Oil Sands Tailings 101

Expand your knowledge on tailings management.

January 31 - February 3, 2022

Join us for a course over four virtual sessions hosted by Dr. Heather Kaminsky, NSERC Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in Oil Sands Tailings Management and Andrea Sedgwick, Ledcor Applied Research Chair at NAIT's Centre for Oil Sands Sustainability.

Oil Sands Tailings 101 will cover practical methods and technologies to treat fluid fine tailings, including chemical treatment applications.

 Oil Sands Tailings 101 course

Workshop Overview

In the first part of the course we will explore the current state of oil sands tailings management, the fundamentals of the processes in controlling the formation of fluid fine tailings and the basic technologies used. 

In the second half of the course we will study solid-liquid separation, the test methods used to evaluate new technologies and the importance of robustness.


Date: January 31 - February 3, 2022
Time: 1:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Location: Online, LIVE


Fundamentals of Oil Sands Tailings

Industry overview

  • Tailings formation and the basic types of tailings
  • Fundamentals of tailings planning and the importance of volume management
  • Beyond volume: dam stability, mine closure, reclamation goals and toxicity

Fundamental processes controlling formation and characteristics of Fluid Fine Tailings

  • Stokes’ law
  • Clays 
  • DLVO theory
  • Flocculation and coagulation theory 
  • Water chemistry 
  • Upstream process impacts and the integrated nature of the plant
  • Atterberg limits
  • Unified oil sands tailings classification chart
  • Self-weight consolidation
  • Microbes in tailings and their by-products   

Tailings treatment technologies and how they work

  • Beaching
  • Thickeners
  • Centrifugation
  • Filtration
  • Electrocoagulation and electro-kinetic dewatering
  • Freeze thaw
  • Drying via evaporative and forced air
  • Plant suction
  • Co-mixing technologies
    • Overburden addition and comix
    • Sand addition composite and non-segregating tailings

Tailings Technology Evaluations

Industry overview 

  • Review of process flow sheets and the specific types of tailings produced by each operator based on Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) plans
  • Considerations in selecting a new technology 

Evaluating a promising technology

  • Bench scale tests and what they tell you
    • Settling tests 
    • Net water release tests 
    • Capillary suction time 
    • Specific resistance to filtration 
  • Seepage induced consolidation testing
    • Large strain consolidation testing 
    • Geotechnical centrifuge 
  • Water Quality
    • Clarity, total solids, total dissolved solids, oil and grease, major anions and cations, heavy metals, naphthenic acids
  • Yield stress 
    • Rheology vs. geotechnical stability – what each measure and why
  • Importance of Robustness testing
    • Real time measurements of key variables
    • Variations to consider in technology evaluation
    • Variation in mixing, variation in feed, variation in dosage of chemical additives

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Course instructors

Dr. Heather Kaminsky, P.Eng

Dr. Heather Kaminsky, P.Eng

BSc (Materials Eng) University of Alberta
PhD (Materials Eng) University of Alberta

Heather joined NAIT’s Centre for Oil Sands Sustainability in 2016 as the Mine Research Lead after tenures at Suncor Energy and Total E&P Canada. Heather is now the NSERC Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in Oil Sands Tailings Management. Her specialty in fundamental structures of clay and heavy minerals in oil sands has enhanced her work in advanced ore characterization, bitumen extraction, tailings, materials wear and corrosion, water treatment, water chemistry modelling and waste valorisation.

Heather has a passion for clays and tailings and hopes to play a key role in solving tailings as an issue for the oil sands industry. Heather was recently recognized by SHEInnovates as one of the women advancing innovation in Alberta.

Andrea Sedgwick, P.Eng

Andrea Sedgwick, P.Eng

BSc (Mining Eng) University of Alberta
MEng (Engineering Management) University of Alberta

Andrea joined NAIT in 2015 and is the Ledcor Applied Research Chair at the Centre for Oil Sands Sustainability. Andrea has over 24 years’ experience in the oil sands industry with 13 years of related tailings knowledge. Andrea has obtained a deep level of industrial research and development experience across all aspects of oil sands mining including the key focal areas of mining and ore characterization, water treatment, tailings management and bitumen extraction.

One of her key accomplishments includes initiating the COSIA Tailings Research Working Group and chairing it for three years, gaining a deep knowledge in tailings research questions and working with international tailings research projects through AMIRA/CSIRO.

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