Fine particles removal from oil sand tailings by hydrocyclone

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 90, No. 1015, 1997

M.W. Mikhail, A.I.A. Salama, Western Research Centre, CANMET, Devon, Alberta, and R. Burns, Suncor Inc., Fort McMurray, Alberta

Large amounts of oil sand tailings are produced in the Fort McMurray area, including sand, clays, and misplaced bitumen. The objective of the present study (as part of the overall engineered tailings program) is to select and evaluate the role of hydrocyclones in removing most of the solids from the tailings slurry and producing an underflow product containing about 75% solids. Multistage cyclones were evaluated in pilot plant tests. Slurry feeds with different percents solids and increasing ratios of superfines (–44 µm) were used in testing multistage cyclone circuits. A two-stage Linatex separator circuit gave high recovery to the underflow of 98.8% to 99.6% by mass with the desired high solids content in the underflow of 73% to 75% by mass. Changes in feed solids content (20% to 50%) had little or no influence on cyclone underflow recovery and solids content. The keys to achieving such results were the apex control mechanism and operation at relatively low feed pressure (<60 kPa for 23 cm F cyclone) when the feed solids content was high. Increasing superfines above 7% by mass in the feed resulted in a significant reduction in the recovery to the underflow, probably due to the heavy medium generated by excessive amounts of clays in the cyclone. Pilot plant results were better than those predicted by available cyclone simulation models in terms of recovery and solids concentration in the underflow. Increasing cyclone diameter from 23 cm for the Linatex separator to 51 cm for the Krebs cyclone appears to have little or no effect on size cutpoint.