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Tailings Booklet

Tailings Booklet

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Canada’s Oil Sands

Issues and Opportunities



BOOks In ThIs serIes COver:

Carbon Dioxide
A TechnicAlly chAllenging ResouRce
As the world’s supply of conventional oil and gas becomes harder to find and develop, unconventional energy such as oil sands will take on greater importance. However, oil sands development is both a costly and technically complex business with potential for environmental impact due to land use, water consumption and air emissions such as carbon dioxide. Shell works diligently to reduce environmental and socioeconomic impact on communities affected by our operations. This series – Canada’s Oil Sands: Issues and Opportunities – is part of Shell’s continuing dialogue with governments, industry, environmental groups, community stakeholders, Aboriginal Peoples and the public about our oil sands mining and upgrading developments. Each booklet provides information about a specific issue and the actions being taken to deliver the technologies and management strategies required to improve performance for the oil sands industry.

Shell is one of Canada’s largest oil sands developers with an estimated 20 billion barrels of total recoverable bitumen in northern Alberta. We hold major land positions in all three of the province’s bitumen-producing regions – Athabasca, Cold Lake and Peace River. Oil sands contain bitumen, water, sand and clay. Bitumen is a thick hydrocarbon. Bitumen deposits located near the earth’s surface are recovered through open pit mines using large mechanical shovels and trucks. Deposits too deep to mine are recovered in situ (in place) using conventional drilling techniques. Thermal recovery techniques include injecting high-pressure steam underground to mobilize the bitumen, which is then pumped to the surface, leaving the sand in place. Cold production methods can be used where the bitumen is less viscous and does not require heating to make it fluid enough to be pumped to the surface. Once the bitumen is recovered and separated from the oil sands, it is then upgraded into synthetic crude oil and used by conventional refineries to produce gasoline, diesel fuel and other consumer products.



Land and reclamation



Internationally Recognized Environmental Standards
As part of our continued commitment to sustainable development, the scotford Upgrader and the Muskeg river Mine achieved the IsO 14001 standard for environmental management systems in 2003 and 2004, respectively. To receive this internationally recognized designation, an organisation must demonstrate that it has a sound environmental policy, an effective environmental management system and is committed to complying with environmental legislation. Our two facilities are the only oil sands operations to achieve and maintain this designation.

This document contains “forward-looking statements” based upon management’s assessment of Shell’s future plans and operations. These forward-looking statements may include references to anticipated growth, growth strategy and long-term profitability, future capital and other expenditures, Shell’s plans for growth, development, construction and expansion, the viability, benefits and environmental impacts of planned and future expansion and other projects, mining and upgrading capacity, construction of infrastructure, resources and reserves estimates, future production of resources and reserves, project schedules and execution, development of new legislation and policy, environmental impacts of operations and mitigation measures, anticipated regulatory approvals, and technology development. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. Although Shell believes that the expectations represented by such forward-looking statements are reasonable based on the information available to it on the date of this document, there can be no assurance that such expectations will prove to be correct. Forward-looking statements involve numerous assumptions, known and unknown risks, and uncertainties that may cause Shell’s actions or decisions to differ materially from any estimates or projections of future performance or results expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements contained in this document are made as of the date of this document and Shell may not update publicly or revise any of the forward-looking statements contained in this document, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law. All monetary amounts referenced in this document are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise noted.

Environmental Leadership Program


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities




ATHAbASCA OIL SANDS PROjECT The AThABAsCA OIL sAnDs PrOjeCT (AOsP) Is A jOInT venTure BeTWeen sheLL (60%), ChevrOn CAnADA LIMITeD (20%), AnD MArAThOn OIL CAnADA COrPOrATIOn (20%).
The AOSP consists of Shell Albian Sands, open pit bitumen mining operations located north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. It also includes the Shell Scotford Upgrader, located near Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, which upgrades bitumen into synthetic crude oil. Shell operates the Scotford Upgrader and Albian Sands on behalf of the AOSP joint venture. Shell Albian Sands currently has mining production capacity of 155,000 barrels per day (b/d), with a 100,000 b/d expansion under construction. Shell currently holds regulatory approvals for the production of 470,000 b/d of mineable bitumen in the Athabasca oil sands region.
Muskeg river Mine


At the Scotford Upgrader, the AOSP currently has upgrading capacity of 155,000 b/d, with a 100,000 b/d expansion currently under construction. In 2007, Shell filed an application for Scotford Upgrader 2, a wholly-owned 400,000 b/d facility. Shell’s Oil Sands Issues and Opportunities series focuses on our oil sands mining and upgrading developments. In addition to oil sands mining and upgrading, Shell has long term development plans that include in situ oil sands. We acknowledge that in situ oil sands development is today more energy and carbon intensive than mineable oil sands. We are actively pursuing a range of potential technical solutions as well as CO2 mitigation opportunities for our in situ business as investment increases and production grows.


Peace River Oil Sands Area Athabasca Oil Sands Area Cold Lake Oil Sands Area Shell In Situ Operations

SHELL IN SITU PROjECTS • • • Peace RiveR – (includes both theRmal AnD COLD PrODuCTIOn). oRion cold lake – steam assisted GRavity dRainaGe (saGd) theRmal PRoject. GRosmont and Woodenhouse – assets in West AThABAsCA AreA unDer APPrAIsAL fOr TherMAL and cold PRoduction ResPectively.

In situ Oil sands Operation


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities












Tailings are what remains after the bitumen is extracted from the mined oil sands ore. They are composed of water, coarse sand, silt and clay particles, and small amounts of hydrocarbon. External and in-pit tailings facilities or ponds are used to store tailings for settling, water storage and water reuse purposes. Currently, Shell’s tailings facilities are approximately 12 km² with an extension project underway. Shell operates tailings facilities based on proven dyke engineering and construction, maintenance, water reuse, surface and ground water monitoring, and wildlife deterrence practices. Shell’s tailings management plan is designed to remove water and then treat the remaining solid tailings in order to reclaim disturbed lands to a land capability equivalent to what it was prior to mining, as required by the Alberta government. In 2009, the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), issued a new tailings directive, designed to reduce the amount of fluid fine tailings and optimise the timing of reclamation. While the directive is technically challenging, Shell has invested substantially in tailings research to identify the best mix of technologies to increase water reuse and support progressive land reclamation.







external tailings facility at the Muskeg river Mine.


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities

Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities




Shell complies with federal and provincial laws and advocates for regulations that support sustainable development of the oil sands as well as conventional resources. In Canada, the concept of sustainable development is encompassed in federal and provincial government policy and has made its way into environmental legislation, particularly environmental assessment legislation to promote better decision making. For the oil sands, the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) regulates Alberta’s energy resources including tailings management plans. Shell believes that robust and stable regulations that balance society’s need for energy with the need for sustainable development – incorporating economic, environmental and social goals –are in the best interest of our business. We believe tackling the energy challenge requires many different groups in society to work together – governments, energy producers, users, Aboriginal Peoples and local communities. NEw TAILINGS DIRECTIVE In 2009, the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) issued a new tailings directive (Directive 074) designed to reduce the amount of fluid fine tailings, with the goal of supporting progressive reclamation. While the directive is technically challenging, Shell has invested substantially in tailings research, including a Tailings Test Facility at the Muskeg River Mine. Shell supports the objectives of the directive, continues to work on tailings technology and collaborates with research institutions, including academics and other energy company researchers. MANAGING OUR RESOURCES Shell’s tailings management plan addresses all issues related to tailings, from the start of oil sands mining to the final placement of these materials in a reclaimed landscape or end-pit lake. Our plan balances economic development of the oil sands resource and progressive reclamation that leads to stable and self-sustaining landscape features. As part of our management plan, bitumen, diluent, and warm water are recovered from tailings to make the best use of our resources by increasing production and reducing costs and energy consumption.

OIL SANDS MULTI-STAkEHOLDER GROUPS CAnADIAn OIL sAnDs neTWOrk fOr reseArCh AnD DeveLOPMenT (COnrAD) CONRAD is a network of companies, universities and government agencies organised to facilitate collaborative research in science and technology for Alberta’s oil sands. The CONRAD Environmental and Reclamation Research Group currently initiates, manages and funds about $5 million in research work annually. cumulative enviRonmental manaGement association (cema) CEMA develops recommendations on how to best manage the cumulative impacts of industrial development and protect the environment. Work is carried out by CEMA’s:
• • • • • • Reclamation Working Group (RWG) Sustainable Ecosystem Working Group (SEWG) Surface Water Working Group (SWWG) NOx/SO2 Management Working Group (NSMWG) Trace Metals and Air Contaminants Working Group (TMAC WG) Traditional Environmental Knowledge (TEK) Standing Committee

ReGional aquatics monitoRinG PRoGRam (RamP) RAMP is an industry-funded, multi-stakeholder environmental monitoring program initiated to integrate aquatic monitoring activities across different components of the aquatic environment to identify long-term trends, regional issues and potential cumulative effects related to oil sands and other development.


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities





what Are Tailings? Tailings are the mixture of water and solids that remain after bitumen is extracted from oil sands ore.

fLUID fINE TAILINGS: A suspension of fine silTs, clAys, residuAl biTumen, And wATer ThAT forms in The course of biTumen exTrAcTion from mined oil sAnds.
Groundwater monitoring wells Dyke wall

After the ore is excavated from the ground, warm water is added to wash the thick and sticky bitumen off the sand and clay. The water and solids that remain at the “tail end” of the bitumen extraction process are referred to as tailings. Tailings consist of water, coarse sand, silt and clay particles, small amounts of solvent used in the cleaning of the bitumen, and small amounts of bitumen and asphaltenes. The coarse sand found in tailings is relatively easy to manage because it readily separates from the liquid tailings stream. Once transferred to a tailings storage facility, the sand quickly releases water and can be compacted. This makes the sand a useful construction material for building the walls of tailings facilities and filling the mined pit. The clay and silt particles settle more slowly. As a result, the clay particles remain suspended in the water, creating a muddy mixture called fluid fine tailings that must also be stored in tailings storage facilities. Over time, the clay particles settle to the bottom of the tailings facilities allowing water to be recovered and reused in the bitumen extraction process. Once compacted in the external tailings facility or thickened using tailings thickeners, the clays and silts will eventually be used in the non-segragating tailings process.

Tailings facilities serve vital settling, water storage and water recycling purposes. in tailings facilities, solids settle out of the tailings so water can be recovered and reused in the bitumen extraction process. The challenge is to reuse as much water as possible. recovered sand is used in the construction of berms and roads and to fill in the mined area for reclamation.

exteRnal tailinGs Facilities
When a mine is first built, tailings are stored in an area external to the mine called an external tailings facility or tailings pond. These external tailings facilities are above ground structures initially constructed using compacted overburden. Dyke walls are typically 50 to 70 metres in height.
Water for reuse

Bird deterrent systems in place

Fluid fine tailings Coarse sand Seepage collection ditches


Low-grade oil sands

The different solids that make up tailings release water, or settle, at different rates and tailing facilities are required to store this material while the water separates.

Tailings are then discharged into the external tailings facilities. The clean, coarse sand separates quickly and is used to raise the dyke wall from the outside in, helping to minimize the facility’s footprint. The fine silts, clays, small amounts of bitumen and water remaining in the tailings flow into the tailings facility toward the centre of the structure. The sand then settles to the bottom, water rises to the top, and saturated clays, or fluid fine tailings, remain in the middle. Water is then collected for reuse in the extraction process. External tailings facilities allow operators to reuse water, recover the coarse sand for construction and store the remaining clay-based fluid fine tailings for use in the nonsegregating tailings process. Currently, Shell’s tailings facilities are approximately 12 km² with an extension project underway.


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities




in-Pit tailinGs Facilities
When mining is sufficiently advanced, and an area that has already been mined is available, tailings can be deposited in the mine pit. In-pit storage helps to minimize the footprint of our operations by depositing tailings in areas that have already been disturbed and, through the use of non-segregating tailings, allow for faster reclamation of mined areas.

Shell’s bitumen extraction process is designed to be water and energy efficient. As much water as possible is recovered from the bitumen extraction process and reused. However, some water is lost to evaporation or storage in the pore space between the clay and sand grains in the tailings, which was originally occupied by the bitumen.

Reclamation soil

Water is collected by a barge on the surface of the tailings facility and directed back to the process facilities for reuse in the extraction process.

Overburden Sand cap Non-segregating tailings

Water for reuse Non-segregating tailings

Dyke wall Oil sands ore

In-pit tailings facilities are constructed with tailings cells separated from active mine areas by large dyke walls. Non-segregating tailings are then placed in the tailings cell, creating the foundation for reclamation activities. As mining progresses to other areas, new in-pit tailings facilities are constructed while older facilities are reclaimed. Over time, this process creates an ongoing ‘hop scotch’ effect of mining areas, tailings facilities and reclaimed land, minimizing the footprint of the operation at any one time. This is also known as progressive reclamation. Shell is advancing our in-pit storage capabilities and will soon begin to place non-segregating tailings in our first in-pit cell.

More than 85% of the Muskeg River Mine’s water needs are filled using reused water. Although considerable volumes of water are recovered from tailings, this mixture still holds water that, if recovered, could be reused. While Shell currently only uses about one quarter of the water it is permitted to withdraw from the Athabasca River, we will continue to work to reduce this further. This is becoming an important issue as the oil sands mining industry in the area grows.

shell is participating in the phase 2 federal/provincial Athabasca river water management framework to establish water management recommendations for future oil sands water withdrawals from the Athabasca river. This multi-stakeholder framework committee will develop an oil sands water use recommendation for regulators who will make the final decision that will take effect January 2011.


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities




Tailings management and reclamation are closely linked as the materials found in tailings will eventually be used to create the reclaimed landscape.

A key component of Shell’s mine development is an integrated mine reclamation plan, which details how disturbed lands will be reclaimed to a land capability equivalent to what it was prior to mining. One challenge with tailings is that some water remains in the pore space between clay particles. This forms a muddy mixture called fluid fine tailings, which can make dry landscape reclamation difficult. Industry is working on a number of techniques to reduce the production of fluid fine tailings and create a tailings mixture that releases water quickly and is strong enough to start reclamation as soon as practical. The goal is to produce trafficable tailings that can be walked or driven on to become the foundation for the reclaimed landscape. At Shell, efforts to achieve this are focused on creating thickened tailings and non-segregating tailings.

Once stabilized, the deposit becomes the foundation for reclamation activities. A sand cap is placed on this foundation. Overburden and reclamation soil that was removed and stored during mine preparation is then placed on the sand cap. Finally, local, native vegetation is planted to form a landscape that has a land capability equivalent to what it was prior to mining.

thickened tailinGs
The Muskeg River Mine is the only oil sands mine that uses tailings thickeners to recover warm water from the tailings before they are deposited in storage facilities. Since the water from the bitumen extraction process is still warm when it is collected and reused, this reduces energy use and consequently, associated greenhouse gas emissions. This process has the added benefit of producing denser fine tailings.

Shell is confident in non-segregating tailings technology as an important tool to reduce the amount of fluid fine tailings and achieve trafficable surfaces more quickly for reclamation.
our tailings technology will: • increase the amount of water recycled from tailings; • reduce energy use and consequently, greenhouse gas emissions; • return large volumes of fine tailings to the mine pit; • return coarse sand to the mine pit; • allow for progressive land reclamation as mining continues; and, • minimize the amount of process-affected water that would require remediation.

non-seGReGatinG tailinGs

Thickening agent Sand tailings Dense fine tailings

Towards reclamation Recycled water used in extraction process



In the non-segregating tailings process, sand is combined with dense fine tailings, which have compacted over time in a tailings pond or through the use of tailings thickeners. The pores between the sand particles fill with the fine silt and clay solids. A thickening agent is added to thicken the tailings and facilitate water release from the mixture. This nonsegregating tailings mixture will then be deposited into in-pit tailings facilities. There, more water is slowly released and reused while the remaining mixture forms a soft sandy deposit that settles and strengthens over time.


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities



enD-PIT LAkes
current industry plans call for the fluid fine tailings not captured in thickened tailings deposits or used in the non-segregating process to be returned to the mined pits and capped with water. These are called end-pit lakes. These lakes will, with time, become viable ecosystems that will sustain plant and aquatic life.


tailinGs and toxicity
Tailings contain water used in the bitumen extraction process that is reused many times. reusing the water increases the concentrations of salts and naphthenic acids, which are washed out of the oil sands ore during bitumen recovery.

End-pit lakes are a part of the overall reclamation plan. They will be created when mining operations are complete, in 40 to 50 years. The lakes will have a layer of fluid fine tailings at the bottom, which will be capped with clear water. With time, modelling indicates that the fluid fine tailings will release water into the cap. Where the fluid fine tailings meet the water cap, biological processes break down the naphthenic acids, which naturally occur in bitumen, improving water quality. Although end-pit lake technology has not yet been applied on a large scale in the oil sands, modelling and development work indicates this method of bio-remediation will be successful. An industry test facility will be used to demonstrate that these lakes can become viable ecosystems that will sustain aquatic life. When this occurs, the lake water will be suitable for release to the environment in accordance with stringent regulatory controls.

Salts and naphthenic acids are elements naturally found in the oil sands. When oil sands ore is washed to extract the bitumen, these elements are released into the tailings water. As the tailings water is reused multiple times to extract the bitumen, concentrations of salts and naphthenic acids increase over time. At high concentrations, salts and naphthenic acids can be considered toxic as they could potentially affect fish and other aquatic life. To protect aquatic ecosystems from potential contamination, Shell does not directly release tailings water, also known as process-affected water, into the environment. Shell has an extensive system of monitoring and containment controls to ensure process-affected water remains on our site. Industry is also working to understand the natural process that over time will reduce salinity and break down the naphthenic acids. This is important since some process-affected water remains in the coarse sand and fine clay particles that is used to form the foundation for landscape reclamation. Technology development efforts are also underway to evaluate the potential to economically recover and use asphaltenes and bitumen that remain in the tailings stream.

shell is confident in its capability to design and build successful end-pit lakes because: • Fundamental, sound and proven principles of hydrology, limnology and water treatment will be applied; • Engineered wetlands and end-pit lakes are not unique to the oil sands region and are successfully used by numerous mining operations worldwide; • Accepted, peer-reviewed models that apply conservative assumptions to predict their performance and refine their design will continue to be applied; • Key findings from CONRAD and CEMA research on wetlands, experimental ponds and end-pit lakes will be incorporated into the analysis; • Several mitigation and contingency options exist to ensure proper performance; and, • Adequate time exists to progressively apply and incorporate key findings from ongoing research and modelling to resolve uncertainties before and after the first end-pit lakes are completed.


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities



PRotectinG GRoundWateR
external tailings facilities are highly engineered structures that use the coarse sand within the tailings stream as construction material to build up the dyke walls. over time, small amounts of tailings water seeps from the coarse sands as it compacts and drains; this is commonly known as seepage.

Although the amount of seepage is small, Shell has designed and implemented a seepage collection system to protect groundwater. During the construction of the external tailings facility at the Muskeg River Mine, drains were installed to capture seepage as it is released from the coarse sand. The drains collect and deposit seepage in ditches surrounding the facility. Once collected, the seepage is redirected to the seepage collection pond and returned to the external tailings facility for reuse.

Groundwater monitoring wells.

Shell’s groundwater response plan details the actions to be taken if monitoring results are different than expected. The long-term monitoring program provides a baseline of normal groundwater in the region and each sample is compared to it. If anything is outside normal conditions, the groundwater response plan outlines appropriate actions to be taken. On a regional basis, Shell participates in a number of initiatives to address concerns related to groundwater. One government-led project includes regional groundwater monitoring sites established and maintained on Shell leases that contribute to an oil sands-wide regional network. Shell is also collaborating with other oil sands companies to share monitoring data to ensure the analysis is even more complete.

PRotectinG WildliFe
seepage collection ditches surround the Muskeg river Mine’s external tailings facility.

In addition to the seepage collection system, Shell’s government-approved groundwater monitoring program at the Muskeg River Mine consists of a network of wells that:

Tailings contain small amounts of unrecovered bitumen that can create patches of oil on the surface of tailings facilities. At the muskeg river mine, shell operates a best-inclass bird deterrent system to prevent waterfowl from landing in the ponds.

• •

Establish baseline groundwater conditions; and Continually collect data required to evaluate potential changes in the groundwater regime and water quality.
shell’s bird deterrent system was the subject of an independent study published by the journal of Applied ecology. The study found shell’s system to be the most effective, bestin-class available.

Small amounts of diluent and bitumen are found in tailings which can form patches of oil on the surface of tailings facilities. These large bodies of water are located in the flight path of migratory birds in the Athabasca region. If birds were to land, the oil could affect their feather structure, making them unable to stay warm or fly. To minimise the risk, Shell’s Muskeg River Mine has implemented an on-demand system that detects birds in the area. When a bird is detected, the system activates a number of devices including noise deterrents, strobe lights and an over-sized mechanical peregrine falcon with flapping wings and speakers with bird-of-prey calls. This system is proving to be more effective than the industry standard as it takes into consideration the potential for bird habituation to continuous acoustic deterrents and noise pollution, preventing birds from landing in our tailings facilities.

This network of wells is monitored, maintained, and expanded as development into new mine areas occurs. Monitoring wells are measured monthly or at a minimum semi-annually. The collected data is reported to stakeholders and the Government of Alberta annually. To date, our groundwater monitoring system has not detected any change in groundwater quality due to tailings storage.


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities




shell remains committed to delivering our tailings and reclamation plans, which are based on the use of thickened tailings and non-segregating tailings technology. however, technology development is challenging and occurring more slowly than we had anticipated. we are working with regulators to continue to meet our commitments.

reseArCh AnD DeveLOPMenT
since 2005, the Athabasca oil sands project has spent more than $100 million in research and development work on tailings technologies including non-segregating tailings and paste-thickened tailings at shell’s calgary research centre and Tailings Test facility north of fort mcmurray.

Shell’s tailings plan calls for progressive reclamation of the mine pit, based on implementing non-segregating tailings technology and using end-pit lakes to manage the remaining fluid fine tailings. Under the plan, the external tailings facility stores fluid fine tailings until non-segregating tailings are produced and placed in the mined out pit area. The non-segregating tailings process reduces the amount of fluid fine tailings produced. At the end of the mine’s life cycle, the inventory of fluid fine tailings in the tailings facilities is to be transferred to an end-pit lake and capped with water. Non-segregating tailings technology has become an essential element of our technology portfolio. We are continuing work to commercialize non-segregating tailings technology, capping fluid fine tailings with water, and improve tailings thickener technology and other complementary technologies. We support the objectives of the Energy Resources Conservation Board Tailings Directive, which requires all current operators to meet minimum reductions of fluid fine tailings starting in 2010.

Continued tailings development will build on the success achieved in 2007 when Shell began producing non-segregating tailings on a pilot scale at our tailings test facility, providing the design data required to assess the readiness of new tailings management methods for fullscale commercial use. We are also investigating thickening clay-based tailings in a paste thickener vessel. The test facility has the capability to produce paste thickened tailings and non-segregating tailings with various sand-to-clay ratios and densities. These mixtures have been deposited in test cells to evaluate their performance. Improvements have also been made to the thickened tailings process that will allow Shell to increase the amount of warm water recovered and reduce the quantities of fluid fine tailings produced. This improved process will be used to thicken tailings in future expansions. In addition, Shell is exploring a potential range of other technologies such as atmospheric drying, fine centrification, sand stacking and continued development of fluid fine tailings in end-pit lakes.

InTerIM MeAsures
while committed to our tailings plan, shell has established interim measures to ensure effective and responsible management of tailings at our facilities.

Currently, Shell is:

• • • •

Extending our external tailings facility to allow for more external-pit tailings storage; Advancing our in-pit storage capability to provide additional operating flexibility and short-term storage capacity for thickened tailings; Developing the non-segregating technology and complementary technologies that will help reduce inventories of fluid fine tailings; and, Using current technologies to reduce the quantities of existing fluid fine tailings at the Muskeg River Mine.


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and Opportunities



AOSP: The Athabasca Oil Sands Project, a joint venture among Shell Canada Limited (60%), Chevron Canada Limited (20%) and Marathon Oil Canada Corporation (20%). The AOSP consists of the Muskeg River and Jackpine Mines located north of Fort McMurray, Alberta and the Scotford Upgrader, located near Edmonton, Alberta. (Source: Shell Canada Energy) Asphaltene: The heaviest component of crude oil, asphaltenes are molecular substances that are left over after the extraction process. They are insoluble, semi-solid, or solid particles, and are combustible and highly aromatic. (Source: Shell Canada Energy) Bitumen: Bitumen is best described as a thick, sticky form of crude oil, so heavy and viscous that it will not flow unless heated or diluted with lighter hydrocarbons. At room temperature, it is much like cold molasses. Technically speaking, bitumen is a tar-like mixture of petroleum hydrocarbons with a density greater than 960 kilograms per cubic metre; light crude oil, by comparison, has a density as low as 793 kilograms per cubic metre. (Source: Government of Alberta, Department of Energy) Dense Fine Tailings: Fluid fine tailings that have compacted over time in a tailings pond or through the use of tailings thickeners. (Source: Shell Canada Energy) End-pit lake: An artificial lake used to fill a void at one end of a mine, into which the remaining tailings at the end of the mine life are discharged and stored under a water cap. External Tailings Facility (also known as a Tailings Pond): Above ground structures external to the mine pit in which tailings are stored. (Source: Shell Canada Energy) Fluid Fine Tailings: A suspension of fine silts, clays, residual bitumen, and water that forms in the course of bitumen extraction from mined oil sands. (Source: Government of Alberta, Energy Resources Conservation Board) Groundwater: Water that collects or flows beneath the earth’s surface, filling the porous spaces in soil, sediment and rocks. (Source: Shell Canada Energy) In-Pit Tailings Facility: Structures inside the mine pit separated from active mine areas by large dyke-walls in which tailings are stored. (Source: Shell Canada Energy) In Situ: A Latin phrase meaning “in place.” For oil sands, it refers to various methods used to recover deeply buried (i.e. greater than 350 feet) bitumen deposits. In situ operations include steam injection and various well and bitumen collection patterns. (Source: Shell Canada Energy) Naphthenic Acids: Relatively labile hydrocarbons associated with oil sands deposits and processing that have been identified as a potential toxicity concern. (Source: Shell Canada Energy) New Tailings Directive (Directive 074): Issued by the Alberta Energy Resources Consservation Board in 2009, the tailings directive sets out new requirements for the regulation of mineable oil sands tailings operations designed to reduce quantities of fluid fine tailings, with the goal of supporting progressive reclamation. (Source: Shell Canada Energy) Non-Segregating Tailings: A combination of dense fine tailings, sand tailings and a thickening agent. Once stabilized, non-segregating tailings become the foundation for reclamation activities. (Source: Shell Canada Energy) Reclamation: Returning disturbed land to a land capability equivalent to what it was prior to mining. Reclaimed property is returned to the province of Alberta at the end of operations. (Source: Shell Canada Energy) Tailings: The residual by-product that remains after the bitumen is separated from the mined oil sands ore; tailings are composed of residual bitumen, water, sand, silt and clay particles. (Source: Shell Canada Energy) Thickened Tailings: Tailings that have had process water removed through the use of tailings thickeners, producing dense fine tailings. (Source: Shell Canada Energy) Upgrading: Processing of crude bitumen from oil sands into a wide range of synthetic crude oils. (Source: Shell Canada Energy) Wetland: A low-lying area of land that is saturated with moisture, especially when regarded as the natural habitat of wildlife. Marshes, swamps, and bogs are examples of wetlands. (Source: Shell Canada Energy)


Canada’s Oil Sands – Issues and opportunities


Canada’s Oil Sands Publications

Issues and Opportunities Community

Issues and Opportunities Carbon Dioxide

Issues and Opportunities Water

Issues and Opportunities Tailings

Issues and Opportunities Land and Reclamation

Issues and Opportunities Economics

For more information on Shell’s oil sands operations, please visit www.shell.ca/oilsands or contact us: oil.sands@shell.com Shell Canada Ltd. 400 4th Avenue SW PO Box 100, Station M Calgary, AB T2P 2H5

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