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Dynamic in-line flocculation and pressure filtration of oil sands mature fine tailings

Paper from the Proceedings of the 17th International Seminar on Paste and Thickened Tailings, held in Vancouver, Canada, June 8-12, 2014. (downloadable PDF)

Authors: K. Cafferata, Ledcor Environmental Solutions Ltd, Canada; C. Côte Shell Canada Energy, Canada; R. Heffel Teck Resources Ltd, Canada; W. Duttlinger Nalco Champion, USA; A. Chengara Nalco Champion, USA

Published by InfoMine Inc., June 2014.
ISBN: 978-0-9917905-3-1

Copyright: InfoMine Inc.


Ledcor Nalco Services (LNS) conducted a trial in Vancouver, British Columbia for Shell Canada during August to October, 2012. The purpose of the trial was to validate the suitability of pressure filtration to dewater mature fine tailings (MFT).

The results show that despite the presence of bitumen and fines, the filter cloth material is acceptably resistant to blinding. Without any cleaning, the filter cloth is able to consistently dewater and release filter cakes for a total of 36 cycles before the cloth required cleaning. Moreover it is possible to restore the cloth to its original performance after a short duration pressure wash performed without removing the cloths from the plates.

Dynamic inline flocculation, using the Flocmaster inline mixer, was shown to be a highly effective means to flocculate MFT. This is an important finding as inline flocculation is more suited to large-scale operation than batch flocculation. When compared to batch mixed MFT, filter cakes produced using inline flocculated MFT required 5 to 10 minutes less press time to achieve similar solids content, had higher shear strength and required less polymer. For both processes, near complete fines capture was seen with filtrate total suspended solids (TSS) averaging below 1,200 ppm.

It was determined that cationic polymers were required to ensure an acceptable filter cloth life and fines capture. It was possible to produce satisfactory filter cakes using only anionic polymer, but the cloth blinded and stopped releasing cakes after six press cycles.

The filtrate was of high quality and was not otherwise degraded by the process. The filtrate water chemistry was not significantly different than that of tailings pond water and residual cationic polymer concentration, at less than 0.5 ppm on an actives basis, was well below the LC50 for Daphnia magna at 10 to 100 parts per million ppm and for zebra danio at 1 to 10 ppm. It was also noted that filtrate had a lower concentration of calcium than the pond water, further improving its re-use capabilities. Both the filtrate and the pond water were found to be suitable for polymer make-down, with both performing as well as de-ionised water.

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