Tailings Technology Roadmap project invokes major industry government collaboration

Roadmaps will speed up the development and deployment of tailings technologies for all operators

CALGARY – August 28, 2012: Today, a new way forward in accelerating the pace of improvement in tailings management was charted with the release of outcomes from the Tailings Technology Roadmap and Action Plan project. The project has been a collaboration of Alberta Innovates – Energy and Environment Solutions (AI-EES) and the Oil Sands Tailing Consortium (OSTC) in partnership with Alberta Energy, Natural Resources Canada, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, and the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board and provides a comprehensive review of technologies that will help industry identify the suite of technologies that are best for their operations.
“This project provides us with a full view of the suite of tailings technologies for application to oil sands reclamation. By evaluating each of them and understanding what works in different circumstances, this project will help us determine what demonstration technologies we can test to speed reclamation efforts,” said Dr. Eddy Isaacs, CEO, AI-EES.

Alberta oil sands operators – Suncor Energy, Syncrude Canada Ltd., Shell Canada, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Imperial Oil, Total E&P Canada and Teck Resources – shared openly their in-development tailings technologies, this together with public literature review and significant input from third party developers led to the evaluation of more than 500 tailings and related technologies. From there, nine detailed tailings technology development roadmaps for the treatment of oil sands fine tailings were identified. Each roadmap contains a comprehensive “suite” of technologies that would allow an oil sands operator to convert their fluid fine tailings inventory into a “reclamation ready” deposit, depending on their individual characteristics of the mine operation. The roadmaps range from passive technology options such as end-pit lakes, to more engineered options such as thin lift drying and centrifuging. The technology options used by a company will ultimately be dependent on their specific mine characteristics. An added feature of each roadmap is identification of a series of innovations that have the potential to improve the effectiveness and economics of the technological solutions.

“Member companies of the OSTC have used many of these technologies at one time or another and are actively developing others,” said Alan Fair, Executive Director of the OSTC. “The roadmap project has helped us identify where there are gaps — oil sands “missing links” — and will help operators apply technologies that close gaps and ultimately improve tailings management performance.”

“By bringing these partners together, we have bridged the gap to evaluate the technology options with the most promise for further development in the oil sands. We laud the commitment of industry who shared proprietary data around their tailings technology development, for the advancement of science, related to tailings management, and the industry as a whole,” said Isaacs.

The roadmaps presented in this report have focused largely on tailings processing, tailings deposition and capping technologies. Some attention has also been given to the impact of mining, bitumen extraction, and reclamation technologies, particularly in the areas of:

  • elective mining
  • separate treatment of high fines and low fines ore
  • non-water based extraction methods
  • alternatives to terrestrial reclamation (such as soil or water capping of soft tailings)

The status of development of individual technologies has been plotted on a detailed generic model graphic, to map out the steps required in their future research and development.

Oil sands operators, together with AI-EES will be examining the recommendations of the roadmap project over the following months and will be planning and implementing demonstrations of these suites of technologies beginning in early 2013.

Alberta Innovates – Energy and Environment Solutions (AI-EES), a provincial corporation, is the lead agency for energy and environmental research in Alberta. It is a catalyst to promote the development of innovative, integrated ways to convert Alberta’s natural resources into market-ready, environmentally responsible energy and the sustainable management of Alberta’s water resources. AI-EES brings together decision makers from government, industry and the resource community, as well as research and technology organizations, to develop solutions for the biggest challenges facing Alberta’s energy and environment sectors.

About the OSTC
The Oil Sands Tailings Consortium (OSTC) was founded in December 2010 when seven of Canada’s oil sands companies (Suncor Energy, Syncrude Canada Ltd., Shell Canada, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Imperial Oil, Total E&P Canada and Teck Resources) came together to share tailings research and technology in a unified effort to rapidly advance tailings management. The OSTC represents a significant step forward in fostering innovation and collaboration on research and development related to tailings, reflecting our members’ strong commitment to socially and environmentally responsible operations.

The Consortium is in the process of being integrated into Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) — an alliance with the mandate to accelerate the pace of environmental performance improvement in the oil sands, through collaborative action and innovation. COSIA has four environmental priority areas, water, land, tailings and greenhouse gases.


For more information, visit www.cosia.ca or contact:

Michelle Gurney, Communications Director
(403) 762-9357 or (403) 431-0759

Dr. Eddy Isaacs, CEO, AI-EES
(403) 297-5219

Alan Fair, Director, Tailings, COSIA
(780) 492-8183