Estimation of Bitumen and Clay Content in Fine Tailings

Motta Cabrera, S.C., Bryan, J. and Kantzas, A.

DOI: 10.2118/2007-074
CIM 2007-074 presented at the 58th Annual Technical Meeting of the Petroleum Society held in Calgary, June 12-14, 2007.


Fine tailings are mixtures consisting primarily of water with small amounts of bitumen, sand, silts and clays. They are the components of the tailings ponds and the by-product of the oil sand extraction process. There are concerns regarding the possible environmental implications of the tailings when they will be reclaimed. For this reason, it is important to understand not only the tailings content, but also their stability and settling properties. In this study, low field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) has been used to estimate the bitumen, clay and water content of synthetic tailings samples. Numerous samples with variable water, bitumen, sand and clay concentrations were prepared and tested in the NMR tool under ambient conditions. The amplitude and relaxation properties of water were correlated to the clay content. The experimental measurements were successful and were conducted in a matter of a few minutes. The results confirm and expand previous knowledge generated by the group and identify potential applications for on-line determination of tailings streams composition.

A full version of this paper is available on OnePetro Online.