Unit F794 – the 2011 spec.

A2 Unit F794: Environmental Geology
Module 1: Water supply
4.1.1
Understand the terms used to describe how water is stored and can move through rocks

Candidates should be able to:
(a) define the term porosity and calculate % porosity; define the term permeability and calculate permeability as a rate of flow; describe and explain the factors that affect porosity and permeability;
(b) define the terms groundwater and water table and recognise the position of the water table;
(c) define the terms hydrostatic pressure and hydraulic gradient and calculate the hydraulic gradient.

4.1.2
Understand the geological conditions necessary for aquifers, artesian basins and water supply from wells and boreholes

Candidates should be able to:
(a) define the terms aquifer, aquiclude and recharge zone; recognise and explain the difference between an unconfined and a confined aquifer; describe and explain the conditions required for a perched aquifer;
(b) recognise and describe an artesian basin as a type of confined aquifer and explain the conditions necessary for the formation of an artesian well;
(c) describe and explain the terms draw down and cone of depression in relation to water supply from wells and boreholes;
(d) describe the problems of water extraction from aquifers and artesian basins leading to a lowering of the water table, subsidence and saltwater encroachment;
(e) describe and explain the issues of groundwater quality and residence time of pollutants.

4.1.3
Understand the geological conditions leading to the formation of springs

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain the geological conditions leading to the formation of springs where the water table intersects the topographic surface at the junction of permeable and impermeable rocks;
(b) recognise and explain how springs form as a result of lithology, faults and unconformities.

4.1.4
Know about water supply from river, reservoir and underground sources
Understand the advantages and disadvantages of surface and underground supply
Understand that water resources are both renewable and sustainable if carefully developed

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain the advantages and disadvantages of surface water supply from rivers and reservoirs;
(b) describe and explain the advantages and disadvantages of underground water supply from aquifers and artesian basins;
(c) describe and explain how water supply is renewable as part of the water cycle and is sustainable provided the rate of extraction does not exceed the rate of recharge;
(d) outline initiatives in the development of underground storage facilities for water in rocks.

Module 2: Energy resources
4.2.1
Understand the origin of oil and natural gas and migration from source rock to reservoir rock
Understand how oil accumulates in a trap structure under a cap rock

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe a source rock, reservoir rock and cap rock; describe the environment of deposition and explain the process of maturation to form oil and natural gas in the source rock; describe the process of migration from source rock to reservoir rock under a cap rock and explain the factors that control migration;
(b) explain the term trap; recognise and describe different trap structures: anticline, fault, salt dome, unconformity, lithological; describe and explain how oil and natural gas may be destroyed or lost from trap structures.

4.2.2
Know how geophysical exploration techniques and exploration drilling are used to find hydrocarbons

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain the geophysical exploration techniques of seismic reflection and gravity surveys;
(b) describe how exploration drilling and downhole logging (porosity, gamma ray, resistivity) are used to find hydrocarbons.

4.2.3
Know about reserves of oil and natural gas
Understand the methods of primary and secondary recovery of oil and natural gas from suitable reservoirs

Candidates should be able to:
(a) calculate reserves of oil and natural gas when provided with suitable data and explain the difficulties in accurately determining reserves;
(b) describe and explain how production wells are established and oil and natural gas are extracted by primary recovery;
(c) describe and explain the main methods of secondary recovery by injection of water, steam or carbon dioxide and the use of detergents and bacteriological techniques;
(d) outline recent initiatives in exploitation of unconventional petroleum from oil shale and the possible future exploitation of gas hydrates.

4.2.4
Understand the environmental, safety and technological problems of oil and natural gas extraction and pipeline transportation

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe the main environmental and safety problems of oil and natural gas extraction and pipeline transportation;
(b) describe the technological problems of oil and natural gas extraction including those that prevent 100% recovery;
(c) outline recent initiatives in the development of underground storage facilities for natural gas in rocks.

4.2.5
Know about the occurrence of oil and natural gas in and around the British Isles
Understand that oil and natural gas are examples of non-renewable energy resources

Candidates should be able to:
(a) locate the main areas where oil and natural gas are found in and around the British Isles;
(b) describe and explain why both oil and natural gas are present in the northern basin of the North Sea from Kimmeridge Clay source rocks but only natural gas is present in the southern basin from Coal Measures source rocks;
(c) explain why oil and natural gas are examples of non-renewable energy resources;
(d) debate the future sustainability of British oil and natural gas production.

4.2.6
Know the origin of peat and coal
Understand the development of rank and the properties of lignite, bituminous coal and anthracite

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain the climatic and environmental conditions required for the formation of peat and coal as part of deltaic sequences;
(b) describe and explain the diagenetic processes of compaction and coalification to produce peat and coal;
(c) define the terms rank and coal series; describe the physical and chemical properties of lignite, bituminous coal and anthracite.

4.2.7
Know about reserves of coal and methods of extracting economic deposits of coal by opencast and underground mining
Understand the geological factors that affect safety and can make coal mining uneconomic

Candidates should be able to:
(a) calculate reserves of coal when provided with suitable data and explain the difficulties in accurately determining reserves;
(b) describe the geological considerations and method of opencast coal mining from quarries;
(c) describe long-wall retreat mining as the main method of underground coal mining used in the British Isles;
(d) describe and explain the geological factors that can make underground coal mining difficult and uneconomic;
(e) discuss the advantages and disadvantages of opencast and underground coal mining including an outline of economic and safety issues.

4.2.8
Know the broad structure and distribution of coalfields in the British Isles
Understand the environmental consequences of coal mining operations
Understand that coal is an example of a non-renewable energy resource

Candidates should be able to:
(a) locate the main areas where coal is found in and around the British Isles; explain the difference between an exposed and a concealed coalfield; describe the broad structures of the South Wales and Yorkshire
(b) discuss the environmental consequences of the legacy of coal mining in the British Isles and describe methods of land restoration;
(c) explain why coal is an example of a non-renewable energy resource;
(d) discuss the future sustainability of British coal production from opencast and underground sources.

4.2.9
Know about geothermal energy extraction
Understand that geothermal energy is an example of a renewable energy resource

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain the main methods of geothermal energy extraction from: volcanic sources; geothermal aquifers in sedimentary basins; and the potential for geothermal energy extraction from hot dry rock sources such as granite;
(b) calculate the geothermal gradient and explain the source of heat for geothermal energy;
(c) explain why geothermal energy is an example of a renewable energy resource;
(d) describe and explain the advantages and disadvantages of geothermal energy extraction.

Module 3: Metallic mineral deposits
4.3.1
Show an understanding of concentration factors to produce economic deposits from low crustal abundances of metallic minerals
Know about mineral reserves

Candidates should be able to:
(a) define the terms resource, reserves, ore, ore mineral, gangue mineral, average crustal abundance, cut off grade and concentration factor;
(b) calculate concentration factors and mineral reserves when provided with suitable data and explain the difficulties in accurately determining reserves;
(c) discuss the influence of world supply and demand and stockpiling of strategic metals on metallic mineral reserves.

4.3.2
Understand the concentration of magnetite by gravity-settling in igneous intrusions

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain the process of gravity-settling and the properties of magnetite that allow it to be concentrated at the base of mafic and ultramafic igneous intrusions.

4.3.3
Understand how hydrothermal mineral veins of cassiterite, galena and sphalerite are formed in association with igneous intrusions

Candidates should be able to:
(a) define the term hydrothermal fluid and explain the source of hydrothermal fluids;
(b) describe and explain how veins of cassiterite, galena and sphalerite are formed by hydrothermal processes associated with silicic igneous intrusions;
(c) describe and explain the distribution and zonation of hydrothermal mineral veins in and around igneous intrusions.

4.3.4
Understand how residual deposits of bauxite are formed

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain how residual deposits of bauxite form as the insoluble product of extreme chemical weathering of impure limestone and granite;
(b) describe and explain the factors that control the rate of chemical weathering and the formation of residual deposits.

4.3.5
Understand the secondary enrichment of chalcopyrite in copper deposits

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe how secondary enrichment processes can increase the grade of otherwise uneconomic copper deposits;
(b) describe and explain the process of secondary enrichment of chalcopyrite as a result of chemical weathering and changes in chemistry above and below the water table.

4.3.6
Understand how deposits of uranium ore are formed in sandstones

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain how deposits of uranium ore are formed in sandstones as a result of solution, transport in groundwater and reprecipitation at or above the water table.

4.3.7
Understand the formation of placer deposits of cassiterite, gold and diamonds in rivers and beaches

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain the weathering, erosion, transport and depositional processes involved in placer formation and the properties of cassiterite, gold and diamonds that allow them to be concentrated in placer deposits;
(b) recognise and explain how placer deposits form: at meander bends; in plunge pools and potholes; upstream of projections; downstream of confluences; and on beaches;
(c) describe the advantages and disadvantages of mining placer deposits at the surface compared to mining underground deposits.

4.3.8
Know how geophysical exploration techniques are used to find metals

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain how magnetic, gravity and electrical resistivity surveys are used to find metallic mineral deposits.

4.3.9
Know how geochemical exploration methods are used to find metals

Candidates should be able to:
(a) define the term geochemical anomaly; describe and explain how soil and stream sediment geochemical surveys are used to find metallic mineral deposits.

4.3.10
Know the environmental consequences of opencast and underground metal mining operations
Understand that metal mining is an example of unsustainable resource exploitation

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain the environmental consequences of opencast metal mining operations;
(b) describe and explain the environmental consequences of underground metal mining operations;
(c) describe the environmental consequences of heap-leaching and other mineral processing operations;
(d) discuss the long-term environmental consequences of the legacy of metal mining in the British Isles;
(e) explain why metal mining is an example of unsustainable resource exploitation on a global scale.

4.3.11
Understand the application of geochemistry to environmental problems

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain the source of radon gas from the breakdown of radioactive elements in granite and other rocks and appreciate the hazard it poses;
(b) describe how heavy metal contamination of soils can be recognised.

Module 4: Engineering Geology
4.4.1
Know the characteristics of suitable materials for building and construction
Understand the environmental implications of their exploitation

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain the characteristics of suitable materials for building stone, roadstone, brick clay, aggregate, and the manufacture of cement and concrete; state the uses for these materials;
(b) describe the extraction of industrial rocks and minerals by quarrying and dredging techniques;
(c) discuss the environmental implications of their exploitation including the location and development of super-quarries and dredging offshore for marine aggregates.

4.4.2
Understand the geological factors affecting the construction of dams and reservoirs
Know ground improvement methods which can be used to prevent leakage from reservoirs
Appreciate the environmental consequences of dam and reservoir construction

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain the geological factors affecting the construction of dams and reservoirs: rock type and strength; foundations; attitude of strata; geological structures; availability of construction materials;
(b) describe and explain methods that can be used to prevent leakage from reservoirs: grouting; clay/plastic lining; cut-off curtain;
(c) appreciate the environmental and social consequences of dam and reservoir construction including failure and collapse of dams due to poor siting, design or construction and their use for hydroelectric power generation;
(d) describe and explain how dam and reservoir construction can lead to an increase in seismic activity.

4.4.3
Understand the geological factors that cause landslips and slumping hazards

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain the geological factors that cause landslips and slumping hazards: rock type; dip; presence of geological structures;
(b) explain how heavy rainfall can increase the likelihood of landslips and slumping hazards;
(c) explain how human activity can increase the likelihood of landslips and slumping hazards.

4.4.4
Understand the geological factors affecting the construction of road cuttings, embankments and tunnels through both hard rock and unconsolidated material
Know ground improvement methods that can be used to stabilise rocks and prevent flooding of tunnels

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain the geological factors affecting the construction of road cuttings and embankments: slope stability; foundations; construction methods;
(b) describe and explain methods that can be used to stabilise slopes and rocks: slope modification; retaining walls; gabions; rock bolts; rock drains; wire netting; shotcrete; vegetation;
(c) describe and explain the geological factors affecting the construction of tunnels through both hard rock and unconsolidated material: rock type and strength; attitude of strata; geological structures; groundwater;
(d) describe and explain methods which can be used to prevent collapse and flooding of tunnels: lining; rock bolts; grouting; rock drains.

4.4.5
Understand the geological factors affecting the construction of coastal defences
Know methods that can be used to prevent coastal erosion and flooding

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain the geological factors affecting the location and construction of coastal defences: rock type; attitude of strata; geological structures; construction considerations and materials;
(b) describe and explain methods that can be used to prevent coastal erosion and flooding: sea walls and banks; flood barriers and barrages; rock buttresses and revetments; groynes; slope stabilisation; beach nourishment;
(c) discuss the environmental implications of constructing coastal defences.

4.4.6
Understand the geological factors affecting the disposal of waste in landfill sites and appreciate the environmental consequences of landfill waste disposal
Understand the technological, environmental and safety problems of underground storage of nuclear waste

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe and explain the geological factors affecting the disposal of waste in landfill sites: rock type; attitude of strata; geological structures; groundwater;
(b) describe and explain the short-term and long-term environmental consequences of disposal of waste in landfill sites;
(c) define the term leachate and describe and explain methods that can be used to prevent leakage of toxic leachates from landfill sites: grouting; clay/geomembrane lining; drainage and collection;
(d) describe and explain the technological and short-term and long-term environmental and safety problems of underground storage of nuclear waste in rocks.

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