Authors: Wang, X; Xu, Z; Masliyah, JH

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Wang, X, Xu, Z & Masliyah, JH 2009, 'Polymer Aids for Flocculation of Oil Sands Tailings', in R Jewell, AB Fourie, S Barrera & J Wiertz (eds), Paste 2009: Proceedings of the Twelfth International Seminar on Paste and Thickened Tailings, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 93-100,

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Storage and disposal of large volume tailings are a huge environmental problem facing the surface-mining oil sands industry. It is expected that the volume of tailings ponds to exceed one billion m3 by 2020. Major efforts are presently being made to reclaim the tailings ponds using emerging technologies. Commercial Magnafloc 1011 and in-house synthesised Al-PAM were tested for their flocculation in assisting the settling of laboratory extraction oil sands tailings and tailings from froth treatment unit. Both polymers showed excellent ability to enhance fine solids settling. As the fine solids and bitumen content in the tailings increase, the dosage required to achieve a desired settling rate increases. The supernatant of tailings treated with Magnafloc 1011 was not as clear as those treated with Al-PAM, indicating more suspended solids remaining in the supernatant. For Magnafloc 1011, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis of the solids from supernatants showed a significant fraction of bitumen and bitumen contaminated fine particles in the supernatant. When Al-PAM was added, on the other hand, very few bitumen droplets and particles were left in the supernatants. It appears that Al-PAM could affect both bitumen and fine solids, while Magnafloc 1011 preferentially adsorbs on solids rather than on bitumen in the tailings water. The findings were confirmed by atomic force microscope studies. The different type of interaction of Al-PAM and Magnafloc 1011 with fine solids in the tailings water is responsible for their performance as flocculant for oil sands tailings.

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