Hydrocarbons recovery from mature fine tailings (MFTs): Characterizations and mechanistic insights
Publication Type
Conference Paper

The continuous depletion of the world’s supply of conventional oil has resulted in increasing demand for recovering and upgrading of unconventional oil to meet current and future energy needs of the world. Northern Alberta in Canada has one of the world’s largest oil sand deposits with certain capacities of 174 billion barrels of bitumen. However, oil sands upgrading and recovery, as practiced in the current context, require substantial quantities of water. On average, 4 barrels of river water are consumed for every barrel of oil produced. This results in a huge amount of a dense mixture, reaching approximately 35% by weight of fine sand and clays, and the remaining 65% is composed of organic and wastewater that cannot be recycled because of the suspended particles which is referred to as mature fine tailings (MFTs). It is estimated that 0.25 m3, or more than 1.5 barrels of MFTs are generated for every barrel of produced bitumen. Today, more than 840 million m3 of waste MFTs are stored in tailing ponds. Reducing the environmental footprints of the oil sands industry is thus a critical energy issue in Alberta. This work looks into recovery of organic compounds present in MFTs and water recyclability. Hence, the morphology and characteristics of MFTs are investigated. The preliminary characterization results of Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), X-ray powder diffraction (XRD) and optical microscope have indicated the presence of organics, iron oxides and different phases of Si-O and OH bonds. In addition to the crystalline minerals, mainly; quartz, kaolinite and Illite having a mean particle size between 2 μm - 10 μm. Solubilization of organics via KOH and O2 in a batch reactor has shown promising findings towards sand, clay, organics, oil and water interaction to proceed with. Hence, the optimum conditions of solubilization of organic constituent of MFTs will be studied and explored. Furthermore, more challenges such as quantification and modelling of particles dispersion will be addressed.

Conference Title
64th Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference (CSChE)
Conference Country
Conference Date
Oct. 19, 2014 - Oct. 22, 2014
Conference Sponsor