Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Future of Research in the Alberta Oil Sands - International Oil Sands Tailings Conference Review

Lisa is blogging about her experience as part of the CU-WISE initiative Blog To Attend A Conference Fund. Check out our Opportunities page for more details. 

The International Oil Sands Tailings Conference (IOSTC) is a bi-annual meeting for presenting research aimed at developing innovative means of addressing tailings related issues associated with the development of the Alberta Oil Sands. The conference was held from December 2-5, 2012 in Edmonton, Alberta at the Mayfield Inn and Conference Center. The conference brought together 360 experts, and interested individuals, to address tailings technology and management. Speakers addressed challenging issues such as oil sands tailings management, the required research efforts to overcome these challenges and, how the industry is responding. Papers were presented under the following themes: Tailings Containment, Soft Tailings and Stabilization, Tailings Dewatering, Reclamation, Chemical Interactions, New Tailings Management Concepts, and Water and Heat Considerations. A full list of presenters and abstracts can be found at https://uofa-cee.gobigevent.com:443/prothos/onware.x/conference/web/index.p?!=public=13549203058167=41=25697969&Conference=10293

Keynote speakers addressed future goals and areas of future concern while stressing the importance of reclamation studies. It appears that reclaiming and monitoring reclamation is the new main industry challenge. The talk I presented was the only one that addressed ecological reclamation. The talk titled ‘The use of benthic microorganisms (thecamoebians) to assess ecological response to tailings pond water quality changes and define endpoints to remediation efforts’ introduced a means of monitoring ecosystem development with reclamation efforts. This research is currently being conducted here at Carleton University in the Earth Science department.

Upon the completion of my Ph.D. I intend to work in Alberta in relation to the oil sands industry. The general public consensus is that finding work in Alberta is easy but if you actually talk to those looking, finding a career that fits your skillset is rather difficult. The oil companies have relationships with universities in Alberta and positions are typically filled from that pool of candidates. For me attendance at the conference was vital to finding a job. Business people and company researchers mainly attended the conference so the venue was an excellent opportunity for networking. I was one of only two students from outside of Alberta in attendance so I am thankful for the funding assistance that allowed me this opportunity.