Thickened Tailings R & D Pilot Experience at Syncrude Canada Ltd.

CIM Montreal 2003
Abstract ABSTRACT: Efficient and effective management of mine tailings is an essential ingredient for the continued success and development of Alberta’s vast Oil Sands resources. Syncrude Canada Ltd’s operations are based on massive open-pit mining operations combined with water-based extraction processing to recover bitumen from the oil sands deposits before the bitumen is processed in upgrading to produce Athabasca Sweet Light Crude Oil.

Striving for continuous improvement of production efficiency and environmental sustainability, Syncrude Canada Ltd. continues to lead research and development of novel tailings management techniques.

During the summer months of 2001 and 2002, Syncrude Canada Ltd., in collaboration with members of the Canadian Oil Sands Network for Research and Development (CONRAD), conducted field-scale trials of thickened tailings technology at Syncrude’s Aurora mine, north of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

This paper provides an overview of the test program including discussion of objectives, test configuration, and program observations. Technical aspects that are addressed include: thickener underflow densities achieved; thickener operability on ‘representative and variable’ tailings; thickener underflow rheology and pumpability, including discussion of shear thinning effects; depositional characteristics, including observations on deposition patterns and tendency to segregation during deposition; and, post-deposition geotechnical properties, notably compressibility and hydraulic conductivity.

Keywords: Tailings, Thickener operability, Thickener underflow, Field trials, Thickened tailings, Novel tailings management, Syncrude Canada Ltd., Geotechnical properties, Rheology, oil sand
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