Activities in the field of Resources and Environment at Jacobs University
Besides teaching, the Earth and Space Sciences group also has a strong research focus addressing contemporary environmental and natural resources problems. Current activities and projects related to the topics of environmental issues, mineral resources, water, and marine resources include the following topics:
- Gadolinium (Gd) contamination in rivers and drinking water from a contrast agent used in Magnetic Resonance Imaging
- DAAD exchange program with Brazil on the development of analytical methods for clinically and environmentally relevant metals
- Role of siderophores in the formation and beneficiation of supergene ore deposits
- Contamination of groundwater and drinking water with uranium from phosphate fertilizers used in agriculture (in cooperation with the Julius Kühn-Institut (JKI), Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants,Braunschweig); see also https://www.jacobs-university.de/erde-program/uranium-fertilizer
- Uranium and rare earth elements in streams and rivers in South Africa
- Iron and manganese deposits hosted in Precambrian marine sedimentary sequences (e.g., banded iron-formations and manganese-formations) in Brazil (co-operation with the University of Brasilia, Brazil)
- Projects on high-tech elements such as platinum, rare earth elements and tellurium in marine mineral deposits (manganese nodules and ferromanganese crusts; cooperation with the BGR Hannover and the US Geological Survey); see also https://www.jacobs-university.de/erde-program/marine_metals
Sustainable exploitation of marine resources
- The world’s marine environment still represents a vast reserve of yet unexplored natural resources and for example represents some 50% of the European territorial space. The increase of population will place even more demand on the presently defined natural resources. Established industries such as fisheries and hydrocarbon extraction are moving rapidly and steadily into deeper waters as shallower and more accessible resources become depleted. Further studies have revealed various types of rich mineral deposits that we are only beginning to appreciate in term of economic interest. Resource exploitation in deep waters will continue to increase over the coming 20 years as higher prices make deeper exploitation economically viable. Other potential growth areas include the exploitation of gas hydrates as an energy source or the use of the deep-sea as a reservoir for the sequestration of CO2 providing capital in the potentially lucrative carbon trading market. Exploitation in ever deeper waters presents major technological and engineering challenges which can be drivers of survey, maintenance, monitoring and reduced environment impact engineering innovation.
Experience of sustainable exploitation of offshore resources and the knowledge capital it represents can be exported to other parts of the globe through consultancy, training and creation of new resource management systems. With this expansion in offshore exploration and development, the opportunities for conflict with other resource users increase, as do environmental concerns related to potential oil spills and other pollution. It is up to resource managers to try to balance these conflicting uses with conservation priorities, including in planning marine protected areas in some cases.
The existing monitoring protocols have been in existence for 20 years and have not kept pace with new technologies. New concepts on integrated operations are currently a hot topic in the petroleum industry. Most operators have built onshore operation support centers for real-time optimization of operations and production. These developments now open up for a new perspective on cooperation between petroleum industry and ecology research and development.
The Ormen-Lange subsea production facility at 1000 m water depth. Source: Statoil