As the world moves towards a low-carbon energy future, legacies of current and past energy technologies remain a serious concern. Reclamation and restoration of land and water after generations of utilization will be important for our future, with many issues to address. Standards for reclamation, set across decades and based on varying levels of understanding, must be assessed, while technologies and methods for land and water reclamation are investigated, refined and developed.
Research has addressed numerous land and water issues associated with energy systems, driving industrial reclamation practices and informing regulatory changes. However, integrated research is needed on problems that cross industries and energy systems. Knowledge gaps to be addressed are: a strong scientific basis for current and future remediation and reclamation criteria; sustainability and resiliency of reclaimed landscapes; reclaimed community diversity and dynamics; treatment for release of process water to the environment; pilot scale testing of more green and low energy treatments; using by-products and waste as soil building materials; cost analysis of reclamation strategies; methods of engagement and governance for sub-regional issues; refreshment of existing regional frameworks for land and water use; engaging organizational players across new and extant frameworks; training specialists who can engage with policy makers, industry and communities.
We can best fill the gaps by building on our existing knowledge. We need to incorporate land and water reclamation knowledge into all phases of energy developments and resource extraction processes with a team of professionals; recognize the dynamic nature of reclaimed landscapes and develop appropriate spatial and temporal performance metrics and targets; understand fundamentals of active, semi-passive and engineered passive treatment processes; conduct life cycle assessments and cost analyses of treatments and approaches; assess performance of treatments at pilot scales; and develop a toolbox of best reclamation approaches for various scenarios.
The Land and Water theme research projects address a systemic approach to energy production and delivery and cross theme benefits. Our research is composed of multiple projects across 4 faculties and 7 departments. The projects fall into three research clusters 1) materials synthesis and development for utilization in land and water reclamation, 2) land and water approaches for reclamation of process water, and 3) reclamation success indicators, criteria and policy for energy systems.
Materials Synthesis And Development For Utilization In Land And Water Reclamation
Adsorption is one of the most efficient ways to remove pollutants from contaminated land and water. Low cost and high efficiency adsorbents would increase economic efficiency, which is especially beneficial to large scale land and water reclamation approaches. Materials are currently under development for adsorbing pollutants in organic or inorganic form. Most projects are using natural materials or industry by-products as raw materials, which have low or no cost. These include sludge based adsorbents, wood based cellulose nanofibrils, biochars, biopolymers from poultry feather keratin and nanohumus. Carbon xerogels of high porosity and surface area are being synthetized and modified, tailoring physical and/or chemical properties to optimize performance. This research will result in recovery of heavy metals, dissolved and colloidal organic matter from process waters; novel amendments to ameliorate soil properties and improve soil quality; and development of clean energy and mining processes with minimal environmental footprints.
Land And Water Approaches For Reclamation Of Process Water
Process water is a highly complex mixture of salts, metals, ammonia and organic compounds. The complex matrix of process water, its toxicity to organisms and recalcitrance of its constituents require treatment using conventional and advanced processes for safe release to the environment. Foremost challenges are to develop advanced water treatments to combine with natural attenuation processes and remediation methods and implement on-site with cost effectiveness and efficiency. These processes must be adaptable to meet requirements of legacy and future energy systems in a changing climate and regulatory environment. This research will result in integration of achieved knowledge into land and water management options for industry and into land and water reclamation regulatory frameworks; development of processes and policies for safe release of process water into the environment; and development of process water treatments for use of water in end pit lakes and constructed wetlands.
Reclamation Success Indicators, Criteria And Policy For Energy Systems
Reclamation, an important step in the design and transition of energy systems, aims to return disturbed land and water systems to former or other productive uses and ensure their long term resilience. Quantitative measures of reclamation success are required to achieve diverse end land uses from agriculture, recreation and urban to natural areas. Measures of reclamation success have focused on biophysical indicators such as vegetation and soil, and most measures are set by regulators to balance environmental integrity with economic development. Resilience, the ability of an ecosystem to recover following disturbance, is not commonly incorporated into indicators of success, although in an increasingly dynamic environment it may be one of the most important indicators to address. This research will result in development of science based indicators of reclamation success for land and water systems that address the needs of stakeholders and the public and contribute to criteria and policy.
Researchers on Land and Water
Over seven years, Future Energy Systems plans to support more than 100 researchers and up to 1,000 Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP), including graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. To learn more about our researchers, visit the Researcher Directory.