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Cationic and Anionic Dual Polymer Pairs for Mature Fine Tailings Flocculation and Dewatering Open Access


Other title
dual polymer treatment
mature fine tailings
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Supervisor and department
Dr. Qi Liu (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Examining committee member and department
Qi Liu (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Dongyang Li (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Phillip Choi (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Rajender Gupta (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering
Materials Engineering
Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Science
Degree level
The accumulation of oil sands tailings poses serious environmental issues in Alberta, Canada. In the tailings ponds, the fine clays and residual bitumen form the so-called mature fine tailings (MFT) which contain 30~40 wt% fine solid particles primarily below 44 µm in size, 1~3 wt% residual bitumen with the balance water. Without any physical or chemical treatment, the MFT remains as a stable suspension in tailings ponds indefinitely. Adding a polymer as a process aid to treat the oil sands tailings has been investigated for many years to cause fine solids to flocculate and thus accelerate dewatering. However, the performance of single polymer treatment is generally unsatisfactory. Recent studies in sewage treatment suggest that a dual polymer method, in which two different polymers are added in sequence, has a better flocculation performance. In this study, the use of dual polymer pairs in the flocculation and dewatering of MFT was investigated. A cationic polydiallyldimethylammonium chloride (polyDADMAC) polymer (Alcomer 7115, from BASF) and an anionic linear polyacrylamide polymer (A3335, from SNF) were found to be an effective combination in MFT dewatering treatment by filtration. The effects of polymer dosage, filtration pressure and the sequence of polymer addition were studied. Capillary suction time (CST) and specific resistance to filtration (SRF) were measured to evaluate the dewaterability of treated MFT. From the experimental data, MFT treated with the polymer combination of Alcomer 7115 and A3335 can give low CST results around 50 s, compared with around 3000 s of untreated MFT. Also the SRF was decreased from a magnitude of 1014 m/kg to 1012 ~ 1013 m/kg, indicating treated MFT being relatively much easier to dewater. Cryogenic scanning electron microscopic (Cryo-SEM) images of the treated MFT were taken to show the morphology of the MFT with or without treatment with either a single polymer or dual polymer pairs. The results demonstrated that the pore sizes are larger when the dual polymer pairs were used, implying higher dewaterability of MFT in this case.
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