Separation of water from fine tailings in mining and oil sands operations has been a challenge. To speed water recycle, the density of dispersed particles is increased to form sediments. Current treatments involve highly engineered types of polymers and chemicals to promote flocculation and modify rheology for the specific slurry being processed. By inducing flocculation, scientists and engineers adjust the particle size distribution to maximize the solid-liquid separation. Since flocculation is a dynamic process with changing particle size and concentration, representative sampling and offline analysis are difficult.
Offline samples are typically manipulated through dilution or dispersion preparing them for measurement. This can alter or destroy fragile particle structures and offline measurements often cannot be applied to make real-time process optimization and control decisions. With established in situ particle characterization technology scientists and engineers can quickly measure the particle phase behavior in process without pulling samples.
In process particle size characterization, enables the lab researcher and field operator to track the entire dynamic particle system in hydrometallurgical processing gravity thickeners or oil sands mature fine tailings (MFT) streams at standard operating concentrations, temperatures and pressures – without sampling or sample dilution. As the source of the incoming stream varies in concentration and mineral components, real time particle size, shape and count measurements provide predictive or feedback measurements to enable a controlled response. Scientists and engineers can understand how the particle system responds to changing process parameters and optimize the type of polymer additive, the dosage, and the shear to control solid-liquid separation and downstream throughput. The White Paper – Separations in Mining and Oil Sands Operations – discusses optimizing thickeners, flotation and mature fine tailings (MFT) dewatering.