Geotechnical Society of Edmonton

NEWS 2012

Posted January 5, 2012 (updated January 13, 2012)

Event: January 26, 2012

GSE: Jamie Sharp, ConeTec Investigations Ltd. - Recent Advancements in Geotechnical Characterization of Oil Sand Tailings

Location: Faculty Club, University of Alberta

Time: 11:45am - 1:30pm

Cost: $30 Members, $40 Non-Members, $10 Students (Pay at door: cash or cheque)

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The in-situ geotechnical characterization of soft oil sands tailings is now a routine procedure in Alberta, Canada. These generally large tailings impoundments are deposited in either external dammed facilities or within previously mined open pits. When hydraulically discharged, the fines can accumulate as a thick fluid or soft solid material at the center of the deposit while coarse sand beaches form closer to the discharge points.

The large volumes of soft fine grained tailings create challenges for reclamation and are an increasing concern for mine operators, environmental groups, and regulatory agencies. As such, there has been a focus in recent years to adequately characterize these deposits with the end goal of reclamation in mind. New tailings processes developed to improve fines capture and tailings strength are being implemented, and need to be properly characterized in order to evaluate their performance. Investigation techniques used in traditional geotechnical characterization of soils are not adequately sensitive to produce meaningful results in very soft deposits, which can exhibit both fluid and solid behaviour.

Recent improvements of in-situ testing techniques now offer tools specific to very soft deposits. Tools discussed include low capacity cone penetrometers, full flow penetrometers, gamma radiation measurements, high resolution pore pressure dissipation testing, low capacity vane shear testing, and special sampling techniques. Interpretation methods to properly interpret the data are discussed, specifically as it relates to the strength and composition of the various tailings mixtures and physical states. Some recommendations on the best utilization of the various investigation and interpretation methods are made.

Mr. Sharp is a geotechnical engineer and is currently the Canadian General Manager at ConeTec Investigations Ltd. He has been heavily involved in soft oil sands tailings investigations for the past 8 years, and possesses 13 years experience conducting and managing specialized geotechnical site investigation programs. Mr. Sharp graduated from Queen's University in 1998.

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