Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering
Geotechnical engineering involves any aspect of engineering relating to soil and rock such as mining, analysis and design of dams, foundations and tunnels, and understanding the behaviour of slopes and groundwater. Geoenvironmental engineering deals with the interactions between wastes and the geosphere, including management of solid waste, migration of contaminant through the subsurface, and remediation of contaminated sites.
As of 2001, the Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering Group in the Faculty of Engineering was the largest and strongest group of its kind in Canada and comparable in size to other major research-intensive groups in North America.
The Group undertakes research in a number of areas:
Large Earth Structures and Their Foundations
The largest retaining structures in the world contain mine tailings from the Alberta oil sands. The Group initiated and managed the Canadian Liquefaction Experiment (CANLEX) Project to evaluate the phenomena of liquefaction of sands. It was awarded the provincial APEGGA Project Award in 1998.
Cold Regions and Permafrost Engineering
Infrastructure, pipelines, and mines in the Arctic are adversely affected by slope creep and instability, frost heave, and thaw settlement.
The Group's research has led to a comprehensive understanding of these mechanisms and resulted in innovative engineering solutions. Its Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Cold Region Research Facility is unique in Canada.
Mine Waste Technology
The proposed expansion of existing oil sands mines and the construction of new mines partly hinges on the successful demonstration of new tailings management technology. The Group has won two provincial ASTech Oil Sands Research Awards for their work in this area.
Risk Management in Resource Engineering and Natural Hazards
Group members, specialists in the formal treatment of risk management, led the work on landslides with the 1990–2000 International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. The Group hosted the first workshop and conference on Teaching Geotechnical Risk Engineering in 2002. In 2006, it offered the International Short Course on Permafrost Engineering.
Areas of research also include geological disposal of wastes, including greenhouse gas sequestration, assessment and remediation of contaminated sites, characterization of subsurface deposits and earth structures, ground improvement, and modelling of excavations, landslides, and pipeline hydrotransport.