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TitleEvolution of an oil sands contaminant plume through a buried sand and gravel channel
AuthorCalderhead, A I; Rivera, A; Savard, M M; Ahad, J M E; Gammon, P
Alt SeriesEarth Sciences Sector, Contribution Series 20130157
PublisherAGU
MeetingAGU fall meeting; San Francisco; US; December 9-13, 2013
Documentbook
Lang.English
Mediapaper
ProgramAquifer Assessment & support to mapping, Groundwater Geoscience
AbstractOil sands extraction is expected to double in the next 20 years and the risks of contaminating groundwater from tailings impoundments will increase in a similar fashion. A comprehensive understanding of the flow and transport processes associated with buried channels in oil sands mining areas will assist in mitigating the risks associated with groundwater contamination. This study focusses on the evolution of an oil sands contaminant plume via a buried sand and gravel channel. A site description and the sources of data are presented; a conceptual model is formed and a 2D-vertical finite element groundwater flow and mass transport model is build and used for simulating flow and transport patterns between the tailings pond and the river. Forward particle tracking simulations for the buried high conductivity channel show that groundwater originating from the tailings pond is discharging to the surface after 19 years. This travel time increases significantly, between 156 and 230 years, outside of the high conductivity channel. Chloride breakthrough curves are reproduced reasonably well with the evolution of tailings pond concentrations observed in the buried channel at various stages depending on the distance from the pond. The chloride concentrations also assist in determining the lateral boundaries of the buried high conductivity channel. Thus, for a similar geological setting in the proximity of oil sands tailings ponds, these channels pose a significant threat to the environment and should be taken into account when planning a new tailings pond.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
Oil sands extraction is expected to double in the next 20 years and the risks of contaminating groundwater from tailings impoundments will increase in a similar fashion. A comprehensive understanding of the flow and transport processes associated with buried channels in oil sands mining areas will assist in mitigating the risks associated with groundwater contamination. This study focusses on the evolution of an oil sands contaminant plume via a buried sand and gravel channel. Groundwater originating from the tailings pond is discharging to the surface after 19 years. This travel time increases significantly, between 156 and 230 years, outside of the high conductivity channel. The chloride concentrations assist in determining the lateral boundaries of the buried high conductivity channel. Thus, for a similar geological setting in the proximity of oil sands tailings ponds, these channels pose a significant threat to the environment and should be taken into account when planning a new tailings pond.
GEOSCAN ID292834