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TitleGeotechnical behavior of in-line thickened oil sands tailings
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsJeeravipoolvarn, S.
Pagination410 pages
PublisherUniversity of Alberta Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Place PublishedEdmonton, AB
Publication Languageeng
Keywordsfield, geotechnical properties, laboratory, model, modeling, tailings treatment, UofA

This research is an experimental, field and numerical study of the sedimentation and consolidation of in-line thickened oil sands fine tailings. In-line thickening is a process that adds flocculant and coagulant into a modified tailings pipeline in a multi stage fashion to improve the dewatering behaviour of oil sands fine tailings cyclone overflow. The parent untreated cyclone overflow, in-line thickened tailings and sheared in-line thickened tailings were investigated in the laboratory. In-line thickened tailings were produced in the laboratory using the same process as in the field project and sheared in-line thickened tailings were prepared by shearing the thickened tailings with a specified shearing effort to simulate tailings transportation. A combination of hindered sedimentation tests, compressibility standpipe tests and large strain consolidation tests with vane shear tests was then used to capture a full range of sedimentation, consolidation and shear strength characteristics for these materials. Results show that the in-line thickening process significantly improves hydraulic conductivity and undrained shear strength of the fine tails. Shearing damages some of the floc structure but does not cause the material to fully return to the original state of the cyclone overflow. The laboratory data of the in-line thickened tailings was compared with field performance at two in-line thickened tailings pilot scale ponds and with a validation standpipe test by utilizing a developed finite strain consolidation model. Good agreements were obtained between the field performance, the laboratory test results and the validation standpipe test. These good agreements confirmed the validity of the laboratory determined geotechnical parameters and of the developed numerical model and indicated that it is possible to model large scale field performance with small scale laboratory tests. Finally, composite tailings was made from the in-line thickened tailings and was found to have a similar segregation boundary to that of gypsum treated composite tailings made with mature fine tailings but had a much higher hydraulic conductivity and shear strength which were inherited from the flocculated fines.

Locational Keywords

Alberta oil sands

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