Colloidal clay gelation: relevance to current oil sands operations

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DOIResolve DOI: http://doi.org/10.1080/10916466.2010.495959
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TypeArticle
Journal titlePetroleum Science and Technology
Volume30
Issue9
Pages915923; # of pages: 9
Subjectbitumen recovery; gelation; oil sands; slime coatings; sludging; tailings; ultrafines
AbstractUltrafines are predominantly delaminated colloidal clays with dimensions <0.9um that exist naturally in oil sands and are released during conditioning of surface-mined ores. Critical concentrations of these ultrafines and the cations present in process water are capable of forming flocculated structures with a very high water holding capacity. During primary separation of bitumen these ultrafines are detrimental to recovery as a result of increased slurry viscosity as well as through slime coating of released bitumen. Disposition into tailings ponds eventually produces mature fine tailings (MFT) as a result of thixotropic gel formation that entraps coarser solids. The ultrafines concentration of ~3 wt% observed in MFT coincides with the critical gelation concentration determined for suspensions of ultrafines in salt solutions with cationic concentration representative of that in pond water. This observation accounts for 100% of the water holding capacity of MFT and also explains why virtually no water is released once an MFT gel state has been formed. Here, we review earlier research in this area and identify the harmful effects of ultrafines in some current problematic ores.
Publication date
LanguageEnglish
AffiliationNRC Institute for Chemical Process and Environmental Technology; National Research Council Canada
Peer reviewedYes
NRC number52084
NPARC number19825804
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Record identifier2115f38d-0ef0-4380-8468-bfaca769a9e7
Record created2012-04-19
Record modified2016-05-09
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