Canadian Patents Database / Patent 2736675 Summary

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(12) Patent: (11) CA 2736675
(54) English Title: ELECTROKINETIC PROCESS AND APPARATUS FOR CONSOLIDATION OF OIL SANDS TAILINGS
(54) French Title: APPAREILLAGE ET PROCEDE ELECTROCINETIQUE DE DENSIFICATION DE RESIDUS DE SABLES BITUMINEUX
(51) International Patent Classification (IPC):
  • B03C 11/00 (2006.01)
  • B03D 3/06 (2006.01)
(72) Inventors (Country):
  • SMITH, GREGORY J. (United States of America)
  • BEATTIE, BRUCE S. (United States of America)
  • PARROTT, ROBERT C. (United States of America)
  • MICAK, JAMES (Canada)
  • GARCIA, PAUL (United States of America)
(73) Owners (Country):
  • ELECTRO-KINETIC SOLUTIONS INC. (Canada)
(71) Applicants (Country):
  • DPRA CANADA INCORPORATED (Canada)
(74) Agent: PIASETZKI NENNIGER KVAS LLP
(45) Issued: 2014-08-12
(22) Filed Date: 2011-04-07
(41) Open to Public Inspection: 2012-10-07
Examination requested: 2013-02-22
(30) Availability of licence: N/A
(30) Language of filing: English

English Abstract

A method of compacting solids in situ in an oil sands extraction tailings pond. The method includes the steps of placing two or more electrodes into the tailings pond in a predetermined spacing and connecting the electrodes to a source of power, having a variable voltage. This creates at least one cathode and at least one anode and an electrical field therebetween. The electrical field is of a sufficient strength to induce flocculation of particles in the tailings and to simultaneously release water. Then the solids undergo further compaction with further water release to create a solid material having a minimum desired load bearing capacity. In a further embodiment an electrode used in carrying out the method is provided.


French Abstract

Méthode permettant de compacter des solides sur place dans un bassin de résidus d'extraction de sables bitumineux. La méthode comprend les étapes suivantes : disposer deux électrodes ou plus dans le bassin de résidus, selon un espacement prédéterminé; et raccorder les électrodes à une source d'énergie à tension variable. Cela crée au moins une cathode et au moins une anode de même qu'un champ électrique entre les deux. Le champ électrique est d'une force suffisante pour induire la floculation des particules dans les résidus et pour libérer de l'eau, simultanément. Ensuite, les solides subissent un autre compactage et davantage d'eau est libérée, pour créer un matériau solide présentant une force portante minimale souhaitée. Selon un autre mode de réalisation, une électrode utilisée pour mener à bien la méthode est présentée.


Note: Claims are shown in the official language in which they were submitted.

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THE EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION IN WHICH AN EXCLUSIVE
PROPERTY OR PRIVILEGE IS CLAIMED ARE DEFINED AS
FOLLOWS:
1. A method of compacting solids in situ in an oil sands extraction
tailings pond, the method comprising the steps of:
a. Placing at least two electrodes into the tailings pond in a
predetermined spacing;
b. Connecting the electrodes to a source of electrical power
having a variable voltage to create at least one cathode and
at least one anode, wherein an electrical field of sufficient
strength is established between said at least two electrodes
to induce flocculation of particles in said oil sands tailings
and to simultaneously release water; and
c. Compacting said flocculation solids and removing further
water released from said compacting solids to create a
compacted material having a minimum desired load bearing
capacity.
2. The method of claim 1 wherein said compaction step includes using
electrostriction to compact said flocculated solids.
3. The method of claim 1 or 2 wherein said compaction step includes
using gravity loading to further compact said flocculated solids.
4. The method of claims 2 or 3 further including the step of inserting a
drain or wick into said flocculated solids to permit pore water to be

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expressed from said compacting solids.
5. The method as claimed in claim 1 further including the step of
removing water from said tailings pond as said solids are
compacted.
6. The method as claimed in claim 5 wherein said water is pumped out
of said tailings pond.
7. The method as claimed in claim 6, the method further comprising
the steps of associating a pump with said electrode and electrically
isolating said pump from said electrode, to remove said water.
8. The method of claim 7, the method further including locating the
pump within a hollow cathode.
9. The method of claim 1 further including the step of partitioning said
tailings pond to create at least one cell, and wherein said step of
placing said at least two electrodes comprises placing said
electrodes within said cell.
10. The method of claim 9 further including the step of partitioning said
tailings pond into a plurality of cells.
11. The method of claim 10 wherein said cells are formed by sheet
metal pilings.
12. The method of claim 11 wherein said sheet metal pilings are

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electrically connected to said source of power and thereby become
one of said electrodes.
13. The method of claim 1 further including the step of sampling said
tailings pond to determine one or more electrical properties, and
using said measured electrical properties to control the output from
the source of power.
14. The method of claim 1 further including the step of measuring the
electrical properties of said tailings pond over time and adjusting
said variable voltage across said electrodes in response to changes
detected in said measured electrical properties.
15. The method of claim 13 wherein said electrical properties vary as
said step of compacting said flocculation solids progresses, and
said voltage is varied as said compaction progresses.
16. The method of claim 1 wherein connecting the electrodes to a
source of electrical power further comprises connecting the
electrodes to at least one transformer.
17. The method of claim 16, the method further including the step of
operatively connecting said at least one transformer to a controller
to permit the power from said transformer to be controlled.
18. The method of claim 17 wherein the step of operative connecting
said at least one transformer to a controller further comprises
operatively connecting said at least one transformer to a remote


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access controller.
19. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of compacting said
flocculation solids and removing further water released from said
compacting solids to create a compacted material having a
minimum desired load bearing capacity, further comprises
compacting said solids and removing further water released from
said compacting solids to create a compacted material having a
minimum load bearing capacity of about 5kPa or more.
20. The method of claim 1 further including the step of inducing
flocculation of the solids within the MFT by one or more of an AC,
DC or EM-induced electrical field.
21. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of connecting the
electrodes to a source of electrical power having a variable voltage
to create at least one cathode and at least one anode wherein an
electrical field of sufficient strength is established between said at
least two electrodes further comprises establishing an electrical
field having a gradient which ranges from about 0.3 volt per
centimeter to about 4 volt per centimeter.
22. The method of claim 12 wherein the step of connecting the
electrodes to a source of electrical power having a variable voltage
to create at least one cathode and at least one anode wherein an
electrical field of sufficient strength is established between said at
least two electrodes further comprises establishing an electrical
field having a gradient that is a substantially uniform field between

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said electrodes.
23. An electrode for use in a method of compacting solids in an oil
sands extraction tailings pond, the electrode comprising:
a. A connector to electrically connect said electrode to a source
of power;
b. An electrically conductive body having a size and shape to
permit said body to be inserted into said tailings pond and to
extend below and above said tailings; and
c. A means to electrically isolate a portion of said electrode
which extends above said tailings pond.
24. The electrode of claim 23 wherein said body is hollow and includes
openings to permit water to pass into said electrode.
25. The electrode of claim 24 wherein said openings are screened to
prevent solids from passing into said hollow electrode.
26. The electrode of claim 25 further including a pump located with said
electrode to remove said water from within said hollow body.
27. The electrode of claim 26 wherein said pump is electrically isolated
from said electrode.
28. A method of treating a layer of a tailings pond comprising the steps
of: providing a cable electrode which can be submerged to a
desired depth; positioning the electrode within the tailings pond at
the depth of the layer to be treated; positioning at least one other

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electrode at the same depth at a location remote from the first
electrode; connecting the electrodes to a source of power to
encourage flocculation to occur at the depth that the electrodes are
submerged within the tailings pond.
29. The method of claim 1 further comprising the steps of:
providing a current to the electrodes to apply an electro-kinetic
treatment to the oil sands extraction tailings pond at a first depth;
modifying the height of a conductive zone of the electrodes relative
to the tailings pond; and
providing a current to the electrodes to apply an electro-kinetic
treatment to the oil sands extraction tailings pond at a second depth.
30. The method of claim 29 wherein the first depth is deeper than the
second depth and modifying the height of the conductive zone of the
electrodes further comprises raising the conductive zone of the electrodes.
31. The method of claim 1 wherein the step of placing at least two
electrodes into the tailings pond further comprises placing a network of
electrodes into the tailings pond.
32. The method of claim 31 wherein the network of electrodes further
comprises a network of uniformly-spaced electrodes.
33. The method of claim 1 further comprising providing a non-
electrically conductive sleeve around one or more of the at least two
electrodes.


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34. An apparatus for use in a method of compacting solids in an oil
sands extraction tailings pond, the apparatus comprising:
a. A network of uniformly-spaced electrodes;
b. A connector to electrically connect said plurality of electrodes
to an AC power source; and
c. A means to support the network of electrodes in said tailings
pond.
35. A method of treating oil sands tailings having at least dispersed fine
solids, water and residual hydrocarbons, said method comprising:
a. placing a network of electrodes into a volume of oil sands
tailings in a treatment area;
b. connecting the network of electrodes to a controlled source
of electrical power;
c. applying an electrical field to said treatment area through
said electrodes by means of a controlled application of power
from said source of electrical power; and
d. using said electrical field to consolidate said fine solids within
said treatment area.
36. The method of treating oils sands tailings as claimed in claim 35
further comprising the step of permitting said fine solids to gravity separate

into a weakly consolidated solid mass.
37. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 35
wherein said step of using said electrical field to consolidate said solids
further comprises an initial consolidation step of inducing flocculation in
said solids to partially separate water from said solid fines.
38. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 37

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wherein said step of using said electrical field includes a further
consolidation step of inducing electrostriction in said weakly consolidated
mass to releasing pore water during a residual consolidation step.
39. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 37
including a further consolidation step of providing drains in said weakly
consolidated mass to encourage drain assisted consolidation.
40. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 39
wherein said further consolidation step includes covering said weakly
consolidated mass with overburden to enhance said drain assisted
consolidation.
41. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 35
wherein said step of using said electrical field to consolidate said solids
further comprises inducing electro-osmotic flow of water towards at least
one of said electrodes to permit said water to be collected and removed.
42. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 36
wherein said step of using said electrical field to consolidate said solids
further includes increasing a density of said solids at a bottom of a tailings

pond by means of said gravity separation.
43. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 42
wherein said step of increasing a density further comprises increasing a
lithostatic pressure with depth in said treatment area.
44. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 35
wherein said controlled source of power is an AC power source and said
step of placing a network of electrodes further comprises placing said


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electrodes in a triangular or hexagonal pattern in said treatment area.
45. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 44
wherein said step of using said electrical field to consolidate said solids
further comprises charging a network of three electrodes 120 degrees out
of phase with each other.
46. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 45
wherein said step of using said electrical field to consolidate said solids
further comprises changing the phase charge over time.
47. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 44
wherein said step of using said electrical field to consolidate said solids
further comprises charging a network of six electrodes 60 degrees out of
phase with each adjacent electrode.
48. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 47
wherein said step of using said electrical field to consolidate said solids
further comprises changing the phase charge over time.
49. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 35
wherein said step of using said electrical field to consolidate said solids
further comprises using one or more of an AC, DC or EM induced field.
50. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 35
wherein said step of using said electrical field to consolidate said solids
further comprises changing the voltage applied over time to respond to
changes in the electrical properties of the treated oil sands tailings.
51. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 49


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wherein said step of changing the voltage further comprises using a
transformer.
52. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 51
including the step of securing the transformer in a locked housing.
53. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 51 further
including the step of connecting said transformer to a remote access
communication device.
54. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 49 further
including the step of monitoring the electrical conductivity of the tailings.
55. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 54
wherein an electrical conductivity of said tailings is monitored by
monitoring any variations in current draw at said transformer.
56. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 54
wherein said monitoring further includes taking conductivity measurements
of said tailings.
57. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 35 further
including the step of positioning a neutral electrode at a center of said
network.
58. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 57 further
including the step of removing water from said treatment area by removing
water from adjacent to said neutral electrode.
59. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 58 further


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including the step of treating and recycling said water removed from said
treatment area.
60. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 35 further
including the step of suspending said electrodes in place in said treatment
area.
61. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 35 further
including the step of securing an electrode to a subsurface of said
treatment area by drilling or driving said electrode into said subsurface.
62. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 35
wherein said electrode is formed from one or more of steel pipe, steel
rods, sheet metal pile, or electrically conductive plates.
63. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 35 further
including the step of forming at least one of said electrodes as a hollow
tube.
64. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 63 further
providing a water permeable screen portion on said hollow tube.
65. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 64 further
including the step of pumping water from inside of said hollow tube.
66. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 35 further
including the step of partitioning said tailings into smaller treatment areas.
67. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 37 further
including the step of positioning said electrodes at any desired depth


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within said tailings to permit the flocculation step to occur at such depth.
68. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 35 further
including the step of positioning an electrode below a level of any
supernatant water.
69. A method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 35
including the step of limiting the voltage rates to control the heating and
drying out of the tailings in a near electrode area.
70. The method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 35
further including the step of placing said electrodes at any desired depth
within said tailings to permit the application of the electrical field to
occur at
such depth.
71. The method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 70
further including the step of modifying the height of a conductive zone of
the electrodes during the treatment of the oil sands tailings.
72. The method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 71
further including the step of first applying an electrical field through said
electrodes at a first elevation of the tailings pond and subsequently
applying an electrical field at a higher elevation of the tailings pond.
73. The method of treating oil sands tailings as claimed in claim 72
further including the steps of:
a. placing the network of electrodes within the tailings pond to
form a first conductive zone at the first elevation;
b. applying an electrical field through said electrodes to provide
for separation of the water and the fine solids at the first


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elevation;
c. placing the network of electrodes within the tailings pond to
form a second conductive zone at the higher elevation; and
d. applying an electrical field through said electrodes to provide
for separation of the water and the fine solids at the higher
elevation.
74. The method of claim 35 further comprising the step of recovering
water from the oil sands extraction tailings pond by removing the water
separated from said composition of water and fine solids.
75. The method of claim 74 further comprising the step of treating and
recycling the recovered water.
76. The method of claim 41 further comprising the step of removing
water from the oil sands tailings to increase the capacity of the oil sand
tailings.
77. The method of claim 76 further comprising the step of introducing
additional MFT to the oil sands tailings.


A single figure which represents the drawing illustrating the invention.

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Admin Status

Title Date
(22) Filed 2011-04-07
(41) Open to Public Inspection 2012-10-07
Examination Requested 2013-02-22
(45) Issued 2014-08-12

Maintenance Fee

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Last Payment 2018-03-09 $200.00
Next Payment if small entity fee 2019-04-08 $100.00
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Payment History

Fee Type Anniversary Year Due Date Amount Paid Paid Date
Registration of Documents $100.00 2011-04-07
Registration of Documents $100.00 2011-04-07
Filing $400.00 2011-04-07
Request for Examination $800.00 2013-02-22
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 2 2013-04-08 $100.00 2013-02-22
Maintenance Fee - Application - New Act 3 2014-04-07 $100.00 2014-03-25
Registration of Documents $100.00 2014-04-30
Filing an Amendment after allowance $400.00 2014-05-20
Final $300.00 2014-05-21
Maintenance Fee - Patent - New Act 4 2015-04-07 $100.00 2015-03-27
Maintenance Fee - Patent - New Act 5 2016-04-07 $200.00 2016-04-07
Maintenance Fee - Patent - New Act 6 2017-04-07 $200.00 2017-04-03
Maintenance Fee - Patent - New Act 7 2018-04-09 $200.00 2018-03-09

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