Quality Control Considerations for Overburden Earth-fill Tailings Dam Construction in the Oil Sands

  • Author / Creator
    Davies, Christopher
  • Quality control and construction methods for an oil sands overburden tailings dam in the Albertan Oil Sands can differ from these conventional construction methods due to two governing factors: A high overburden to ore ratio with a complex geology requiring significant waste management effort and a year-round aggressive construction schedule in a northern climate.
    Dyke 10 is a large earth-fill tailings dam, located at Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL)’s Horizon Oil Sands mine, approximately 80 km north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. This thesis synthesizes the experiences gained during the construction of Dyke 10 project to illustrate how construction and quality control methods used at an oil sands overburden tailings dam differ from conventional practice. A review of published literature was used to summarize the state of practice in the industry. A site visit, accompanied by interviews with CNRL construction personnel, compaction data, and limited associated reporting made available by CNRL was used to develop the findings of this thesis.
    The management of overburden waste requires a comprehensive understanding of the geological block model combined with collaborative mine planning and an effective dispatch system is necessary to manage the mobilization of up to 350,000 m3 of fill per day. Dyke 10 has been designed in a robust manner to accommodate a broad range of fill types comprised of overburden waste from the mine, thereby reducing the need for storage of overburden elsewhere.
    A combination of method and performance based specifications are used at Dyke 10. The method based controls and their management are built upon industry experience, then expanded upon with modern technology and equipment resulting greater rates of production. Empirical trials such as test fills are used to establish construction methodology and expected fill performance for year round construction.
    CNRL’s quality control and quality assurance methods have had to adapt to the rapid rate of construction, by establishing a controlled system that is consistent and repeatable. The predominant quality control approach used at Dyke 10 is the reliance on detailed and well documented observations by qualified personnel corroborated by periodic compaction density and index testing in manner that is representative of placed material.
    Quality control measures must adapt to the construction methods to satisfy that the evaluating criteria are representative and fit for function. While the quality control system applied at Dyke 10 has proven effective, a similar approach may not be applicable for dam construction on a smaller scale, or where design necessitates a narrow range of material controls.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2018
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
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