Canadian Consulting Engineer

Oil Sands Ponds Under Scrutiny

The heat was on again for Northern Alberta's oil sands developers after an article in National Geographic's March issue included a lengthy photo feature of the vast open pit mines. The article by Robe...

March 1, 2009   Canadian Consulting Engineer

The heat was on again for Northern Alberta’s oil sands developers after an article in National Geographic’s March issue included a lengthy photo feature of the vast open pit mines. The article by Robert Kunzig was entitled “Scraping Bottom: the Canadian Oil Boom.”

The previous month the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board directed oil sands companies to begin cleaning up the mines’ tailings ponds, which are sometimes the size of lakes and contain heavy metals such as naphthenic acid and PAH.

The companies have until September 30 to file their plans and in five years must find ways to process all tailings water and dispose of the sludge. Consulting engineers could be asked to help find technologies to deal with these problems.

Worldwide attention was pointed at the tar sands last year when hundreds of migrating waterfowl landed on one of Syncrude’s tailings ponds and died.


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