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Bioreactor studies predict whole microbial population dynamics in oil sands tailings ponds

Chi Fru, Ernest ORCID:, Chen, Michael, Walshe, Gillian, Penner, Tara and Weisener, Christopher 2013. Bioreactor studies predict whole microbial population dynamics in oil sands tailings ponds. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 97 (7) , pp. 3215-3224. 10.1007/s00253-012-4137-6

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Microorganisms in oil sands fluid fine tailings (FFT) are critical to biogeochemical elemental cycling as well as to the degradation of residual hydrocarbon constituents and subsequent methane and CO2 production. Microbial activity enhances particulate matter sedimentation rates and the dewatering of FFT materials, allowing water to be recycled back into bitumen extraction. A bulk of this evidence comes from bioreactor studies and has implications for engineering and environmental management of the FFT ponds. Yet, it is largely uncertain whether such laboratory populations are representative of whole field scale microbial communities. By using population ecology tools, we compared whole microbial communities present in FFT bioreactors to reference populations existing in Syncrude's West In Pit (WIP) tailings pond. Bacteria were found to be persistent in a sulfidic zone in both the oxic and anoxic bioreactors at all occasions tested. In contrast to the WIP, archaea only became predominant in bioreactors after 300 days, at which point analysis of similarity (global R statistic p < 0.5) revealed no significant dissimilarities between the populations present in either system. A whole community succession pattern from bacterial dominated prevalence to a new assemblage predominated by archaea was suggested. These results have implications for the stepwise development of microbial model systems for predictive management of field scale FFT basins.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Springer Verlag (Germany)
ISSN: 0175-7598
Last Modified: 03 Nov 2022 09:44

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