We envision a system that will combine the high-recovery advantages of open-pit mining with the reduced environmental impacts associated with conventional small-footprint drilling infrastructure. We are assessing the feasibility of combining existing techniques for producing bitumen from a deposit on the order of 300 m in depth, and whether production rates or geotechnical stability are likely to be an issue. Such a production system must be capable of accessing oilsand that is too deep for economical surface mining, fragmenting the ore (and interburden), pumping out a dense slurry that is amenable to bitumen separation, and backfilling with thickened fines and other material to leave a stable deposit. Mechanical design concepts will be developed; and key process and reliability issues will be identified, along with the requirements for physical or numerical modeling of slurry behavior in a mined cavity. Experimental work has focused on measuring the behavior of oil sands lumps and slurries under pressure waves, as a possible fragmentation technique, and measuring the energy inputs for fragmenting oil sands down to a size of 10 cm.
Principal Investigator: Mike Lipsett
Project Team: David Nobes, Mark David Evans, Amanda Kotchon, Anthony Lam
Project Number: COSI 2007-03
Close Date: April 30, 2010