Institute for Oil Sands Innovation (IOSI)

Use of Acoustic Energy for De-Watering of Dense, Solid-Rich Clay Suspensions in Oil Sands: Phase I - Characterization of Dynamic Pressure Fields

Bitumen production using aqueous extraction processes entails the use of large volumes of water that can not be released back into the aquatic environment. Operating companies are facing increasingly severe challenges to meet their fluid containment requirements. To reduce water requirements three methods are used:

  1. Reducing raw water imports by conservation and reduced contamination of surface runoff and groundwater
  2. Reducing raw water imports by reducing the water requirements of the extraction process
  3. Increasing the amount of water that is recycled to the extraction process from tailings impoundments

Implementing the third method of water use reduction entails increasing the amount of clarified water that is promptly returned to the process and subsequently by accelerating the rate of densification (and water release) from mature fine tailings (MFT). The water that is released both during initial beaching of tailings into a settling basin and during densification contains dissolved organic solids, fine inorganic solids, and bitumen, which are problematic for recycling because of heat exchanger fouling.

This study will investigate the potential use of dynamic pressure to increase the densification rate of solids in tailings and release of water for recycling, by generating an imposed field that will be used to actively move the fine inorganic solids (particles) suspended in the fluid. This pressure field (which can also be termed an acoustic field) is generated using an oscillating motion. By controlling this imposed field, particles can be forced to move in a particular direction thus facilitating the separation from the bulk mixture.

Principal Investigator: David Nobes
Co-Principal Investigators: Charles Koch, Mike Lipsett

Project Number: COSI 2009-0
Close Date: 31 March 2014