Al Hyndman is an Alberta boy, through and through. Well, almost. He was born in Halifax but grew up in Calgary and Edmonton. He has an Engineering degree from the University of Alberta and prior to “retiring” to life as a consultant in 1997, he worked for Syncrude for over 30 years.
Today, Al works with Total’s Joslyn mine development and tailings groups, providing advice on mine plans and analyzing tailings data to ensure tailings are effectively managed throughout the life of the mine. He is also Total’s Tailings Environmental Priority Area (EPA) Steering Committee member. Total, as the operator of the Joslyn North Mine Project, has partnered with Suncor Energy Inc., Occidental Petroleum and Inpex Canada to develop the Joslyn asset.
The oil sands industry has some unique problems with managing tailings due to the clay content in the ore. When the clay is separated from the oil and sand, it winds up as a fluid suspension that doesn’t want to settle. We call this suspension Fluid Fine Tailings (FFT) and it can take decades or more to settle on its own, says Al.
If the ore was just oil and sand we wouldn’t need to have a Tailings EPA!
Al has long been a supporter of collaboration, especially when it comes to finding solutions to issues the industry faces. He was instrumental in helping to set up the Oil Sands Tailings Consortium (OSTC), which brought together the seven companies with oil sands mining operations in order to share and develop technologies to reduce the volume of FFT by removing the water content from the mixture. This process is often referred to as tailings consolidation or dewatering. The OSTC and its seven members have since been incorporated into COSIA to form the Tailings EPA.
Over half of the work that Al does for Total is on COSIA related projects. Most of that work relates directly back to the rest of the mine and tailings management work he does at Total. He is often able to use shared data from other companies in his work for Total.
Most importantly he is able to work with the other member companies to develop collaborative plans and guides for managing tailings.
Having input from all seven member companies involved in the Tailings EPA produces a stronger, more effective plan. It allows us to pool our knowledge and develop effective solutions to the issues facing the industry.
He believes it is in the interest of Total and the six other companies with mining operations in COSIA to work together to put good plans in place for managing tailings. It’s also important, he says, that government policy makers, regulators, stakeholders and the public at large see those plans as effective and responsible because it gives them confidence that the energy they use is being responsibly and sustainably produced.
We have been able to use a tremendous amount of the industry information that has become available through collaborative efforts like the OSTC and COSIA in our work for Total,” he says. “Certainly Total’s tailings planning is based on information that has been generated by the industry over the last few decades.
Al thinks it’s important to share the work member companies are doing and to keep learning along the way. He likes the spirit of collaboration that COSIA’s members bring to the table.
I really enjoy working with the other industry members, I think they’re a great bunch of really interesting, smart and committed people, Al says about his Tailings EPA colleagues.
We are moving in the right direction. The work we are doing through COSIA’s Tailings EPA is yielding positive results.