Shell Albian Sands Oil Sands Tailings Study

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Oil sands tailings disposal in cold weather region

After providing Shell Albian Sands (Shell) with information gathered from our experience with hydraulically constructed sand dams, Ausenco was further retained to provide an oil sands tailings scouting study at Shell’s oil extraction facility in Alberta, Canada.

Shell operates a facility which removes bitumen from mined oil sands. The process produces tailings that are deposited within impoundments on site and in situ within mined areas. Containment embankments for the tailings are primarily constructed from sand recovered from the tailings stream.

Ausenco was retained to review sand stacking systems and arrangements, with a goal of determining the appropriate alternatives for the two aspects of the project:

  • Full scale pilot testing to determine the cyclone operating criteria to achieve the sand recovery and geotechnical requirements; and
  • Recommendations for a system to be installed on Inpit Dyke 2i for the placement of 30 million m³ of sand.

Challenges presented by the project included the client’s desire to handle large particles (>50mm) as well as the region’s low temperature extremes.

Ausenco’s scope of the work for the project included:

  • Conceptual design for full scale pilot plant testing, including pipe-line and equipment sizing, general arrangements and tower design; and
  • Review of sand stacking systems options, including hydraulic design, conceptual design, operating philosophies and order-of-magnitude CAPEX/OPEX for two systems.

During 2015, Shell said its Albian Sands mining operations accounted for 17% of Canada's total oil production.

Project details

Oil sands
Alberta, Canada
Business line
Process Infrastructure
Shell Albian Sands
Solution phase
Evaluate (System audit, Scouting study)
Studies and technical solutions

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