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A Conceptual Approach to Subterranean Oil Sand Fragmentation and Slurry Transport.
Oil sand deposits are found at three depths; shallow, intermediate, and deep. Shallow deposits are processed by surface mining while deep deposits are processed using thermal extraction methods. There are currently no production methods to extract oil sand at intermediate depths. The motivation for this research is to demonstrate the technical applicability of methods to access oil sand that is too shallow for thermal extraction methods and too deep for economical surface mining.
This work consisted of developing a system concept as a method for accessing, fragmenting, and removing oil sand at intermediate depths. A technical analysis and a cost estimate were also performed. In addition, the applicability of a comparative methodology was demonstrated with case studies.
Oil sand blocks were made for the experiments. These blocks underwent various tests to examine their characteristics. Tests included: hot solvent extraction testing, shear strength testing, porosity measurements, and scanning electron microscopy.
Lab-scale experiments were conducted in dry, wet, and frozen conditions in support of the fragmentation aspect of the system concept. Thermal imaging was used to qualitatively view temperature variation during the testing process and cutter wear was viewed using a digital microscope. Results were compared against a steady-state cutting model with recommendations for future work.
Progress to date
The project commenced in September 2007 and is currently in its final stages of completion. Specifically, a draft thesis was written and has been submitted for review. The department wall poster was recently printed and is scheduled to be framed. Preparation of the defense presentation is underway.
Expected completion date
Project will be completed in July 2010.