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Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Collaborative Research Development Grant, Carleton University

Overview

Through the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Collaborative Research Development (CRD) program, Carleton University’s Dr. Paul Simms and his graduate students work together with COSIA member companies to develop new measurement devices and techniques for evaluating and predicting the long-term dewatering behaviour of treated oil sands fine tailings.

The Technology

The project is looking at methods to rapidly determine parameters that govern long-term dewatering of oil sands tailings, including a mini-consolidometer and geophysical imaging of laboratory-scale deposition experiments.

Objective

Broadly, the research project aims to predict the depositional flow and consolidation of fine tailings that have been treated to accelerate reclamation activities. The work will develop and evaluate models to predict flow behaviour and improve the understanding of the physics driving dewatering. Specifically, the objective is to learn how the physics of thixotropy impacts tailings strength gain and dewatering. It also aims to apply this knowledge to improve tailings model prediction as well as to develop new tools for experimental evaluation of key performance indicators.

Potential/Actual Environmental Benefits

By understanding long-term tailings dewatering, operators can improve water use and recycling, and improve overall tailings management plans. The delivery of a new consolidation tool presents a step-change in the rate of data acquisition for the industry, enabling faster improvement and operational optimization. The introduction of new physics to tailings models can also improve their accuracy and relevance for predicting tailings behaviour, leading to more cost-effective reclamation.

Outcomes

  • An investigation of the correlations of simply measured parameters to consolidation and thixotropic properties
  • A new measurement tool to rapidly evaluate long-term dewatering behaviour of oil sands fine tailings
  • An experimental study of thixotropy, rheology and tailings fabric, and the updating of models to incorporate these learnings
  • Tools to identify on/off spec tailings during pipe flow and early deposition.