Testing and developing technological and process improvements in tailings management practices requires access to authentic samples, high quality industrial equipment and knowledgeable personnel familiar with mining operations. The Applied Process Innovation Centre (APIC) is a 3,600 square foot research facility at Canadian Natural’s Horizon Oil Sands site that offers all of this. Operational since June 2015, APIC is a dedicated and secure work space to investigate tailings management methodologies.
“The APIC is a dedicated space to research and test how we treat tailings and improve our processes,” said Aref Najafi, Lead Process Innovation at Canadian Natural. “Having it right at our operational oil sands facility gives us direct access to the materials and people to facilitate process efficiencies and cost savings.”
Aref Najafi, Lead Process Innovation, Canadian Natural
The APIC was designed and equipped to perform a variety of tailings tests and programs including analysis of mixing systems, evaporation and drying analysis, production of non-segregating tailings (NST) for testing (see below for more on NST Enhancement), and production of thickened tailings. Various measurements can be performed quickly and effectively with fast turnaround of results and subsequent decisions.
Applied Process Innovation Centre (APIC)
More on the NST Enhancement Program
In 2015, Canadian Natural began production of non-segregating tailings (NST) at Horizon.
NST are tailings that have been significantly treated to form a homogeneous, semi-cohesive mass when placed in the dedicated disposal areas. The treatment process includes cyclones, to separate coarse sand, and thickeners, to capture and remove water from the fines in the tailings streams. The warm water that is removed is then re-used in the bitumen recovery process.
The coarse sand and thickener underflow are then mixed and combined with carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce NST. The addition of CO2 to NST has been proven to accelerate the settling of the clay fines in the tailings stream. These elements work to both reduce the tailings footprint, and energy and greenhouse gas output.
Researchers at APIC are working on technologies aimed at achieving multiple environmental benefits. From shrinking the footprint of a tailings pond to reducing greenhouse gas intensity to improving process water recycle rates, research conducted at APIC will explore the full range of potential environmental and operational improvements.
The research from this facility will not only shape the future of Canadian Natural’s Horizon Oil Sands operation, findings from the research are being shared with COSIA Tailings EPA members Imperial, Suncor, Syncrude and Teck Resources.
This facility, with equipment contributed by Total and Imperial, offers a space for industry, academia and government to collaborate on key tailings research projects.
As an example, Imperial used APIC from January through to March 2016, bringing together its technical expertise with Canadian Natural researchers to advance tailings management research.