Comparison of Particle Size Distributions Obtained by Laser Diffraction and Sieve-Hydrometer Methods for Oil Sand Tailings

The paper presents a comparison of the results of about 600 Particle Size Distribution (PSD) tests on tailings from the Shell Canada Muskeg River Mine site. PSD test methods included Laser Diffraction (LD), Clean Sieve/Hydrometer (CH) and Dispersed Dirty Sieve/Hydrometer (DDH). The LD and CH tests were conducted on bitumen-free samples obtained by the Dean-Stark method. In the DDH tests, the bitumen was not removed from the samples prior to the hydrometer test. The results obtained by different testing methods are compared and the comparisons required for conversion of the PSD parameters from one testing method to the other are calculated. Possible causes for differences in the results are discussed, the primary one being presence of bitumen in oil sands tailings. Recommendations and conclusions are made for application of the PSD standard methods specific for oil sands tailings.

Senft, D., S. Masala and R. Nik. 2011. “Comparison of Particle Size Distributions Obtained by Laser Diffraction and Sieve-Hydrometer Methods for Oil Sand Tailings,” in: 64th Canadian Geotechnical Conference, 14th Pan-American Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, and 5th Pan-American Conference on Teaching and Learning of Geotechnical Engineering, Toronto, Ontario, October 2-6, 2011. Toronto: Canadian Geotechnical Society.

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