Advanced study of unconventional oil behaviour, innovative emergency measures to surface water oil spills: protection of water sources
The extraction and transport of unconventional oil is constantly growing due to the increasing scarcity of conventional oil reserves and in response to oil demands. This is particularly true for Canada with bituminous sands (oil sands from Athabasca) or in the USA with light oil (Bakken). The transport of these unconventional oils by rail, pipeline or marine cargo raises human safety and environmental impact concerns including risks to contamination of fresh water sources. In the last years, numerous (in Alberta, 17 605 incidents occurred between 1990 and 2012) and severe spills and fires involved unconventional oils such as Albertan dilbit in Kalamazoo (Michigan, 2010) and light oil Bakken in Lac Mégantic (Quebec, 2013). Due to fundamentally different chemical and physical properties (acidity, viscosity, composition, density), once spilled these petroleum behave environmentally different compared to traditional crudes. The disasters have emphasized the lack of preparedness of cities, government and remediation industry to respond to unconventional oil emergencies.
In order to address these emergencies, a multidisciplinary strategic and structuring research project is presented in this proposal. The project includes three parts: I) Advanced chemical characterization of Dilbit and Bakken oils; II) Development of innovative efficient non-chemical oil adsorbents and oil oxydants; and III) Evaluation of natural attenuation and improvement of assisted oil biodegradation. The research will deliver: new fundamental knowledge (in organic chemistry and biology); innovative tools (genomics) and eco-engineering sustainable cleaning processes in addition to an important number of high-qualified personnel in an area urgently needed. Considering that during unconventional oil spill emergencies, economic and environmental interests may appear in opposition despite both aspects being at high stakes, this project is needed and valued for its neutrality and independence as is shown by the large number of stakeholder supporters.
Université Laval- Faculté de Sciences et génie. Département de génie civil et de génie des eaux.
Satinder Kaur Brar
Institut national de la recherche scientifique, Université du Québec - INRS