Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Research Shows That Reported Oil Sands Emissions Greatly Underestimated

A new comprehensive modeling assessment of contamination in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region indicates that officially reported emissions of certain hazardous air pollutants have been greatly underestimated.

The results of the assessment, which was carried out by University of Toronto Scarborough Environmental Chemistry professor Frank Wania and his PhD candidate Abha Parajulee, will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science Monday, February 3 2014. The study constitutes the most comprehensive such model that has been done for the Oil Sands Region.

The team used a model to assess the plausibility of reported emissions of a group of atmospheric pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Many PAHs are highly carcinogenic.

“When dealing with chemicals that have the potential to harm people and animals, it is vital that we have a good understanding of how, and how much they are entering the environment,” said Parajulee, the lead author of the paper.

PAHs are released during the process of extracting petroleum from the oil sands. Environmental Impact Assessments have so far only considered the PAHs that are released directly into the atmosphere. The risk associated with those direct releases was judged to fall within acceptable regulatory limits.

The model used by Parajulee and Wania takes into account other indirect pathways for the release of PAHs that hadn’t been assessed before or were deemed negligible. For instance, they found that evaporation from tailings ponds – lakes of polluted water also created through oil sands processing – may actually introduce more PAHs into the atmosphere than direct emissions.

“Tailings ponds are not the end of the journey for many of the pollutants they contain. Some PAHs are volatile, meaning they escape into the air much more than many people think,” says Parajulee. (pictured seated at right with Wania).

The higher levels of PAHs the UTSC scientists’ model predicts when accounting for emissions from tailings ponds are consistent with what has actually been measured in samples taken from areas near and in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region.

The authors also found, however, that tailings ponds emissions are likely not significant contributors of relatively involatile PAHs to the Oil Sands Region atmosphere. Instead, other emissions sources not taken into account by the environmental impact assessment, such as blowing dust, are probably more important for these chemicals.

The pair of researchers modeled only three PAHs, which they believe are representative of others. Still, they say, their model indicates better monitoring data and emissions information are needed to improve our understanding of the environmental impact of the oil sands even further.

“Our study implies that PAH concentrations in air, water, and food, that are estimated as part of environmental impact assessments of oil sands mining operations are very likely too low,” says Wania. “Therefore the potential risks to humans and wildlife may also have been underestimated.”

Don Campbell | Newswise
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Blacklists Protect the Rainforest
24.09.2015 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht Small Alga – Great Effect
22.09.2015 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenökologie (ZMT)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Physicists shrink particle accelerator

Prototype demonstrates feasibility of building terahertz accelerators

An interdisciplinary team of researchers has built the first prototype of a miniature particle accelerator that uses terahertz radiation instead of radio...

Im Focus: Simple detection of magnetic skyrmions

New physical effect: researchers discover a change of electrical resistance in magnetic whirls

At present, tiny magnetic whirls – so called skyrmions – are discussed as promising candidates for bits in future robust and compact data storage devices. At...

Im Focus: High-speed march through a layer of graphene

In cooperation with the Center for Nano-Optics of Georgia State University in Atlanta (USA), scientists of the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität have made simulations of the processes that happen when a layer of carbon atoms is irradiated with strong laser light.

Electrons hit by strong laser pulses change their location on ultrashort timescales, i.e. within a couple of attoseconds (1 as = 10 to the minus 18 sec). In...

Im Focus: Battery Production: Laser Light instead of Oven-Drying and Vacuum Technology

At the exhibition BATTERY + STORAGE as part of WORLD OF ENERGY SOLUTIONS 2015 in Stuttgart, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT and for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS will be showing how laser technology can be used to manufacture batteries both cost- and energy-efficiently.

In the truest sense, it’s all about watts at the Dresden-based Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS and the Aachen-based Fraunhofer...

Im Focus: New Sinumerik features improve productivity and precision

EMO 2015, Hall 3, Booth E06/F03

  • Drive optimization called automatically by the part program boosts productivity
  • Automatically switching the dynamic values to rapid traverse and interpolation...
All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

EHFG 2015: Securing healthcare and sustainably strengthening healthcare systems

01.10.2015 | Event News

Conference in Brussels: Tracking and Tracing the Smallest Marine Life Forms

30.09.2015 | Event News

World Alzheimer`s Day – Professor Willnow: Clearer Insights into the Development of the Disease

17.09.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Graphene teams up with two-dimensional crystals for faster data communications

06.10.2015 | Information Technology

Laser-wielding physicists seize control of atoms' behavior

06.10.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

Flipping molecular attachments amps up activity of CO2 catalyst

06.10.2015 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>