OCGC Seminar - Dr. Paul Gammon


Isotopes as a potential fingerprinting tool in the 

Athabasca Oil Sands Region


Dr. Paul Gammon
Research Scientist, Geological Survey of Canada


Dr. Gammon is also an Adjunct Professor with our department. 

Dr. Paul Gammon standing in body of water

Thursday, November 12th, 2015
11:30 a.m.  

3120 HP
Carleton Universty



The environmental footprint of the Athabasca Oil Sands (AOS) industrial operations is a contentious debate revolving around what contamination is natural, and what is industrial in origin. Outcropping McMurray Formation oil sand has been invoked by AOS industry proponents as evidence of substantial natural loading of environmental contaminants. In contrast, AOS industry opponents have used high contaminant concentration data from around the operations as evidence for a high environmental cost. Regulatory bodies traditionally use concentration data, which is abundant for the AOS region, to define contaminant loadings. However, what is clear is that this data is insufficient to identify, let alone quantify, what portion is industrial and what is natural. The SOURCES Project of the Environmental Geoscience Program of the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) has taken a different approach, taking as its working hypothesis that novel isotopic methods can fingerprint different sources of contaminant loading and thus be used as a method for apportioning natural versus industrial loadings. Implicit in the hypothesis is that the industrial activity alters the isotopic signature of a component and this offset then becomes a fingerprinting and quantifiable feature. For inorganic components in particular, this is further complicated by generally very low concentrations of metals in the AOS region, and rock-water interactions that can produce further isotopic fractionation.