All of Alberta's mineable oil sands is located north of Fort McMurray along the banks of the Athabasca River. In order for mining to be economically feasible, the deposit must be located relatively close to the surface, typically no more than 50 meters deep. Once mined, oil sands is mixed with water to produce a pumpable slurry that can be gravity separated. Learn more about bitumen production from mined oil sands.
About 20% of Alberta's total bitumen reserves are close enough to the surface to be mined. The cut-off depth is technically 70 to 75 meters below the surface, although most mines operate at a depth of less than 50 meters. All oil sands mines are located within the Athabasca Basin, just north of Fort McMurray.
For heating bitumen decanting machine is a very safe option. It is preferred by road contractors and also by bitumen sellers around the world. This equipment will take in drums full of solid material. Heat inside the chamber is responsible for melting the asphalt that comes in drums. Drummed decanters are very safe as heating process is indirect by circulation of hot thermic oil inside the pipelines that run inside the chamber.
Atlas bitumen drum decanter machine is a high efficient and easy to use equipment designed for melting bitumen that comes in drums. It is ideal machine for customers looking for a safe, reliable, economical solution. It is designed to reheat and melt asphalt safely and economically that comes in drums. This liquid can be stored in separate tanks or can be transferred into tankers as and when required. Bitumen decanter equipment from Atlas can be integrated with existing asphalt plant or binder plant. The foundation required for installation of this machine is very less as the drum decanters can be installed and made to run in quick time. There are many sites where logistics of bitumen is an issue. There are many land locked areas which are very remote and where liquid for of bitumen comes from far of places and heating + transfer at sites can be hazzle. Even the cost of transporting and handling large quantity can be headache. Reliability and even regular supply of is questionable. This asphalt drum melter is useful in many such cases. One can buy as many as barrels and store them at the site. These drums full of bitumen can be used as and when required. Bitumen is melted by hot gas which is generated due to the continuous flow of hot oil inside the heating chamber. It is collected below the machine and it can be transferred as and when required. Heating is by thermic oil heater which is very safe and economical method. The thermic oil heater uses diesel / LDO to heat oil. This Atlas drum melting unit comes in 4 models and range in the capacities 5 tph, 7 tph, 9 tph and 11 tph with 27, 40, 50 and 60 drums respectively. Each model comes with suitable storage capacity below the unit. The batch time is 60-70 minutes in continuous operation. Heating of asphalt that is stored below is also by indirect heating which is very safe method and does not allow ageing. A pump is provided so that liquid material can be transferred into another container. Loading of drums inside the decanting machine is hydraulically and is pushed into the machine. The drums have to be fed continuously inside the decanter. Drum arrangement is in rows that will help drums enter one side of the machine thus helping in pushing the other drums. Drum will melt completely and exit the other end of the heating chamber. The upper part is the heating chamber and the lower part is the storage section for liquid bitumen. Heating chamber is fully insulated from all sides by 50 mm glass wool.
Oil sands mining operations are some of the largest mines in the world. Although open-pit oil sands mines have a lot in common with traditional hard-rock mines (such as gold or copper), oil sands operators have some unique challenges due to the softness of the deposit. Learn more about surface mining techniques used in the oil sands.
Surface mining is defined as the extraction of ore from an open pit or burrow. Surface mining is sometimes known as open-pit, open-cut or open-cast mining and is only commercially viable if the deposit is located relative close to the surface.
Less than 20% of Alberta's bitumen reserves are close enough to the surface to be mined. Mined oil sands deposits are normally less than 50 meters below the surface but can be as deep as 75 meters below grade. Anything deeper cannot be economically mined since too much waste material needs to be removed before the bitumen-rich oil sands can be accessed.
Muskeg is typically a few meters deep but can extend much deeper in leases with a low water table. Oil sands leases on the east side of the Athabasca River tend to be more swampy with deeper pockets of muskeg. Properties on the west side of the river tend to be more dry.
Overburden is an almost bitumen-free layer consisting of sand, silt, clay and shale that lies on top of the bitumen-rich oil sands deposit, below the muskeg layer. Overburden is sometimes referred to as lean oil sands.
Technically, overburden is defined as anything with a low bitumen content that cannot be sent through the process plant. The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) defines the cut-off grade as 7% bitumen, but the bitumen content of overburden typically much lower.
Overburden normally has a high sand content and makes excellent building material. Overburden contains very little bitumen and can be used for lining ponds, construction of roads, tailings dykes and embankments.
The bitumen content of oil sands normally ranges from 8 to 12% but can be as high as 14%. This oil sands layer is hauled to the processing plant (or Bitumen Production facility), where the bitumen is recovered.
The AER requires any section of the deposit containing more than 7% bitumen to be mined and processed through the Bitumen Production facility. Sections of the deposit containing less than 7% bitumen (termed "lean oil sands") are considered part of the overburden layer and can also be used as construction material. However, this is at the discretion of the operator and can be put through the process plant, if desired.
A typical oil sands lease is comprised of vegetation, muskeg, sand, clays and water in various forms. The top layer is normally covered with trees and shrubs but can also contain wet swamps, peat bog (or muskeg), grassy marsh or fen.
In order for mining to be economically feasible, the ratio of waste material (or overburden) to oil sands ore must be relatively low. As the oil sands deposit gets deeper below grade, more and more overburden must be removed before the bitumen-rich oil sands can be accessed. Oil sands mining is only economically viable at depths of less than 75 meters below grade.
The strip ratio (SR) is the simplest measure of mining efficiency. Strip ratio is the fraction of overburden (or waste ore) versus the weight of bitumen-rich oil sands. A strip ratio of 2 is considered high but feasible if the ore grade is high enough.
The Alberta Energy Regulator requires any section of the deposit with a TV:BIP ratio less than 12 to be mined. Anything lower than 12 cannot be wasted or stockpiled. Mining where the TV:BIP is greater than 12 may be economical if the grade is high enough but remains at the discretion of the mine operator.
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Big, tough and powerful are the best words to describethe enormous mining equipment that roams theCanadian oil sands like prehistoric beasts.Here in the wilds of northern Alberta, the oil-rich Canadianprovince that fuels the countrys economy, the boreal forest liesovertop vast stores of hydrocarbons comparable to the desertsof Iraq or Saudi Arabia.
But unlike Middle Eastern oil, or the undersea oil foundin the Gulf of Mexico, this oil is trapped in sand, and must bemined in huge open pits using some of the largest earthmovingequipment on the planet.
To get to the ore bodies, which are between 30 and 70metres thick and buried at depths of 15 to 35 metres, mineableareas are cleared of trees or marsh. Most of the terrain is muskegor forest and, underneath, an overburden layer containing silt,clay and shale must be stripped off before the work of diggingand hauling the oil sands can begin.
The overburden is used to build haul roads and tailingsdikes, while the oil sands, thick and heavy with tarry bitumen,are piled high in long benches using hydraulic or electric ropeshovels, then hauled away for refining in gargantuan miningtrucks capable of carrying up to 400 tons of material.
The environment is harsh, both for people and equipment.In winter the temperature plunges to -30C, meaning that theequipment must break through a layer of permafrost to get tothe sand; in spring and summer, thawing temperatures turn thepits to mud, presenting other challenges to the equipment, whichmust be built to withstand sinking into the soft and sticky ground.
Its one of the toughest applications in the world for amining truck, says Tim Denehy, Canadian mining sales managerfor Liebherr, one of a handful of heavy equipment companies thatmanufacture the largest class of haul trucks used in the oil sands.
Denehy says that the T282C has a very light empty vehicleweight compared to competing trucks, meaning that the truckuses less horsepower and fuel to get up the loading ramp, resultingin reduced cycle times. Its like a sports car comparedto a semi, he says.
The harsh conditions found in the oil sands put alot of stress on a mining trucks drive system and frame,which must be designed for both strength and flexibility.Its almost like plasticine or play dough; it allows things to sinkinto it, so you have very high rolling resistance, says Denehy. Itcauses a lot of racking so youre tortionally twisting the frame.
Liebherrs answer to the problem is a Double A Frame frontsuspension that provides for longer vertical wheel travel and lessstrut travel, which also increases tire life. According to Denehy,the trucks electric drive system has advantages over competingmechanical drive vehicles.
Another important factor with haul trucks is having a reliablesupply of components on hand, especially because the trucksare running 24/7 due to the cold weather. Companies suchas Liebherr and Caterpillar are vertically integrated, meaningthat all the parts come from the same factory rather than beingoutsourced.For the mine operator its more of a one-stop shop, andfor us at the retail end were only dealing with one supplier:ourselves, Denehy says. The idea is to have parts quicker andat a better price because were making them.
Steve Brosseau, general manager for mining at SMSEquipment, Canadas largest Komatsu dealer, says that whenoil sands operations were running full-out in 2008, getting replacementtires used to be a problem, but now, most of the bigthree tire manufacturers Bridgestone, Goodyear and Michelin have caught up to demand. The massive tires, which aretwice the height of an average man and cost close to $50,000each, often get rock cuts from shale, with tread wear less of aproblem due to the soft pit conditions.
Brosseau points to the weld design and frame castingsallowing for a flexible frame good for 100,000 hours, and awider dump at the back end of the truck box that allows thematerial to slide, as two of the trucks key features.
When youre going down the haul road the oilsand packsin there, so when you dump the truck box it comes out in onelump, like a loaf of bread, he describes.Komatsus 930E-4SEelectric drive truck competes with Liebherr, Cat and Bucyrushaul trucks, at 320 short-ton capacity, powered with a Cummins2,700-hp engine.
Before the haul trucks roll, they are loaded with one oftwo shovel types used in the oil sands hydraulic or electricrope shovels. Bucyrus and P&H are the two main players in therope shovel market, with Bucyrus 495HR2 featuring a LatchFreeDipper System that the company says increases shovel productivity,and the AC-drive 4100C BOSS by P&H Mining Equipment.
The electric rope shovel is used in situations where youneed to move an incredible amount of material very consistently and do it as inexpensively as possible, says Steve Droste, electric rope shovel product manager with P&H. Operated with an electric rope and pulley system, these oil sands workhorses are immune to hydraulic fluid freeze up, making them more weather-resistant than hydraulic shovels.
Noting the mushy conditions in the pit during spring and summer, Droste says that the 4100C BOSS features 144-inch-wide crawler shoes designed to accommodate the low ground-bearing pressure needed to prevent the machine sinking into the ground. At the same time, the machine is powerful enough to cut into the frozen banks in winter.
The main advantage that hydraulic shovels have over rope shovels is their mobility. Hydraulic machines are more flexible to move around the pit, and can also dig at different levels of the bench, moving the waste material and leaving the oil sands to be loaded onto trucks.
Hitachis EX8000-6 front-loading shovel is mostly used for removing overburden or backing up electric rope shovels, says Brian Mace, manager of mining product marketing and applications, noting six machines are currently operating in the oil sands.
The bucket holds 40 cubic metres of material, with a maximum cutting height of 20 metres and a breakout force of 501,000 pounds. The cab on the machine is so large, there is room for a microwave and lockers, and for the operator to stand up and walk around.
Komatsus competing hydraulic shovel, the PC8000-6, has a 42-cubic-metre capacity and will load the Komatsu 930E-4SE haul truck in three passes. The PC8000-6 features chromium carbide liners on the shovel and wide tracks for better ground-bearing pressure.
The operators are able to look down between their feet and see the bottom of the pit and the front of their tracks, says SMS Equipments Steve Brosseau, noting that the shovel can cut up to 17-metre-high benches.
Not all machines used in the oil sands are behemoths. Smaller dozers are used for working in overburden, flattening out the pile after the truck dumps its load onto the berm. Dozers can also be seen pushing material down the bench for the shovel to grab, cleaning up around the shovel, or ripping material in winter using long shanks on the backs of the machines.
Most dozers are equipped with joystick controls, so if youre trying to level a road out, for example, you can shift your speeds with one controller and control your blade height and tilt with the other one, says Brosseau, referring to Komatsus D475A-5 dozer.
Some dozers are designed to withstand the harshest and potentially most dangerous applications. Air conditioners and radiators are built on top of the machines instead of underneath,and in the case of tailings dozers, an escape hatch is built intothe cab in case the dozer is submerged in a tailings pond andthe operator needs to exit quickly.
Dozers also have problems with abrasion. The life of an oilsands dozer undercarriage is typically half that of other miningapplications, because the sand gets into the track links androllers and wears on them like sandpaper.