Click here for more information about Algenuity
Click here for more information about LiqofluxPhenometrics Buy 3 Get 1 Free
Visit cricatalyst.com!Evodos Separation Technology

Research

Native Alberta algae to detox tailings ponds

March 25, 2016
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

Gordon Chua recently co-authored a paper about using algae to detoxify tailings ponds in the Alberta oil sands. Lab Technician Lindsay Clothier was a key member of the research team. Photo: Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Gordon Chua recently co-authored a paper about using algae to detoxify tailings ponds in the Alberta oil sands. Lab Technician Lindsay Clothier was a key member of the research team. Photo: Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Erin Guiltenane reports that a research project underway at the University of Calgary, in Alberta, Canada, aims to clean up oil sands tailings ponds by using native algae already found in them to do the job.

Oil sands mining produces pools of wastewater that are difficult to treat and pose a threat to the surrounding eco-system. The current methods oil companies use to clean them are expensive. To try to provide possible solutions to both of these problems, a team of researchers in the biological sciences and geoscience departments came together to find a new “homegrown” approach to removing toxins from tailings ponds – by using algae already present in the ponds to break down some of the organic byproducts of oil and gas processing.

“Our goal was to clean up the tailings ponds,” said Gordon Chua, an associate professor specializing in genetics and integrative cell biology. “There are a lot of toxins in them. There are ways to clean them, but none of these ways are cost effective.”

Algae break down substances in bioremediation, so when Dr. Chua and his team decided to start their initial testing in 2009, they knew that their work had solid roots. “Since some tailings ponds have high salt content, we guessed and ordered marine algae for testing with similar compounds to what’s found in tailings,” he says. “It worked to break down some of the organic byproducts.”

With the successful first step, Dr. Chua’s team moved on to figuring out how to reproduce the results with algal species native to Alberta, that already grow in the tailings ponds. With initial funding from Canadian oil sands operators, Dr. Chua and the team began further research, which also included studying the impacts of oil sands process-affected water, or OSPW, on various test organisms to evaluate the effectiveness of remediation by algae.

Oil sands tailings ponds are engineered dam and dyke systems that contain a mixture of salts, suspended solids and other dissolvable chemical compounds such as acids, benzene, hydrocarbons residual bitumen, fine silts and water. Large volumes of tailings are a byproduct of bitumen extraction from the oil sands and managing these tailings is one of the most difficult environmental challenges facing the oil sands industry. Source: Wikipedia

Oil sands tailings ponds are engineered dam and dyke systems that contain a mixture of salts, suspended solids and other dissolvable chemical compounds such as acids, benzene, hydrocarbons residual bitumen, fine silts and water. Large volumes of tailings are a byproduct of bitumen extraction from the oil sands and managing these tailings is one of the most difficult environmental challenges facing the oil sands industry. Source: Wikipedia

After several tests using different nutrients to stimulate algal bloom growth in the tailings samples, phosphate proved to be the most effective. The team found that leaving the sample of tailings and native algae with added phosphate in sunlight for several weeks resulted in the breakdown of organic byproducts and reduction in toxicity of the water. The results of this study were recently published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

“If you can reduce the organic load in the water, which can be very corrosive and difficult to recycle, you can help the companies re-use the water. They’re recycling a lot already – over 90 per cent – but every little way helps,” Dr. Chua says. “The challenge lies in: can we reproduce this on a large scale? Can we do it within a specific time requirement? And how can it be done cost-effectively?”

Possible next steps for the team include collaboration with industry and conduct these studies in the field. Dr. Chua believes that the possibilities for his team’s findings could have far-reaching impacts. “A benefit of using algae is that using a little bit of phosphate is enough to get them going,” he says. “They produce their own food, and sugars, and can also sequester carbon dioxide to absorb greenhouse gases. Algae could also have biofuel content that could be harvested.”

This research was funded by Suncor Energy Inc., Shell Canada Energy, Imperial Oil Resources Ltd., Syncrude Canada Ltd., and Total E&P Canada Ltd. Lab infrastructure and instrumentation was funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

More Like This…

Copyright ©2010-2019 AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com. All rights reserved. Permission required to reprint this article in its entirety. Must include copyright statement and live hyperlinks. Contact editorial@algaeindustrymagazine.com. A.I.M. accepts unsolicited manuscripts for consideration, and takes no responsibility for the validity of claims made in submitted editorial.

twittertopbarlinks_eventstopbarlinks_requesttopbarlinks_archives

From The A.I.M. Archives

— Refresh Page for More Choices
Susan Kraemer writes in solarpaces.org that to use solar thermal energy to convert farmed algae to fuel, the solar fuels research team at Australian National University (...
E.A. Crunden writes in thinkprogress.org that Florida’s first gubernatorial debate was dominated by environmental and climate issues, with an emphasis on the state’s alga...
San Diego, CA and Kailua-Kona, HI-based Cellana, Inc. has signed an Asset Purchase Agreement with Cyanotech Corporation for the sale of Cellana’s six-acre production and ...
The Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative, a technology-based economic development program funded by the state of Utah, has awarded a $175,320 grant for...
Cody Nelson writes for MPRNews.org that a team of University of Minnesota-Duluth researchers wanted to know how shortening winters — and less ice cover on lakes — might i...
Alexander Richter writes in thinkgeoenergy.com that Israel-based Algaennovation last week signed a 15-year contract with Icelandic energy utility and operator ON Power fo...
Judith Lewis Mernit writes in e360.yale.edu that an experiment being conducted by animal science professor Ermias Kebreab at the University of California, Davis, is testi...
Trade Arabia reports that the Oman Centre for Marine Biotechnology (OCMB) recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Swedish Algae Factory to support the domestic...
Israeli-based Algatechnologies, Ltd. (Algatech), is teaming up with the Italian R&D company, Sphera Encapsulation S.r.l (Sphera), to develop innovative functional ingredi...
AlgaEnergy, a Spanish biotechnology company specializing in the production and commercial applications of microalgae, and Yokogawa Electric Corporation, a leading provide...
Cécile Barbière writes for Euractive.fr (translated by Rob Kirby) that, in large greenhouses formerly home to the tomatoes and cucumbers of the market gardening Groupe Ol...
How did plants make the evolutionary jump from water to land? Scientists think that green algae are their water-living ancestors, but we are not sure how the transition t...