Suncor has received approval for its tailings management plan from the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB). The plan proposed the expansion of a new approach to tailings management called TRO™.
"This is great news and a significant milestone in addressing one of the greatest reclamation challenges in oil sands mining," said Kirk Bailey, executive vice president, Oil Sands. "We are confident that our TRO™ technology will help us meet the expectations of stakeholders around accelerating the pace of reclamation, while also reducing our costs over the long term."
Suncor has been researching, developing and testing the TRO™ technology since 2003. The company will rapidly accelerate the implementation of this technology across its existing operations.
"We expect to invest more than $1 billion to implement our new TRO™ technology, potentially reducing tailings reclamation time by decades," said Bailey. "Suncor's commitment to restoring natural habitats is also illustrated by our plans to complete the reclamation of our first tailings pond to a solid surface later this year."
Tailings are a mixture of fine clay, sands, water and residual bitumen produced through the oil sands extraction process. As tailings settle, a portion will eventually form mature fine tailings (MFT), a substance that has historically taken many decades to firm up sufficiently for reclamation. During the TRO™ process, MFT is mixed with a polymer flocculent and then deposited in thin layers over sand beaches with shallow slopes. This drying process occurs over a matter of weeks, allowing more rapid reclamation activities to occur. The resulting product is a dry material that can be reclaimed in place or moved to another location for contouring and replanting with native vegetation.
Suncor will continue to work closely with stakeholders to ensure they understand the new technology and that the company understands any concerns they may have.
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