Phytoremediation and bioremediation of heavy oils in saline Alberta soils
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Alberta, Canada is well-known as a major producer of oil and gas resources and these activities are significant contributors towards the province’s economic growth. Currently, in the area of Lloydminster, Alberta, heavy oil is produced through an increasing number of oil wells managed under the Alberta Government’s directives and regulations. However, as oil wells gradually decline in oil production, operators are obligated to begin reclamation and remediation activities to ensure the land can be returned to a state for future use. Alberta is experiencing an increasing number of inactive wells with a portion of them located in Lloydminster, and many of them are remaining stagnant because they lack a fiscally and legally responsible party to manage their abandonment and reclamation process. Stagnant inactive wells can be an environmental, economic and social liability. The lack of management or monitoring in some cases fails to prevent any infrastructure failure that may leak heavy petroleum hydrocarbons and brine into the surrounding environment. The various remediation processes to reduce the heavy petroleum hydrocarbon contaminants found in soils is limited when considering the high levels of salinity from brine exposure. However, phytoremediation and bioremediation using halophytes and halophiles are investigated as potential tools as a less invasive and more sustainable approach than certain costly ex-situ remediation techniques and to overcome the complication of high salinity. In addition, the integration of natural tools in an enhanced system known as multi-process phytoremediation system (MPPS) using rhizosphere and endophyte bacteria in a symbiotic relationship with plant species is an important consideration when approaching remediation of several co-existing contaminants and multiple stress factors. Lastly, several mechanisms to describe heavy metal pollutant remediation will be considered because they are commonly found in conjunction with oil well contamination in saline soils. It is important to remediate the land as soon as possible to mitigate the adverse environmental and economic impacts on Alberta’s growth towards a global leader in environmental efforts.