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Observations of Soil Moisture Dynamics Associated with Hydrocarbon Affected and Layered Coarse Textured Soils



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The Aurora Soil Capping study, located in northern Alberta, was constructed to evaluate reclamation practices on lean oil sands dumps. The challenges relating to its success includes determining the appropriate soil cover design(s) for the coarse textured reclamation soil, while utilizing available salvaged natural soils, some of which contain residual bitumen in the form of aggregate oil sand material (AOSM). Limited research on this material raises key questions as to the impact it will play on transport and retention processes, along with potential contamination from hydrocarbon leaching. The research conducted sought to answer these questions. This thesis describes laboratory studies conducted on four soils; the upper organic LFH layer, Bm, BC and subsoil material while varying the amount of AOSM and implementing layering schemes. Material characterization through organic carbon and particle size analysis as well as hydrophobicity studies on AOSM through contact angle analysis were performed. A tension table and pressure plates, along with columns equipped with Time Domain Reflectometry probes, were used for water retention studies. Hydraulic conductivity was measured through constant head methods. To address hydrocarbon leaching concerns, chloride tracer studies were performed and the column outflow was analyzed using Gas Chromatography to detect the hydrocarbon type and concentration. Results from water retention and hydraulic conductivity studies indicated that although the AOSM was hydrophobic, its placement at varying concentrations and forms did not create consistent significant differences in the amount of moisture retained or transported. Results from the column studies showed that under steady state and transient conditions AOSM could result in decreasing infiltration rates and increasing chloride retention. The integration of soil layers further slowed the infiltration rate and delayed chloride transport. Under saturated conditions the presence of higher concentrations of AOSM appeared to increase the rate of water movement. Although these differences were minimal, further studies are required to explore this behavior. Overall, it can be concluded that with appropriate material placement, the addition of layering schemes and hydrocarbon material, the potential exists to increase soil water content in the upper layers of the soil, thereby increasing soil water storage for plant use.



Aggregate oil sand material, Soil moisture dynamics of hydrocarbon affected material Layered coarse textured soil, Soil moisture dynamics of layered coarse textured soil



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Soil Science


Soil Science


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