Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNRL) said recently that its commitment to leverage technology, adopting innovation and continuous improvement is evidenced by its In Pit Extraction Process (IPEP) pilot at Horizon, which will determine the feasibility of producing stackable dry tailings. The project has the potential to reduce the company’s carbon emissions and environmental footprint by reducing the usage of haul trucks, the size and need for tailings ponds and accelerating site reclamation. In addition, this process has the potential to significantly reduce capital and operating costs.
The relocatable, modular extraction plant (extraction technology separates bitumen in the mine pit itself) moves as the mine face advances and produces stackable dry tailings therefore accelerating reclamation as it can be supported immediately. Shovels still load trucks with oil sands in the pit but haul only a short distance to the modular plant. Overburden is direct loaded to conveyors using mining shovels. Both the modular plant and the overburden conveyor loading area are likely using a sizer or other comminution method though this has not yet been specified.
The initial testing phase for the company’s IPEP 500 t/h pilot that started April 2018 has concluded and results have been positive with excellent recovery rates and production of stackable tailings. Given the positive results thus far, the company continues to make enhancements and will operate and test the pilot through 2019. The company has said that IPEP is delivering cost savings of C$2/bbl to C$3/bbl and ~40% less GHG emissions during bitumen production.