Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are looking into a fungus that can clean oil spills and remediate Alberta’s oilsands.
Biology professor Susan Kaminskyj explained that they brought back a dandelion from the oilsands coarse tailings and found a fungus that lives off of and flourishes on the hydrocarbons.
This fungus was added to other plants and it was discovered that these plants could then grow and thrive on coarse tailings.
It’s the symbiotic relationship which makes this work for cleaning oil spills and oilsands.
It’s reclamation and remediation in one step, Kaminskyj says. When seeded, the land is cleaned and the plants grow.
There are about 800 square kilometres of Alberta’s Athabasca oilsands covered in coarse tailings, so the land is contaminated with an oily residue, is resistant to absorbing water and is a hostile environment for plants and soil microbes.
Kaminskyj hopes that this research will be the answer.
Two sites where oil has spilled in Banff and in B.C. are being tested with this method with results expected next year.