Afforestation for Phosphogypsum Stack Reclamation

By: Agrium

Phosphogypsum (PG) is a gypsum byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer industry and is produced at a rate of five tons of PG per ton of phosphate fertilizer. Over 48 million tons of gypsum covering approximately 325 ha are stacked near Agrium facilities northeast of Edmonton. Traditionally, gypsum stacks are regarded as a waste byproduct and reclamation involves contouring the piles, covering with soil and seeding to a grass mixture. Agrium began conducting research into alternative methods of reclamation in 2005 and, with help from the University of Alberta and the Canadian Forest Service, discovered that concentrated tree plantations could be used to simultaneously improve gypsum stack reclamation procedures while capturing carbon dioxide and producing concentrated woody biomass. Tree plantations have already been established on 15 hectares of PG at the Agrium facility in Fort Saskatchewan, with 11 more hectares of trees scheduled to be planted this spring. This beneficial use of ‘waste’ land to combat climate change and create green energy can potentially be applied to many other industrial sites around the world.

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