Innovations in Oil Sand Tailings Geotechnique for Fluid Fine Tailings Management

Symposium 2015 Rouyn-Noranda
Mr Ward G.Wilson (University of Alberta)
Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance has published a Technical Guide for Fluid Fine Tailings Management (TGFFTM). The key issue identified for the management of fluid fine tailings (FFT) during the operation of oil sands mines centres on the creation of dry landscapes and sustainable terrains for mine reclamation. The current volume of legacy mature fine tailings (MFT) in above grade containment dams exceeds 850 million m³. The TGFFTM specifically states, “the methods for transformation of fluid find tailings into stable, sustainable elements of a closure landscape are all in various states of development, from preliminary research to commercial practice. None can be considered as mature, i.e. proven practice, with performance fully demonstrated for operation and closure”. This declaration defines the relevant and urgent need for the research Industry Orientated Research (IRC) program in Oil Sands Tailings Geotechnique that has recently been established at the University of Alberta.
The TGFFTM describes four deposit types to be developed for FFT management and subsequent commercial implementation. These are: i) Thin layered, fines – dominated deposits that rely on environmental dewatering of chemically treated MFT, ii) Deep, fines – dominated deposits where dewatering occurs by self-weight consolidation of MFT, iii) Fines-enriched sand deposits that dewater more quickly under self-weight consolidation, and finally iv) Water capped fines deposits where MFT is deposited into mine pits and are capped with water. The recently published Oil Sands Tailings Technology Roadmap is exceptionally comprehensive and identifies an extensive list of high priority technologies. These include Accelerated Dewatering, Super CT (composite/consolidated tailings), Co-mixing MFT with Overburden Shale, and Water Capped MFT Lakes. These new technologies will be investigated in the IRC research program and are described here.
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