The severity of the extraction process can determine not only extraction recovery, but also the degree of clay dispersion, which is the major factor in determining tailings properties. The greater the energy input to the extraction process, the better the recovery for a given ore type. In general, the severity of the extraction process is a combination of thermal (process temperature), mechanical (mixing/pipelining), and chemical (process aids) factors.
Characterization of the bitumen recovery and the tailings properties defines the processability of a given ore. Ultimately the processability is determined by a combination of the severity of the extraction process and the ore properties. Ore properties, including hydrocarbon and clay properties, determine processability. The characterization of hydrocarbon and clay properties is the cornerstone of the extraction oil sands and heavy oil research effort. Optimizing these fundamental processability factors is an essential part of maintaining the economic and environmental sustainability of the oil sands and heavy oil industries.
The fundamental approach to oil sands and heavy oil research issues spans from basic science through to laboratory and pilot scale demonstrations of commercially important processes. CanmetENERGY’s in-house research program is integrated with a very active contract research effort to ensure efficient technology transfer. The role of water chemistry and clay properties in determining oil sands extraction behaviour is well known, and less attention is generally paid to the bitumen chemistry impacts on recovery.