Since arriving at the University of Alberta in 2013 as the inaugural Encana Chair in Water Resources, I have established a research group that studies the water cycle in unconventional energy recovery and environmental geochemistry. With collaborators on campus, much of my group's current focus is on water practices in hydraulic fracturing, including (1) evaluating the chemistry of flowback and produced waters and its links to toxicity, (2) assessing the sources of microbial biofouling and biocorrosion in fluids associated with hydraulic fracturing, (3) the extraction of lithium from oilfield brines, and (4) modelling the transport and fate of fracturing chemicals in geologic media. The primary goals of the research are to develop new tools to characterize fluids in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle, inform risk management plans for wastewater handling and transportation, and produce leading science that will support reduced water use and improved costs for hydraulic fracturing operations.
Basic research in the Alessi laboratory investigates the surface chemistry of materials including biochar, microbes, minerals and sediments. A primary thrust is to develop surface complexation models, grounded in thermodynamic theory, that are able to predict the adsorption of metals from solution to the surfaces of these materials across a wide range of water chemistries. Secondly, we investigate the reductive immobilization of heavy metals including chromium and uranium, by biochar, Fe(II)-bearing minerals, metal-reducing bacteria, and in nature. Reductive immobilization is a promising remediation strategy for the removal of certain redox-active metals from groundwater, and we are particularly interested in identifying and understanding the long-term stability of immobilized and precipitated solids that form following metal reduction.
Ph.D., Geochemistry, University of Notre Dame, 2009
M.Sc., Hydrogeology, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, 2006
B.Sc., Geology, University of Wisconsin - Parkside, 2000