Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Generation of acid mine drainage: Reactive transport models incorporating geochemical and microbial kinetics
by Andre, Benjamin J., Ph.D., University of Colorado at Boulder, 2009, 242; 3354557
Abstract (Summary)

Acid mine drainage, AMD, results from the oxidation of metal sulfide minerals (e.g. pyrite), producing ferrous iron and sulfuric acid. Acidophilic autotrophic bacteria such as Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans and Leptospirillum ferrooxidans obtain energy by oxidizing ferrous iron back to ferric iron, using oxygen as the electron acceptor. Most existing models of AMD do not account for microbial kinetics or sulfide geochemistry rigorously. Instead they assume that oxygen limitation controls pyrite oxidation and thus focus on oxygen transport. These models have been successfully used for simulating conditions where oxygen availability is a limiting factor (e.g. source prevention by capping), but have not been shown to effectively model acid generation and effluent chemistry under a wider range of conditions. The key reactions, oxidation of pyrite and oxidation of ferrous iron, are both slow kinetic processes. Despite being extensively studied for the last thirty years, there is still not a consensus in the literature about the basic mechanisms, limiting factors or rate expressions for microbially enhanced oxidation of metal sulfides.

The indirect leaching mechanism is used as the foundation of a conceptual model for microbially enhanced oxidation of pyrite. Using literature data, a rate expression for microbial consumption of ferrous iron is developed that accounts for oxygen, ferrous iron and pH limitation. Reaction rate expressions for oxidation of pyrite and chemical oxidation of ferrous iron are selected from the literature. A completely mixed stirred tank reactor model is implemented coupling the kinetic rate expressions, speciation calculations and flow. The model simulates generation of AMD that qualitatively agrees with well mixed column and single rock experiments. A one dimensional reaction diffusion model of a single rock is developed incorporating the proposed kinetic rate expressions. Simulations of initiation, washout and AMD flows are discussed to gain a better understanding of the role of porosity, effective diffusivity and reactive surface area in generating AMD. Simulations indicate that flow boundary conditions control generation of acid rock drainage as porosity increases.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rajaram, Harihar, Silverstein, JoAnn
Commitee: Anderson, Suzanne, McKnight, Diane, Neupauer, Roseanna
School: University of Colorado at Boulder
Department: Civil Engineering
School Location: United States -- Colorado
Source: DAI-B 70/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Microbiology, Mining engineering, Environmental engineering, Geochemistry
Keywords: Acid mine drainage, Geochemical kinetics, Iron oxidizing bacteria, Microbial kinetics, Pyrite oxidation, Reactive transport
Publication Number: 3354557
ISBN: 9781109116113
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