulfomicrobium and Thauera. Although the temperature of the bitumen-containing subsurface is low (8°C), two core samples had high fractions of the potentially thermophilic taxon, Thermus. Predominance of aerobic taxa in the subsurface suggests the potential for in situ aerobic hydrocarbon degradation; however, more studies are required to determine the functional role of these taxa within this unique environment.
Rising global demand for energy promotes extensive mining of natural resources, such as oil sands extractions in Alberta, Canada. These extractive activities release hazardous chemicals into the environment, such as polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACs), which include the parent polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), alkylated PAHs, and sulfur-containing heterocyclic dibenzothiophenes (DBTs). In areas adjacent to industrial installations, Indigenous communities may be exposed to these PACs through the consumption of traditional foods. Our objective was to evaluate and compare the concentrations of total PACs (?PAC), expressed as the sum of the 16 U.S. EPA priority PAHs (?PAH), 49 alkylated PAHs (?alkyl-PAH), and 7 DBTs (?DBT) in plant and animal foods collected in 2015 by the Bigstone Cree Nation in Alberta, Canada. We analyzed 42 plant tissues, 40 animal muscles, 5 ribs, and 4 pooled liver samples. Concentrations of ?PAC were higher in the lichen, old man's beard (Usnea spp.) (808 ± 116 ng g-1 w.w.), than in vascular plants, and were also higher in smoked moose (Alces alces) rib (461 ± 120 ng g-1 w.w.) than in all other non-smoked animal samples. Alkylated-PAHs accounted for between 63% and 95% of ?PAC, while the concentrations of ?PAH represented 4%-36% of ?PAC. Contributions of ?DBT to ?PAC were generally lowest, ranging from
Previous analyses of continuously measured compounds in Fort McKay, an indigenous community in the Athabasca Oil Sands, have detected increasing concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and total hydrocarbons (THC), but not of sulfur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3), total reduced sulfur compounds (TRS), or particulate matter (aerodynamic diameter
An investigation of ambient levels and sources of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and associated public health risks was carried out at two northern Alberta oil sands communities (Fort McKay and Fort McMurray located?30?km from oil sands development, respectively) for the period January 2010-March 2015. Levels of total detected VOCs were comparatively similar at both communities (Fort McKay: geometric mean?=?22.8?µg/m3, interquartile range, IQR?=?13.8-41?µg/m3); (Fort McMurray: geometric mean?=?23.3?µg/m3, IQR?=?12.0-41?µg/m3). In general, methanol (24%-50%), alkanes (26%-32%) and acetaldehyde (23%-30%) were the predominant VOCs followed by acetone (20%-24%) and aromatics (~9%). Mean and maximum ambient concentrations of selected hazardous VOCs were compared to health risk screening criteria used by United States regulatory agencies. The Positive matrix factorization (PMF) model was used to identify and apportion VOC sources at Fort McKay and Fort McMurray. Five sources were identified at Fort McKay, where four sources (oil sands fugitives, liquid/unburned fuel, ethylbenzene/xylene-rich and petroleum processing) were oil sands related emissions and contributed to 70% of total VOCs. At Fort McMurray six sources were identified, where local sources other than oil sands development were also observed. Contribution of aged air mass/regional transport including biomass burning emissions was ~30% of total VOCs at both communities. Source-specific carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic risk values were also calculated and were below acceptable and safe levels of risk, except for aged air mass/regional transport (at both communities), and ethylbenzene/xylene-rich (only at Fort McMurray).
The solar UV/chlorine process has emerged as a novel advanced oxidation process for industrial and municipal wastewaters. Currently, its practical application to oil sands process-affected water (OSPW) remediation has been studied to treat fresh OSPW retained in large tailings ponds, which can cause significant adverse environmental impacts on ground and surface waters in Northern Alberta, Canada. Degradation of naphthenic acids (NAs) and fluorophore organic compounds in OSPW was investigated. In a laboratory-scale UV/chlorine treatment, the NAs degradation was clearly structure-dependent and hydroxyl radical-based. In terms of the NAs degradation rate, the raw OSPW (pH ~ 8.3) rates were higher than those at an alkaline condition (pH = 10). Under actual sunlight, direct solar photolysis partially degraded fluorophore organic compounds, as indicated by the qualitative synchronous fluorescence spectra (SFS) of the OSPW, but did not impact NAs degradation. The solar/chlorine process effectively removed NAs (75-84% removal) and fluorophore organic compounds in OSPW in the presence of 200 or 300 mg L(-1) OCl(-). The acute toxicity of OSPW toward Vibrio fischeri was reduced after the solar/chlorine treatment. However, the OSPW toxicity toward goldfish primary kidney macrophages after solar/chlorine treatment showed no obvious toxicity reduction versus that of untreated OSPW, which warrants further study for process optimization.
Fluid petroleum coke generated at oil sands operations in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region of northern Alberta, Canada, contains elevated concentrations of molybdenum (Mo) and other metals including nickel (Ni) and vanadium (V). Solid-phase Mo concentrations in fluid petroleum coke are typically 10 to 100 times lower than V and Ni, yet dissolved Mo concentrations in associated pore waters are often comparable with these metals. We collected pore water and solids from fluid petroleum coke deposits in the AOSR to examine geochemical controls on Mo mobility. Dissolved Mo concentrations increased with depth below the water table, reaching maxima of 1.4-2.2?mg?L-1, within a mixing zone between slightly acidic and oxic meteoric water and mildly alkaline and anoxic oil sands process-affected water (OSPW). Dissolved Mo concentrations decreased slightly with depth below the mixing zone. X-ray absorption spectroscopy revealed that Mo(VI) and Mo(IV) species were present in coke solids. The Mo(VI) occurred as tetrahedrally coordinated MoO42- adsorbed via inner- and outer-sphere complexation, and was coordinated in an environment similar to Fe-(hydr)oxide surface complexes. The OSPW likely promoted desorption of outer-sphere Mo(VI) complexes, resulting in higher dissolved Mo concentrations in the mixing zone. The principal Mo(IV) species was MoS2, which originated as a catalyst added upstream of the fluid coking process. Although MoS2 is likely stable under anoxic conditions below the mixing zone, oxidative weathering in the presence of meteoric water may promote long-term Mo release.
Atmospheric deposition of metals originating from a variety of sources, including bitumen upgrading facilities and blowing dusts from landscape disturbances, is of concern in the Athabasca oil sands region of northern Alberta, Canada. Mercury (Hg) is of particular interest as methylmercury (MeHg), a neurotoxin which bioaccumulates through foodwebs, can reach levels in fish and wildlife that may pose health risks to human consumers. We used spring-time sampling of the accumulated snowpack at sites located varying distances from the major developments to estimate winter 2012 Hg loadings to a ~20 000 km(2) area of the Athabasca oil sands region. Total Hg (THg; all forms of Hg in a sample) loads were predominantly particulate-bound (79 ± 12%) and increased with proximity to major developments, reaching up to 1000 ng m(-2). MeHg loads increased in a similar fashion, reaching up to 19 ng m(-2) and suggesting that oil sands developments are a direct source of MeHg to local landscapes and water bodies. Deposition maps, created by interpolation of measured Hg loads using geostatistical software, demonstrated that deposition resembled a bullseye pattern on the landscape, with areas of maximum THg and MeHg loadings located primarily between the Muskeg and Steepbank rivers. Snowpack concentrations of THg and MeHg were significantly correlated (r = 0.45-0.88, p