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Comparison of geoenvironmental properties of caustic and noncaustic oil sand fine tailings Open Access


Other title
hydraulic deposition
effective stress
thixotropic strength
flow rate
fines content
geoenvironmental properties
water chemistry
index properties
fine tailings
shear strength
void ratio
self weight consolidation
slurry concentration
particle size distribution
bitumen extraction
vane shear
hydraulic conductivity
oil sands
beach slope
flume tests
specific surface area
sodium adsorption ratio
large strain
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Miller, Warren Gregory
Supervisor and department
Chalaturnyk, Richard (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Sego, David C. (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Scott, J. Don (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Examining committee member and department
Gupta, Rajender (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Sego, David C. (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Joseph, Timothy (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Scott, J. Don (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Chalaturnyk, Richard (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Wong, Ron (Civil Engineering, Univeristy of Calgary)
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
A study was conducted to evaluate the properties and processes influencing the rate and magnitude of volume decrease and strength gain for oil sand fine tailings resulting from a change in bitumen extraction process (caustic versus non-caustic) and the effect of adding a coagulant to caustic fine tailings. Laboratory flume deposition tests were carried out with the objective to hydraulically deposit oil sand tailings and compare the effects of extraction processes on the nature of beach deposits in terms of geometry, particle size distribution, and density. A good correlation exists between flume deposition tests results using oil sand tailings and the various other tailings materials. These comparisons show the reliability and effectiveness of flume deposition tests in terms of establishing general relationships and can serve as a guide to predict beach slopes. Fine tailings were collected from the various flume tests and a comprehensive description of physical and chemical characteristics of the different fine tailings was carried out. The characteristics of the fine tailings is presented in terms of index properties, mineralogy, specific surface area, water chemistry, liquid limits, particle size distribution and structure. The influence of these fundamental properties on the compressibility, hydraulic conductivity and shear strength properties of the fine tailings was assessed. Fourteen two meter and one meter high standpipe tests were instrumented to monitor the rate and magnitude of self-weight consolidation of the different fine tailings materials. Consolidation tests using slurry consolidometers were carried out to determine consolidation properties, namely compressibility and hydraulic conductivity, as well as the effect of adding a coagulant (calcium sulphate [CaSO4]) to caustic fine tailings. The thixotropic strength of the fine tailings was examined by measuring shear strength over time using a vane shear apparatus. A difference in water chemistry during bitumen extraction was concluded to be the cause of substantial differences in particle size distributions and degree of dispersion of the comparable caustic and non-caustic fine tailings. The degree of dispersion was consistent with predictions for dispersed clays established by the sodium adsorption ratio (SAR) values for these materials. The biggest advantage of non-caustic fine tailings and treating caustic fine tailings with coagulant is an increased initial settlement rate and slightly increased hydraulic conductivity at higher void ratios. Thereafter, compressibility and hydraulic conductivity are governed by effective stress. The chemical characteristics of fine tailings (water chemistry, degree of dispersion) do not have a significant impact on their compressibility behaviour and have only a small influence at high void ratio (low effective stress). Fine tailings from a caustic based extraction process had relatively higher shear strengths than comparable non-caustic fine tailings at equivalent void ratios. However, shear strength differences were small and the overall impact on consolidation behaviour, which also depends on compressibility and hydraulic conductivity, is not expected to be significant.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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