Development of the Alberta oil sands in a responsible manner brings complex challenges that are driving technological innovation across the country. Individuals and businesses are helping to establish Canada as a world leader in tailings reclamation, water treatment and liquids storage.
ElectroKinetic Solutions, is proposing to apply its patented electro-kinetic reclamation (EKR) technology to help manage tailings, reduce freshwater use and speed up land reclamation in the oil sands.
EKS applies electric current to the tailings. The electricity separates water from the tailings and compacts the clay into a more firm material. Once separated, the water is of sufficient quality to be reused in the oil sands extraction process, which reduces the freshwater draw from other sources. The clay becomes dense, settles out and over time compacts into a solid, allowing land to be reclaimed more rapidly.
The EKR process brings additional benefits, including the ability to treat tailings in place, and thereby reducing handling and the need for heavy equipment or infrastructure. There is also potential to apply EKR to other mining operations that need to manage tailings.
Tailings – a byproduct of oil sands mining – comprise particulates such as clay mixed with water. The solution is contained in tailings ponds near the production site.
WASTE WATER TREATMENT
Saltworks Technologies is helping to close the recycling loop in oil sands steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) extraction. SAGD uses a pair of horizontal wells that are drilled into the oil reservoir, one a few metres above the other. High-pressure steam is continuously injected into the upper wellbore to heat the oil and reduce its viscosity, causing the heated oil to drain into the lower wellbore, where it is pumped out.
To date companies using SAGD to extract bitumen are achieving water recycling rates of between 85 and 90%. The remaining 10 to 15% solution (called blow-down) contains too much salt and organic matter to be used again. Saltworks’ SaltMaker machine uses waste heat from the SAGD process to produce distilled water from the waste water and to separate out waste as solids, which are bagged for safe disposal. The patented process recycles the heat four times, in multiple effects, making four batches of water for one batch of waste heat. The water can then be reused in the extraction process.
The machine reduces energy consumption, freshwater withdrawal and waste volumes leaving the facility. “It’s helping to bring recycling closer to 100%,” says Ben Sparrow, CEO and founder of Saltworks.
LIQUID STORAGE IN EXTREME CONDITIONS
Thousands of kilometres east of Fort McMurray, STT Enviro Corp. in Milton Ontario, has developed a technique allowing liquid storage tanks to withstand the extreme internal and external conditions common in oil sands development.
Winter temperatures in the oil sands region can drop as low as -40 while liquids entering a storage tank can be near boiling point. With between $10-million and $30-million invested in tanks at an oil sands production site, creating more durable tanks to endure these punishing conditions is critical to the industry.
STT ships its factory-manufactured bolted tank section from its manufacturing partner where a specialty epoxy coating is applied to the inner wall to address heat issues within the tank. The tanks are then shipped in sections to the production site in the oil sands where they are assembled using an innovative jacking system which reduces the requirements for heavy equipment and scaffolding. External insulation is added as protection from outside temperature extremes.
The bolted tanks have several benefits compared to welded storage tanks, including a lining lifespan of up to four times longer than welded tanks and cost reductions of 20% to 30%.
(Sourxce: Regina Leader-Post)